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

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

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.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Church devotion: Three Important Things - Matthew 4:23

Matthew 4:23           Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.

            Teaching, preaching, and healing – those were the three main strands of Christ’s ministry among His people. He taught them the Word of God in new and authoritative ways. He preached the Word of God by challenging their ideas and confronting their sins. And He practiced the Word of God by healing the people of their illnesses, anxieties, and distresses.

            Teaching, preaching, and healing – these should be the three major strands of Christ’s Church throughout the world. People still need to be taught the Word of God, otherwise they make up their own set of beliefs to suit themselves. Folks need to be preached to, and at, in order to shake up their choices and life styles. And people still need to be healed because there is brokenness, suffering, and despair all over this planet.

            If we are truly taught the Word of God, we can become Christ’s followers. If we are fully receptive to the preaching of God’s Word, we will make good and honest choices. And if we allow ourselves to be healed of the past, as well as cured of our present woes and anxieties, we will discover a newer, brighter, and more blessed future with Jesus.

            Teaching, preaching, and healing – the continuous and effective ministries of Christ which we can still experience today, in any part of this planet, in any place where the Spirit of the Lord can be personally known – which is everywhere and by everyone.

Questions for personal reflection

What part of Christ’s teaching means the most to me? How has preaching increased my faith as a Christian? When and where has Jesus healed me?

Prayer:          Lord Jesus, thank You for being the True Teacher, Preacher, and Healer of the world. Help us to rely upon Your words and ways each day. Grant us the grace to receive, retain, and apply God’s Word through Your teaching, preaching, and healing in our lives. 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

Today’s image is one of John’s latest Lectionary art images. It’s based on a verse from Psalm 67. If you would like to view a larger version, please click on the following link: Psalm 67.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Worship Devotion: Worship Blessings - Matthew 4:10

Matthew 4:10  Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.' " 

            I love worshipping God. It’s good to come among a group of like-minded people and sing together our praises of God. Being with Church family week after week gives me the strength, encouragement, and challenges to face whatever takes place during the next seven days. Without church, I don't know how I could live. Without worship, I don't think I would have any faith, hope, or love.

            Worship to outsiders looks like a dull religious thing. They don't understand the positive power and unique experience that being in God’s House each week creates. They think that worshippers are full of weak, unintelligent, and misguided people. They don’t know about the spiritual pull that God gives to His people to come together to be with Him. It’s a mysterious event where folks are drawn together by the bidding of the Holy Spirit and brought into the favorable, sacred presence of God. There’s nothing like it on Earth; there’s not even anything like it in Heaven because people are already gathered there.

            Going to worship on a regular basis does not make us superior Christians, but it does build up our faith in Christ and love of God. Worship helps us to humbly come before God to praise His Name, seek His forgiveness, and look for His guidance. It’s a filling station for empty spirits; it’s a sacred haven for troubled souls.

            When Christ confronted the devil about worship, He plainly and effectively stated that worship was meant to be directed toward God only. There is no other object of our worship; there is no other being that we are meant to focus upon. When we worship God, we are fulfilling our destiny, our purpose, as well as the meaning of our lives. We are created to worship God, so we are at our most complete when we come to church as believers and worshippers, as well as pilgrims and disciples seeking and receiving His love.

Questions for personal reflection

What does worship mean to me? How do I humbly serve God through regular worship?

Prayer:            Lord Jesus, we are called to worship Your Father, our Creator, to serve His purposes, and to find meaning in His Kingdom. Thank You for boldly confronting the devil by declaring what true worship is. Help us to humbly and authentically worship God each day of our lives, as well as with Your gathered people. 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 send him an email to

Today’s image is one of John’s latest miniature paintings called “Christ Icon.” If you would like to view a larger version, please click on the following link: Christ Icon.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Short devotion: An Obsolete Word - Matthew 1:21

Matthew 1:21  “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

            As far as the world and the post-modern church is concerned, sin is an obsolete word. Decades ago, people understood that sin was something more than just a mere mistake or a foolish choice – it was a deliberate defiant act against God’s Word, which had eternal consequences. To sin was to put yourself under God’s judgment and expect His wrath. It was a word that people feared because it revealed to them the terrifying prospect of being damned forever. Sin severed people’s souls from God.

            These days, sin doesn’t appear to have any fearful aspect for us. We either take Christ’s saving ability for granted or we disregard the whole concept of sin. Most folks opt for the latter because it’s far easier to live life without being burdened by a religious standard or a faith morality. It’s much more convenient to excuse our sinful ways as being deeply personal and no one else’s business. In fact, some folks say, didn't Jesus tell us ‘not to judge others lest we be judged ourselves?’ In other words, they believe that what Jesus was expressing was a moralistic free-for-all where every individual was free to choose to do whatever they wanted and that no one else could condemn them for it.

            If Jesus actually meant that, then He didn't have to go to the Cross to die for our sins. If Jesus truly believed that everyone could make their own choices and no one else could judge them, then He didn't have to be crucified for our calamities. You see, Jesus went to Calvary because He was absolutely certain that sins have dire eternal consequences if they are left unconfessed, unrepented, and unredeemed.

            The world and the post-modern church may like to do away with the word sin, but they cannot deny that this has become a sinful world or even a sinful church. Sin still separates people from God and it needs to be forgiven through Jesus Christ. As it states in today’s verse, He was born to save His people from their sins. Without Jesus, we cannot get back to God. Without Christ in our hearts and lives, we cannot be restored to His Kingdom. Just because we don’t like a word or feel that it is antiquated, archaic, or irrelevant, does not mean that it does not exist. Sin Separates us from God, Isolates us from His grace, and Nullifies our consciences into a misguided denial that could ultimately cast us away from God forever. As C.S. Lewis once gravely remarked, “There is not one person in Hell who did not choose to be there.”

Questions for personal reflection

What are the major sins in my life? Do I take Christ’s grace for granted or do I truly repent of them?

Prayer:            Lord Jesus, You died for our sins for that was the only way in which we could ever be forgiven. We know that the world hates the word sin and that Your Church is often accused of being judgmental, narrow-minded, or even bigoted when confronting sin. Forgive us for our own failings, faithlessness, and fearful ways. Grant us Your grace and give us the courage to change our lives by living according to God’s Word. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.

John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to comment on today’s message or have questions, please contact him by email at

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

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Never Again is Happening Again

Never Again is Happening Again

Take a look at the photograph attached. It shows a truckload of young men and boys being transported in Northern Iraq. Some of them are comforting the younger boys; others are staring blankly into space; still others hold their heads down despondently. The reason? – they are all being transported to their deaths.

In Northern Iraq, Christian men are being executed for just being Christians. The Islamic Isis group claim ‘responsibility.’ They believe that they are establishing the long awaited Caliphate which will rid the world of such unbelievers and infidels. Christian homes are being branded with the Arabic letter “N” which stands for Nazarene – the derogatory word used by Islamic extremists to condemn Christian people. Men, women, and children are being uprooted and displaced. Their lives are full of terror. They are compelled to renounce their faith or accept their fate.

Look again at the photograph. Look at the despair in the eyes of those young Christian men. They had hopes and dreams of a new life, a new beginning, a new way for Iraq. They now have nothing left but despair and misery, suffering and death. Some of them will be shot; others will be decapitated; and others will be crucified.

Generations ago, we vowed that never again would this happen. The world watched people being dragged off into cattle trucks after their homes and businesses were destroyed. The butchers in those days painted “Juden” across the walls of Jewish businesses and homes. They compelled the people to wear yellow stars so that they could be publicly recognized and beaten in the streets wherever they went. The Nazis believed that they were establishing a new Reich and sought to rid themselves of the unwanted Jews. When the war was over, the world vowed never again.


Look at the photograph once more. Never again is happening again. Instead of Juden, the Arabic “N” is painted on Christian homes. Instead of a thousand year Reich, a new Caliphate is being spawned. Instead of cattle trucks and trains, construction trucks are transporting people to a horrifying death!

Read these chilling words, too.
The Vicar of Baghdad, the Revd Canon Andrew White, has issued an impassioned plea for prayer and support as the ISIS onslaught against the minority Christian community in the country continues.

ISIS, now known simply as the Islamic State (IS), claimed that “we can do anything now the world is just looking at Gaza,” and Canon White said that “in reality that is true.”

He said that “every day, we think that the crisis here cannot get worse and every day it does. Yesterday over 1500 people were killed.

NEVER AGAIN?????????

Monday, August 04, 2014

Daily devotions: A Wasted Life - 1 Kings 14:9

1 Kings 14:9   You have done more evil than all who lived before you. You have made for yourself other gods, idols made of metal; you have provoked me to anger and thrust me behind your back.

            When I read some parts of the Old Testament, I get bothered by the punishment that is inflicted upon leaders, kings, and people who do wrong. It makes me wonder that if I was alive in those days and lived according to my current ways, would I have been forgiven or condemned by God?  I find it very unsettling and it makes me feel really guilty about my sins. I feel unworthy of God’s grace and separated from His love. I feel like I have created an insurmountable gap between myself and God. I feel unholy and alone.

            In today’s passage, 1 Kings 14:1-11, King Jeroboam is cursed and condemned by God for following idolatrous and self-serving ways, as well as for being ungrateful about the original blessings that God had bestowed upon him. Jeroboam was chosen by God to lead the ten tribes of Israel that had severed themselves from Judah. It was supposed to be an honor for him and a blessing for his descendants. Sadly, however, Jeroboam wasted this God-given opportunity. Instead of praising God, he set up false idols. Rather than give thanks to God, he made up his own new religion and consecrated his own priests. Jeroboam turned out to be a worse character than the misguided king that he had replaced.

            I know that God is both slow to anger and immensely patient, but I wonder how long He will put up with our sins and wicked ways. People feel sexually liberated and independently free, however, instead of using those rights and gifts to make the world a better place, young na├»ve people are being exploited and trafficked across the world; society has also become more selfish and uncaring to the point that if someone stumbles and falls in a busy street, people just walk on by.

            Jesus has the power to forgive us of all of our sins, but we've sadly reached a stage where most folks don’t feel the need to repent or even recognize that our behavior is sinful. As I've written several times before, what is morally right in the world’s eyes is everything that gets a person whatever they want; what is morally wrong is anything that gets in the way of obtaining that desire – which, of course, means that the true Church of Christ will always be confronting cultural morality and personal lifestyle choices.

Questions for personal reflection

Am I truly aware of how badly my sins damage my relationship with God? Am I willing to truly repent of those sins?

Lord Jesus, sometimes we treat You as if You’re our biggest pal and indulgent friend instead of acknowledging You as both our Judge and Savior. We all sin constantly, but we forget to repent or even cast aside our need to confess to You. Forgive us for taking You for granted; help us to truly distinguish between right and wrong, good and evil, honesty and falsehood. 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 or ask questions about today’s message, please send him an email to

Today’s image is one of my Good Friday drawings called ‘Cross Bound.” If you would like to view a larger version, please click on the link: Cross Bound.