Monday, October 15, 2018

Quiet Times - Psalm 71:1

Psalm 71:1 In you, Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame. (NIV)

            The older I get, the more I understand my need for introversion. The world has become a frenzied, noisy, and greedy place that I find difficult to embrace or accept. I cherish quiet places and people, solitary moments and tranquil times more than ever I did. I look forward to taking refuge in God’s cloister of closeness, either by sitting in the back-porch reading, or resting on my bed while listening to classical music. Life doesn’t have to be hectic, filled with torturous timetables or burdened by trivial pursuits that consume my days. I seek God’s peace and look forward to His presence each day. I become a spiritual refugee in His arms; I rest my weary soul in His Son.

            I know that I have responsibilities, tasks, and obligations to fulfill. I understand the need to work and the attention that my vocation requires. I am aware that leadership involves supporting and serving people in many different ways. I embrace and accept all of those important things, but there is a deeper part of me that longs to be alone with God, to quietly surrender my spirit into His hands, and to purposefully ponder on what my personal connection to Christ really involves, and what it will become in Eternity. I am not seeking to escape from the world; I’m just taking refuge in the Creator of the World which is what I’m truly meant to be. The Bible tells us that the peace of God surpasses our understanding, so I guess I’m trying to find and embrace that peace above all else.

            It’s Monday and perhaps you have got a whole list of things to do, tasks to fulfill, and obligations to meet. I hope you succeed in accomplishing and completing all of them. However, may I suggest you add something else: take time to be with God on your own. Find a quiet place and rest in His presence. Seek refuge in His love and remain in His arms for a while. It will do you the world of good and be beneficial for your body, mind, heart, and soul. God bless you with his peace.

Point to ponder

Do I have a timetable for this week? Where can I place time to be with God?

Prayer: Lord God, You created us to be and not to do. Help us to cherish Your presence and to refresh our souls in Your quiet and abiding love. In Christ’s Name, we pray. Amen.

John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. Come and join us for worship on Sundays at 11:00 AM. You will be made most welcome 😊

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

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Deep Waters - Psalm 69:1-2

Psalm 69:1-2 Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold. I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me. (NIV)

            This morning, we are all getting to see the utter devastation of communities and towns along the Gulf coast. The wrecked houses and businesses, churches and stores are unbelievable. The immense destruction is profoundly tragic, especially for those who may have lost loved ones, pets, and possessions because of the hurricane. It reminds us of how frail we all are in the face of the unrelenting forces of Nature.

            Already, the courageous First Responders are out trying to locate and assist people who are trapped. Most of them are local people, so they will have their own losses and stresses to deal with. Their selflessness and devotion to the communities that they protect and serve are highly admirable. Their humanity is exceptional; their sacrifice is unbelievable.

            For those of us who have avoided this catastrophe, our gratitude and relief should be not just given to God, but also spent on repairing and renewing the devastated communities. Without outside help, hopelessness and despair languish; without compassion and support, renewal and rebuilding are ineffective.

            In our PCUSA denomination, we have an organization called the PDA (Presbyterian Disaster Assistance). In times like these, they live up to their motto – Out of Chaos, Hope – by organizing and sending in professionally trained response teams. They make a short-term response assessment and begin the process of supporting the local community. Teams are already heading down there and they can be financially supported on the internet at this link: Hurricane Assistance.

            We all rely on God to sustain us, no matter who we are or where we live. God, however, gives us enough resources to help others in great need. For those who have been overwhelmed by the flood waters, we become their rescuers and helpers. The storm has passed, so the support begins.

Point to ponder

How often have I been helped by others in my life? What can I do to help those in need today?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, we pray for all of those who are impacted by the recent hurricanes. We realize that our lives are frail and vulnerable. Help us to reach out to those in need through the giving of gifts, and not just the praying of prayers. In Your Holy Name, we ask. Amen.

John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, TN. Come and join us for worship on Sundays at 11:00 AM. You will be made very welcome 😊

Today’s drawing is one of John’s stained-glass designs called “Jesus Calms the Storm.” If you would like to view a larger version, please click this link: Storm.

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Boyhood Bliss - Matthew 13:47

Matthew 13:47 Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. (NIV)

            Growing up in Scotland, one of the joys of childhood that I experienced, was spending a day at the local park with a cane fishing net and an empty jelly jar. There were several ponds in the park and all of them contained minnows and sticklebacks which I enjoyed catching. I spent hours trolling around the edge of the pond with my net in the water, earnestly hoping to scoop up a shoal of small fish and place them in my water filled jar. It was the simplest of pleasures and cost practically nothing. As the sun went down over the horizon and the gloaming magically appeared, I would tip the fish from my jar back into the pond before I walked home. Life was good and I felt very blessed.

            I like the simple stories that Jesus told about the Kingdom of God. Instead of using complicated theological descriptions to convey what He meant, Christ shared His ideas about God in very basic and appealing ways. At the end of today’s passage (Matthew 13:47-48), He describes God’s Kingdom in three different ways. The one I like best, of course, is the fishing illustration. I can relate to it personally and find it both meaningful and comforting. For me, God’s Kingdom contains that simple happiness I discovered as a boy in Scotland, fishing around the park pond. This is what attracts me to Jesus and I look forward to being in God’s everlasting realm through Christ’s grace and love.

            Perhaps you are going through a rough time or you feel unsettled. Maybe you have many worries and deep concerns. Whatever the case, please know this: God cares for you and His Kingdom is all around us. We are children of His grace, loved at all times, and will be blessed beyond anything we can imagine.

Point to ponder

What makes me happy? Can I find that same happiness with God’s Kingdom?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, You told the simplest of stories to reveal to us the love of God and His Kingdom. Help us to know that we are cherished and that your words show us God’s compassion and care. In Your Holy Name, we thankfully pray. Amen.

John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. Please come along and join us on Sunday mornings for worship at 11:00 AM. You will be made very welcome 😊

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