Friday, August 29, 2014

Christian devotions for Kindle Users

Looking for short devotions for meetings as the Church year begins? Got a Kindle? Then look no further. All you need is here: I have written several devotional books which are available on Kindle. You can check them all at the following link boxes.

Inspirational



Advent



Lent and Easter



Special Categories

Monday, August 25, 2014

Devotions for Church Meetings

It's almost the start of the Church Year, so many meetings will be taking place in congregations all over the land. Most meetings begin with a short devotion; this is why I have written a large series of devotional books for church meetings, team leaders, busy chairpersons, conveners, and staff.


Or you can specially link to the Amazon Kindle pages for two of my church meetings/ church staff devotional books by double clicking on the following links:


Youth Group 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.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Church devotion: Suicide is not Painless - 1 Kings 19:4

1 Kings 19:4             Elijah came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. "I have had enough, LORD," he said. "Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors."

            The recent tragic death of the actor Robin Williams created a lot of sadness for many people. His ability to make us laugh was exceptional and he was a very gifted and much loved comedian. But there was a dark side to his life, a shadow of despair that crept over his soul, causing him to become an addict, and sadly ended with his suicide. Behind his Peter Pan smile and outrageous behavior that made us laugh hysterically, was a person who was suffering internally. We may not know what his last thoughts were or what ultimately drove him to take his own life; all that we do know is the fact that his untimely death has impacted millions of people.

            Suicide, no matter what the old song from MASH declared, is never painless. Someone always gets hurt; someone always gets left with guilt. When I overdosed with tranquilizers as a teenager, I did it because I wanted to be in control of my life at a time when things, events, and people around me were out of control. My mother’s insanity deeply affected me and I’m certain that it also wounded the rest of my siblings. I just wanted to show everyone how hurt I was and let them deal with the consequences. I wanted to die because I was weary with life.

            It was very selfish of me and an easy way out. I even thought that if God wasn’t going to change the circumstances of my life, then I didn’t want Him to interfere with my death. I was in control and nobody could take that away from me. Once I was dead, I was dead to the world; anyone who was hurt would just have to deal with it.

            Thankfully, three friends found me passed out in my bedroom. They took me to the ER where the team of medics flushed everything out of my system. I was kept in for three days at the hospital for two reasons: a much-needed psychological assessment and to make certain that my organs did not pack in. God, it seems, had other plans even though I wilfully and selfishly tried to oust Him and everyone else from my life.

            In today’s Bible passage (1 Kings 19:1-9), Elijah is weary of life. He erroneously thought that his victory over the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel would have reaped rewards, esteem, and glory. Instead, it was met with an immediate death threat from Queen Jezebel which soon deflated Elijah’s ego. In his sorrowful and lamentable state, he ran away and just wanted to die to end all of his misery and despair. However, God had other plans which involved Elijah’s well-being and extended his ministry among God’s people.

            When we accept suicide as a personal means for people to let go of their responsibilities, frustrations, dignity, and pain, then we’re saying that God cannot help and that the love of loved ones and friends is ineffective. From my personal experience, the darkness of a successful suicide would have robbed me of the faith, hope, light, and love that was yet to come. This is why I believe that suicide or even euthanasia does not always have to be the answer to our suffering. There is always hope; there is always light; there is always love.

Questions for personal reflection

What do I think about the act of suicide? How can faith in God help prevent it?

Prayer:          Lord Jesus, in the midst of darkness and despair, remain our light and hope. Grant us the faith to rely upon Your love, as well as the strength to overcome our weariness and woes. Keep us mindful of how precious the gift of life is, and help us to encourage and support our loved ones who are burdened by their worries, illnesses, and fears. In Your Holy Name, we humbly pray. Amen.

If you, or a loved one, or a friend are having suicidal thoughts, please talk to your doctor or find a good counsellor or psychologist who will help you to cope with your problems.


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.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Church devotion: Love Who, Jesus? - Matthew 5:43-44

Matthew 5:43-44     "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

            I must confess, I’m finding it extremely difficult to love those ISIS people who have killed many Christians, as well as beheading American James Foley this week. I can’t understand what drives so much hatred in religious people that they would commit such barbarous and inhumane acts. My first reaction is to get really frustrated and angry with these people, and I want the US government to do everything it can to annihilate them. It is so unjust and it is so wicked that my initial response is to call for an outright war of destruction.

            Christ’s words from this morning’s Bible passage (Matthew 5:38-48) hit me with a theological 2x4. I am guilty of the same religious self-righteousness and hatred in my heart that these people embrace and espouse. I am not any better or less sinful than them because I want to see them mercilessly killed. I am a Crusader Christian baying and battling for blood instead of praying for my enemies.

            I am wrestling with my Redeemer between what I want and what He says. I know that He speaks the Truth and I am guilty of fighting against Him. If I call Him my Savior, then I need to ask Him to save me from myself. If I address Him as Lord, then I need to do as He pleases and commands.

            So this morning, I’m praying for my enemies. I’m praying for their forgiveness. I’m praying for God to be merciful to them by allowing His Holy Spirit to change their hearts and afflict their souls. I’m asking Jesus to help me to pray because I still don’t want to do this, but if I honestly want to continue to call myself a Christian, I need to keep praying instead of condemning; I need to ask for love to prevail instead of power; I need to learn to love my enemies, instead of looking for ways to destroy them.

Questions for personal reflection

Why does Jesus make it so hard for people to follow and live by what He has spoken? Where is He confronting me in my life?

Prayer:          Lord Jesus, You never said that faith in You was going to be easy, and You have never asked us to do anything that wasn’t important. Forgive us for feeling hatred in our hearts and looking for vengeance in our lives. Teach us again Your loving words and help us to embrace them. Be with the ISIS people, forgive them, and show them the ways of Your love to overcome their hatred and fear. 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 or ask any questions, please send him an email to Traqair@aol.com.


Today’s image is one of John’s ‘Seven Last Words of Christ’ drawings called “Father, Forgive Them.” If you would like to view a larger version, please click on the following link: Forgive Them.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Short 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

Opening Devotion: 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.