Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Short devotion: Difficult Days - Psalm 61 v 2

Psalm 61:2    From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

            We all have times when Life seems overwhelming and our problems unsolvable. We get through each day with difficulty and hold on to our sanity by our fingertips. Trying and painful experiences affect us emotionally, whether they come through sickness or grief, insult or injury. In other words, there are times in all of our lives when everything just sucks.

            The Psalms are full of similar moments which is why, when we read them, we connect very quickly to what the writer felt, even though it all happened 3000 years ago. It seems that there is nothing new under the sun after all, so if we turn to the Psalms for guidance and assurance, comfort and grace, we will soon find a verse that fits our present emotional and spiritual needs.

            When King David wrote Psalm 61, he was in distress. He had work problems, family problems, people problems, health problems, and spiritual problems. Even though he was a powerful king, he still felt vulnerable and lonely, isolated and weak. He needed to know that God was with him and looking after him. He needed to experience the closeness of God in a way that would restore his faith, renew his hope, and reaffirm God’s love. As he worked through his dilemma by writing the words of the psalm, David eventually trusted in the Lord - his Rock, Strength, and Salvation.

            Whatever we are facing today, no matter how many or how large our issues and problems may be, we can also look to God through Christ for help and healing, salvation and love. Just as God watched over King David thousands of years ago, He still watches over us today. He is our Rock from on high; He is the source of all our strength.

            Question:      What issues or problems am I presently experiencing? Am I willing to seek God’s guidance and comfort to overcome them?

Prayer:          Lord Jesus, we call You our Savior because You rescue us from so many different things, but especially our sinful and selfish ways. You understand us completely and know all of our present problems. Grant us the strength we need and the guidance we require to endure and overcome our chief concerns. In Your Holy Name, we faithfully pray. Amen.

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

Today’s image is John’s latest winter drawing called “A Winter’s Night.” If you would like to view a larger version, click on this link: Winter.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Prayer devotion: Peaceful Prayers - Luke 6:19

Luke 6:19      And the people all tried to touch Him, because power was coming from Him and healing them all.

            No matter where He went, people crowded around Jesus. He was constantly mobbed with all sorts of people who were suffering from a multitude of diseases, illnesses, and sicknesses. His fame as a healer had spread around the Galilean region, so He was in great demand by people who needed His help the most. As He walked from town to town, the locals clamored around Him, begging Him for a miracle for themselves, their loved ones, and their friends. They even clawed at Him, believing that if they could just touch Him, they would be instantly healed.

            Sometimes I wonder if Jesus felt overwhelmed by all of this attention. He probably did, because we are also told from scripture that He sought isolated places to be in prayer with God. Popularity enabled Him to speak and preach to the masses, but it also had its negative side – that of being too much in demand, never meeting enough needs, and hardly getting any peace to Himself.

            Today, we can approach Jesus through prayer, allowing His Spirit to touch our weary and sick souls. We don’t have to wait until He passes by, or fight past crowds of other people. We can speak directly to Him and He will hear our pleas and prayers. In the midst of our too busy and burdened lives, we can still find consolation and peace, comfort and strength in Christ. All that we need to do is find a quiet place where we can focus on Jesus and allow His Presence to touch our spirits and His power to refresh our lives.

            Question: When was the last time I found a quiet place to pray to Jesus? When will I make time for that to re-occur?

Prayer:          Lord Jesus, we all need You constantly. We all have worries and concerns, issues and troubles that frequently overwhelm, over-tire, and over burden us. Enable us to seek You prayerfully in a quiet place where we can talk to You openly, freely, and securely. 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, ask questions, or give feedback about today’s message, please send him an email to

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

Monday, February 23, 2015

Lent Devotion: The Great Escape - Psalm 55:7

Psalm 55:7    I would flee far away and stay in the desert. (NIV)

            Like most people, there are some days when I would like to run away from all of my responsibilities, travel somewhere remote, and just be all by myself. I sometimes daydream about getting in my car, driving as far west as I possibly can until I reach the ocean, and then just sit on the beach to watch the sun going down over the Pacific horizon. I’m certain that everyone has days just like this, where the impulse to ‘get away from it all’ occurs. I also believe that the writer of Psalm 55 experienced something similar.

            We all go through stressful times and bad moments in our lives. It’s part of our human experience. Most of the time, the majority of us resist those impulses to run away, simply because our common sense, as well as our devotion to others, over-rides our desire to escape.

            As we travel through the forty days of Lent, I’m reminded that the origins of this season are rooted in Christ’s wilderness experience, when He was whisked away by the Holy Spirit to a solitary place, free from any distractions, and unburdened by any responsibilities. He was not there, though, to get away from it all. Jesus was in the wilderness to be severely tested and tried. Thankfully, He overcame His time of trial and then began His ministry of redemption, reconciliation, and restoration for humankind.

            Running away from our responsibilities does not change anything. However, turning to Jesus with our burdens can change everything. He understands our isolation and vulnerability. He knows what it’s like to be stressed out and under pressure. This is why Jesus gently speaks to us across the centuries with His own comforting words: “Come to Me, all of you who are heavy burdened. In Me, you will find rest for your weary souls.” (Matthew 11:28).

Question:      What is currently stressing me out? How can Jesus help me?

Prayer:          Lord Jesus, You know us completely and understand everything that is going on in our lives. You know the isolation we feel, the fears we have, and the burdens that we carry. Help us to turn to You, to receive Your loving embrace and perfect assurance. Be with us all today. 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, give feedback, or make comments about today’s message, please send him an email to

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

Monday, February 16, 2015

Church Devotion: As Was His Custom - Luke 4:16

Luke 4:16      Jesus went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. 

            ‘As was his custom’ – four little words that contain a powerful message. Jesus went to the synagogue every Sabbath. For Christians, the equivalent would mean being in a church every Sunday. Every Sunday, unless you are ill, or caring for someone who is sick, grieving, or physically unable to go. No excuses, no reasons, no other things to do, or too busy to go. Every Sunday.

            And yet when pastors preach, teach, write, or blog this, there is an instant push back. “You can’t mean every Sunday?” “Isn't once a month, or several times a year enough?” “We’re too tired to get up on a Sunday morning.” “We've too much going on.” “We've got sports meetings to attend.” “It’s a beautiful day, so can’t we just worship God in the mountains, at a beach, or even over at the mall?” Every Sunday, are you sure???

‘On the Sabbath day, Jesus went to the synagogue, as was his custom.’

            If we are Christians, we are meant to follow Christ, so guess where He’ll be on Sundays? With His Bride, the Church, praising God – every Sunday.

            Question:      How often am I in church on Sundays?

Prayer:          Lord Jesus, forgive us for our short comings with regard to how we practice our faith. You constantly challenge us about church, but sometimes we push back, justifying our complacency and defending our decisions. Pardon us for being fair-weather followers and convenient Christians. Help us to recommit our lives in service and worship of You. In Your Holy Name, we humbly pray. Amen.

John Stuart is currently the pastor of Erin Presbyterian in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to comment or ask questions about today’s devotion, please send him an email to

Today’s image is one of John’s latest Celtic Christian drawings called ‘Spirit of the Celts.’ If you would like to view a larger version, please click on this link: Celts.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Church Devotion: Flying High - Luke 3:4

Luke 3:4        As is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet: "A voice of one calling in the desert, 'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. (NIV)

            This morning I had to heat my car to get rid of the frost and ice on the windows. I wasn't in a happy mood. My feet and hands were cold, and I was also in a rush to get to work. The delay was stressing me out, which is not a good start to anyone’s day. As I looked up at the moon in the frosty blue sky, I wished that I could have been somewhere else, anywhere further south, where scraping the frost from my car would not be an inconvenient problem.

            Suddenly, the sky beneath the moon was filled with what looked like sparkling stars. I could not believe what I was seeing. The sparkles were moving in one direction and were approaching my subdivision. Then I saw the large V-formation and realized it was a flock of birds, possibly ducks, heading north. The sun was reflected off their wings as they flew through the air, which caused the ‘sparkles of light’ at a distance.

            I marveled at the sight. Hundreds of birds filled the air. Separate V-formations were all over the sky, but all of them were headed north. Each V-formation had its own leader, who instinctively was preparing the way ahead for the birds behind it. I smiled as I watched them fly off into the distance and thanked God in my heart for such a magical moment. The frost on my car had melted and I felt much happier than I had before I saw the migrating flock of birds.

            Today’s Bible verse tells us about John the Baptist’s role in preparing the way for His people to receive the Messiah. He was leading them to the moment when Jesus would appear on the scene, who would then help all kinds of people spiritually migrate toward God. That special role of preparation and guidance now belongs to the Church of Christ. We, who are Christians, are primarily meant to share our faith and bring others to Jesus. We are to guide folks to Him, so that on our journey from birth to death, we can show them the truthful way to everlasting life.

Questions for reflection

Have I truly shared my Christian faith with other people? Do I actually care about other souls?

Prayer:          Lord Jesus, You are our ultimate destination and we are led toward You by Your words and ways. Help us to do whatever we can to encourage our loved ones and other folks to recognize You as the Lord of Life and the Giver of Grace. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.

John Stuart is currently the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to make comments or ask questions about today’s message, please send him an email to John is always glad to receive feedback.

Today’s image is my latest Valentine drawing. It’s called “Love is All You Need.” If you would like to view a larger version, please click on the following link: Love.

Monday, February 09, 2015

Devotional : A Mighty River - Psalm 46:4

Psalm 46:4    There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells.

            I was born and brought up in Glasgow, Scotland. At one time, there used to be over a million people living in the city. Glasgow prospered due to being situated on the banks of the River Clyde, where great ocean going steamships were built to be sent all over the world. Most Glaswegians are proud of their city and its achievements. They also love its famous river which brought economic prosperity to the whole population.

            The source of the river is at a small town called New Lanark. Four small streams converge as waterfalls (or linns, as they are known in Scotland) and the River Clyde meanders to the sea, growing deeper, wider, and larger at every mile downstream. The Falls of the Clyde are quite beautiful and well worth visiting by any tourist. Out of that small stream in a small town, a mighty river is born which has changed the industrial history of Scotland, the United Kingdom, and the world.

            Today’s Bible verse expresses a similar event, all couched in spiritual terms. From a small stream at the heart of Jerusalem, God has created three world-wide religions that have affected the entire world, even to this very day. Out of a small place, God’s work has meandered throughout history until every nation on Earth has been influenced by what has occurred in Jerusalem.

For us Christians, we are reminded that Christ’s isolated and relatively insignificant death, outside of the city walls of Jerusalem, has engendered a Faith which has over 2 billion followers and is still growing throughout the Earth. The goodness of God and the gladness of Christ’s people have spread across kingdoms and nations, civilizations and generations in an amazing process of truth and love. And until Christ returns, that river of redemption will continue to grow, that small stream of salvation will carry on affecting the lives and souls of billions of people who are as yet unborn.

Question for reflection

What is the source of my faith? How am I passing on that source to the next generation?

Prayer:          Lord Jesus, You are the source of everything that is sacred, loving, and true. You have called each of us into Your Kingdom and continue to influence the lives of others around us. Help us to do whatever we can to encourage other people to come to Your Living Waters and be redeemed and forgiven, restored and welcomed into God’s Holy Dominion. In Your sacred Name, we pray. Amen.

John Stuart is currently 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 Pentecost drawings called “Spirit Dancers.” If you would like to view a larger version, please click on this link: Dancers.

Friday, February 06, 2015

Lent Devotions for Kindle

Over the years, I've written several devotional e-books for Lent. They all have 40 daily devotions in them with unique devotions, drawings, and prayers. They are all available on Amazon and only cost 99 cents, which is a great price for a spiritual devotional book on preparing your heart, mind, and soul for Easter.

You can find all three books at the links below: