Wednesday, June 21, 2017

June 21 devotion - Promises, Promises - Genesis 21:1

Genesis 21:1    Now the LORD was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did for Sarah what he had promised. (NIV)

            My Grandma Stuart had a saying about people who disappointed her: “He’s a great promiser, but a bad fulfiller.” She came from a small Scottish religious community who were known as Rechabites. Her direct family members were all teetotalers who abstained from drinking alcohol and smoking, which is funny, because of her grandfather, James Doyle, who made his money manufacturing clay pipes for tobacco users. She was a strong-willed person who had a lot of gumption and determination. I guess I get most of my stubbornness and religiosity from her side of the family.

            Throughout the Bible, God constantly makes promises and never fails to fulfill them. In Sarah’s case, from the events described in Genesis 21, He sees to it that she bears a child even in her old age. The same blessing is also accomplished in Luke 1 when the elderly Elizabeth gives birth to John the Baptist. It’s all part of God’s way of completing the work of His salvation for the people on Earth. God is not only a great promiser; He’s also a great fulfiller.

            Every day, we experience the promises of God in our individual lives and across the entire Earth. His promises are both personal and global, as well as being current and historical. In Jesus, we have the greatest promise of salvation that humanity has ever known; in Christ, we also see the greatest fulfiller of God’s holy words.

Points to ponder

When and where have I experienced God’s promises in my life?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, through Your complete obedience to God and the fulfillment of all His promises, we have been given the sacred opportunity of forgiveness of our sins and being eternally restored to God. In response, we dedicate our lives to You and to Your continuing ministry of salvation throughout the world. In Your Holy Name, we cheerfully serve and thankfully pray. Amen.

John Stuart is the Scottish pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. You can read the church website at:

Today’s image is one of John’s church bulletin covers called ‘The Promise.’ If you would like to view a larger version, please click the following link: Promise.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Praying and Pondering - Exodus 19:23

Exodus 19:23 Moses said to the Lord, “The people cannot come up Mount Sinai, because you yourself warned us, ‘Put limits around the mountain and set it apart as holy.’” (NIV)

            Sad to write, but I think we’re losing our sense of what is meant to be holy and kept sacred. This morning I saw a cartoon post from one of my pastor friends in which God was depicted as using profane language to get his point across. I know why he did it, but it irked me and caused me to question how far we have strayed from the holy Creator Father that the Bible presents to us.

            Now I’m not advocating that we should all become saints and lead puritanical lives – I’m the least person who could accomplish that – but what I’m expressing is a re-forming of our ideas, opinions, and beliefs in order to recapture the true wonder and awe that holiness and sacredness are meant to inspire.

            Praying and pondering on a daily basis is perhaps a good place to start. We all lead intensely busy lives that working God into our timetables is something we resist, push back against, or ignore. We all want to live healthy and happy lives, but at what cost to our spirits and unique relationship with God? We are meant to keep that deep part of us in a special way, and set respectful boundaries, much like the limits that were imposed on the Hebrew people when God came down to them at Mount Sinai. I personally believe if we could accomplish that personal level of holiness, our fractured lives would be healed and our souls would experience a lasting happiness. Perhaps today would be a good time to start.

Point to ponder

Have I scheduled some holy time to quietly be with God today? Am I willing to try?

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, every day You set aside time to be alone with God for prayer, guidance, and support. If You needed those sacred moments, then how much more do we require them in our lives? Give us the determination and focus to re-form our relationship with our Creator. Allow us the blessing of true holiness in His presence. In Your Sacred Name, we pray. Amen.

John Stuart is the Scottish pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to comment on today’s message, please send him an email to You may read the church website at

Today’s image is one of John’s crayons drawings of the Smoky Mountains called ‘Heaven meets Earth.’ If you would like to view a larger version, please click this link: Mountain.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Burden Sharers - Exodus 18:17-18

Exodus 18:17-18 Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, replied, “What you are doing is not good. 18 You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone.” (NIV)

            Churches are volunteer organizations as well as faith worship centers. For congregations to exist, they need people in the pews to volunteer to help with the many projects and programs that each church presents. They also require spiritual leaders who are willing to give their time, talents, and prayers to the well-being of the whole congregation. Without such volunteers, churches are unable to minister to both the congregation and community; without the willing help of individuals, churches become ineffective and diminish.

            In today’s Old Testament passage (Exodus 18:13-27), Moses is experiencing burn-out by making himself available to all the people on a daily basis. He wants to help each and every one of them, but there are too many disputes, issues, and concerns for one man to handle. We should also remember that Moses was eighty years old, so his energy and enthusiasm were both limited by what he could physically manage each day.

            The solution to Moses’ dilemma comes through the words of wisdom that his father-in-law Jethro expresses. Moses has to learn to delegate more of his community responsibilities in order to be really effective. Without the help of others, Moses is doomed to fail because he will be unable to deal with all of the problems and divisions of his people. So, Moses takes Jethro’s sound advice and sets up district elders to deal with the people’s issues. The burden is shared and the responsibilities are widened. The end result is a far more effective system than a one-man-band. Moses can concentrate on all of the main issues affecting the whole community; the elders can lead the people as specialists among their own groups.

            As Presbyterians, we continue this ministry through the practice of appointing elders to our congregations. People are called and chosen by God to give three years’ service to the local church in order to both sustain and advance its life and mission. Those who are asked to serve are sought because of their commitment to the church; their acceptance of such a sacred call is a beautiful act of faith and one which should bless their congregations. Eldership, then, is a direct calling from God to share the burdens of the people, plan the future ahead, and strengthen the faith, ministry, and purpose of the local church. Without these precious volunteers, a church can lose ground; with dedicated elders, a church can blossom and grow.

Point to ponder

Have I been asked to become an elder? Why was God asking for me?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, we seek to serve You faithfully with our time, talents, and resources to enable Your Church flourish locally, nationally, and internationally. Prepare our hearts and minds to prayerfully consider a call to leadership and eldership in our congregations. In Your Holy Name, we humbly pray. Amen.

John Stuart is the Scottish pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. You can read the church website at

Today’s image is one of John’s latest bulletin drawings for Trinity Sunday. The design is based on the banners in our sanctuary. If you would like to view a larger version, please click this link: Trinity.