Monday, February 11, 2019

Just Ask - Luke 11:9-10

Luke 11:9-10 “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” (NIV)

            When I was twelve years old, my mother took a nervous breakdown in front of me. We were sitting in the living room and she just started going crazy, throwing things around her, breaking ornaments and other stuff, cursing loudly and shouting swear words that I had never heard her use before. It was a traumatic event for my youngest brother and me, who were the only two witnesses. It was also the beginning of decades of mental illness that saw her in and out of locked hospital wards for many months each year.

            My Dad, as well as my siblings, did not know what to do. It felt shameful to us and we worried about catching the same thing. We didn’t ask for help and we didn’t share it with anyone outside of our extended family and most trustworthy of neighbors. We individually carried our burdens within our own hearts and minds, didn’t talk much about it, and just sought to survive the whole experience.

            When I look back on those tragic events now, I wish we had asked for help, good counsel, and guidance. We were so fiercely independent and stubbornly proud which caused us to become locked in the past and unable to truly cope with my mom’s illness. In my case, I ended up as an alcoholic and only survived an overdose because of the quick intervention of dear friends. I now believe that if our family had all been properly counseled and learned to trust skilled professionals, my life, as well as those of my siblings, would have been addiction-free.

            I think this is why Jesus tells His followers to ask God for help. We tend to use today’s highlighted verses as a positive opportunity to get what we want. However, I now think it’s much more than that: Jesus is telling us to ask God for what we really need: help, healing, and direction. Christ is saying to us that God can unlock the door to our future health and happiness, just by asking for help. It’s a wonderful promise which can become a channel of deep and profound blessing in our lives.

            Wherever you are today and whatever you are going through, please don’t carry your burdens alone. In my opinion and experience, churches are safe places full of good people with compassionate hearts and professional skills that can make a great difference in the healing of our lives. All we have to do is simply ask for what help we truly need.

Points to ponder
What issues am I currently facing? What burdens am I still carrying? Am I willing to ask Christ for help? Am I ready to ask someone I can trust for support and guidance?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, too often we think that we are strong, don’t need help, and can deal with our own issues. Enable us to stop disabling ourselves by reaching out to others who can offer us patience and help, understanding and compassion. In Your Holy Name, we humbly pray. Amen.

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


Today’s image is one of John’s latest psalm drawings based on a verse from Psalm 138. If you would like to view a larger version, please click this Link: Psalm 138.

Thursday, February 07, 2019

Truly Christian - Psalm 137:9

Psalm 137:9 Happy is the one who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.
Luke 9:54-55 When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” But Jesus turned and rebuked them. (NIV)

I do not like militant, triumphalist Christianity. It’s something which turns an ordinary believer into a fanatical despot. In my opinion, it’s a severe kind of religious faith that casts aside both compassion and common sense, seeking to glorify God by puffing up pride and demeaning others. Left unchecked, it can become dangerous and inhuman – we only have to read the last verse of Psalm 137 to see how this kind of unfettered zeal can lead to cruel and wicked deeds.

I find it hard to accept this kind of Christianity because it seems to oppose everything Christ stood for. In fact, when He is faced with it among His own disciples, Jesus quickly shuts it down with a rebuke (Luke 9:51-55). James and John, the sons of thunder, want to destroy all of the people in a Samaritan village simply because the inhabitants wouldn’t welcome Christ. The two brothers are offended at this lack of respect and feel justified in asking Jesus to destroy His ‘enemies.’ Thankfully, Christ will have nothing to do with this aberrant type of faith. Instead of destroying the village, He rebukes His disciples; rather than making the Samaritans pay for their disrespect, Jesus reproaches His ardent followers.

When I come across smug and heavy-handed Christians who use their faith to self-righteously condemn others, I remind myself of two things: firstly, I have sinfully been guilty of that in the past and now regret it; and secondly, I want to defend those who are being so cruelly crushed and demonically demeaned. If I truly want to be a Christian, He alone must be first in my heart and evident in my daily deeds.

Point to ponder

Am I guilty of religious zeal and a lack of Christian compassion? Am I willing to confess such a sin to Christ and seek to change my ways?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, You know us fully and completely, so we cannot hide our sins or mask our prejudices from You. Protect us from being over-zealous, pompous, or proud. Teach us Your holy ways of compassion, decency, and love. In Your Sacred Name, we humbly pray. Amen.

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


Today’s image is one of John’s latest drawings based on a verse from Psalm 138. If you would like to view a larger version, please click this link: Psalm 138.

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Welcoming Children - Luke 9:48

Luke 9:48 Then Jesus said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.” (NIV)

I find post-modern life very confusing at times, which causes me to struggle with my faith. For instance, I constantly read about two conflicting sides on both the abortion and immigration issues facing our nation today. One side vehemently opposes abortion, especially the recent trimester laws, and yet has no problem incarcerating children who happen to be illegal immigrants. On the other side, you have folks who strongly advocate on behalf of the rights of those children, but have no issue with a woman choosing to kill a child immediately after birth. Both sides are very strong about their condemnations of one another which creates both a divide and a conflict that causes a lot of damage to all of our people. I personally struggle with this, so when I read Christ’s words today, it leaves me wondering what He would advocate for and stand against?

In Christ’s time, the life of a child was not worth a lot. Parents had the right to abandon or even kill their children if they did not live up to their standards or show respect. This is why Jesus placed a child in the midst of His disciples to teach them about God’s Kingdom. According to Christ, children were meant to be welcomed and embraced, for in God’s eyes, they were the greatest beings in the whole community. For me, this means that a foreign child or a just-born child are supposed to be welcomed, reassured, and kept safe. To do otherwise is to ignore Christ’s teaching which means we have a responsibility of creating a society where all children are welcomed, supported, and empowered, no matter where they came from, nor how soon they have appeared. To do this will require agreements on both sides to support immigrants and young mothers economically, educationally, and socially. Tragically, we may not have the political will to get us this done, but spiritually we should be following what Christ has advocated: “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.”

Point to ponder

Do I struggle with my faith in current times? How can Christ help me?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, living in these times of conflict and division can be detrimental to our faith. We are wounded by political strife and wonder how spirits will survive. Help us in the midst of all that troubles us and guide by Your words of love and grace. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.

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


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