Friday, February 24, 2017

Human Nature - Matthew 26:38

Matthew 26:38           Then Jesus said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

            Being human means that we’re subject to all sorts of feelings, injuries, or troubles. When I’m in pain, physically or emotionally, I very quickly talk to God to release me from what is causing it and look to Him to heal or solve my problem. I rely upon His power and promises to mend whatever I’m experiencing, especially when it is something that is beyond my capability or control. Being human, then, also means that we need God to help us time and time again.

            When I read about Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane and His emotional turmoil, I feel deeply for Him. This is the all-too-human Jesus who is painfully aware of what He is going to face. There’s no escape, so perhaps He feels boxed in, isolated, and vulnerable. His anguish is almost unbearable and I get the feeling that He is desperately struggling to surrender Himself to God’s will. It makes me sad to read about His torment; it also makes me ashamed because my sins put Christ in that painful predicament.

            I’ll never fully understand what Jesus went through to save me and the rest of the world, but I hope that I am always grateful for what He has excruciatingly accomplished. Without Christ’s eventual surrender to God’s will, I could never be forgiven. However, with His acceptance of the cup of wrath, I can be accepted and fully restored to God’s love.

Point to ponder

What do I feel when I read about Christ in Gethsemane? How does His submission affect me?

Prayer:            Lord Jesus, when You struggled to accept Your Father’s will, You must have been tempted to refuse it and run away. Instead of remaining safe, You sacrificed everything for us. We can never truly understand what You experienced that terrible night, but we will always be thankful for its everlasting outcome. In Your Holy Name, we humbly pray. Amen.

Today’s image is one of John’s Holy Week drawings called ‘Star of Gethsemane.’ If you would like to view a larger version, please click this link: Star.

John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. You can view the church website at this link: Come by and see us anytime. J

Monday, February 20, 2017

Meaningful Multiplication - Matthew 25:21

Matthew 25:21 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’” (NIV)

            As a pastor, I have seen a lot of people do wonderful things for God and others that are remarkable, as well as effective. Their faith is both enthusiastic and energetic, as well as considerate and compassionate. Some people think that churches are full of self-righteous hypocrites who look down on everyone else. I must say that I have not found that to be the case, in any of the congregations I served in Scotland or the United States. Christians may be imperfect and sinful like everyone else, but they are also moved by love to support those in need, comfort those who are grieving and befriend those who are lonely.

            Today’s parable is about a rich person giving his servants fiscal opportunities and responsibilities while he is away from home on a long journey. The gold, however, represents the gift of faith that Christ gives to each of us on Earth. What we are meant to do with that precious gift is to share it with others in ways that will attract them to Jesus, too. No matter what the world tries to tell us, faith is not a private and personal thing, it is a potentially powerful present from God which can be multiplied when we honestly, sincerely, positively, and compassionately share it with our families, friends, and other people.

            One day, we will be ushered into God’s presence to show Him what we have done with our faith. When God expresses those beautiful words, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” we will instantly know that the gift He gave us has not been hidden, diminished, or wasted, but that through our loving acts, faithful service, and compassionate deeds, we have multiplied our faith, pleasing both God and our Savior Jesus Christ.

Point to ponder

What faith-sharing opportunities has God given me this week?

Prayer:            Lord Jesus, thank You for the gift of faith which keeps us connected to You. Help us to share the love we feel for and from You with others around us. In Your Holy Name, we cheerfully pray. Amen.

Today’s image is one of John’s faith drawings called ‘The Promise.’ If you would like to view a larger version, please click this link: Promise.

John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. You can read the church website at We would be delighted to see you there at any time. The Sunday worship service is at 11:00 AM.

Friday, February 17, 2017

It Makes Me Wonder - Genesis 22:14

Genesis 22:14  “So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.” (NIV)

            I like to see people enjoying their families, whether it is at church, in a park, or even on Facebook. To look at the delight and love that parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts bestow upon children of all ages are wonderful gifts and they make me happy to be in the world today. I grew up in poverty and experienced some very sad circumstances, but the best of my memories from childhood are of those times and moments of joy, happiness, and love that my parents, relatives, and siblings shared.

            I find the biblical story of Abraham almost sacrificing Isaac in Genesis 22 very difficult to embrace and comprehend. I’m thankful for the happy ending, but I’m troubled by the unquestioning devotion Abraham gives to God. It seems like uncontrolled religious fanaticism to me and I wonder how that strange and bewildering moment affected the future relationship between father and son. The fact that we don’t have many events recorded about Isaac’s later life, as compared to both Abraham and Jacob, makes me think that Isaac could have been a very subdued and introverted person due to the emotional trauma he experienced by almost being sacrificed by his dad.

            I know that the story appears to be a scriptural precursor and dramatic prophecy of Christ’s sacrificial crucifixion at Calvary, with God and Jesus filling the roles of Abraham and Isaac respectively, but even that doesn’t diminish the perplexity I feel about the original Abrahamic episode. It does, however, leave me with a healthy repugnance of religious fundamentalism of any faith on Earth, which can tragically mutate into an inhumane cruelty and even insanely justify killing other people in the name of God.

Point to ponder

How do I display my faith to my family?

Prayer:            Lord Jesus, help us to receive God’s work of salvation as described in the Bible, even when some things and events really mystify us. Keep us faithful to Your ministry on Earth, but protect us from becoming over-zealous and unloving. In Your Holy Name, we humbly pray. Amen.

Today’s image is one of John’s Good Friday drawings called “Redeemer.” If you would like to view a larger version, please click this link: Redeemer.

John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. You can read the church website at The congregation would be delighted to see you at our Sunday worship services at 11:00 AM or at any other time. J