Monday, June 27, 2016

Praying for Pat - 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Praying for Pat

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18         Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

            I know that a lot of people in Knoxville and East Tennessee are praying for Pat Summitt and her family today. Throughout the twenty one years that I’ve been here, I’ve seen how much respect, admiration, and love that our whole community has for this gifted leader, coach, and sportswoman. Pat Summitt has been a great ambassador for Women’s Basketball, the University of Tennessee, and all of the people in our region. We pray for her today because we love her. We pray for her family at this time because we feel their pain.

            Coach Summitt has given a lot of joy to many people throughout the years of her great career. Her achievements are outstanding and her commitment to her teams has been exceptional. She has worked hard throughout her entire life and has reaped success with her grit, determination, and drive. She came from humble beginnings and has become a nationally recognized leader with millions of fans across the nation.

            So today, we all pray for Pat Summitt and ask God to be near her at this precious time. And we pray for her family, offering them all of our love and support. May God bless and be with them all.

Questions for personal reflection

How has Pat Summitt’s life affected me and my community? What lessons of leadership has she inspired?

Prayer:            Lord Jesus, we all have heroes who inspire us. Pat Summitt is one of those special people. Please be near to her spirit this day and surround her with loved ones. Embrace them at this time and support them through the coming days. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.

John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to communicate with him, send him an email to

Monday, June 20, 2016

Daily Devotional - A Brand New Week - 1 Thessalonians 2:11-12

1 Thessalonians 2:11-12        For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.

            It’s a brand new week and hopefully it will be full of new opportunities to share our love of Christ with other people. Some folks think that ministry is something that pastors mainly do on a Sunday, but the fact about our faith is this: we all have personal ministries that God gives to each of us every day.

            At some point this week, someone is going to need our help. It may be at work, at school, at home, or in a public place. Wherever and whenever it happens, let’s hope and pray that we can respond in an encouraging, compassionate, and supportive way. If we do, then we will be honoring Christ and reflecting the goodness that God has given us.

            Paul’s message to the young church in Thessalonica was meant to encourage them. He appreciated the support that the members had given to him when he first came to the small congregation. They helped him to share his faith in positive and effective ways, so that even today, more than nineteen hundred years later, the Christian Church is still present there and effectively ministering to the thousands of Syrian Christian refugees who have recently fled that city.

            So, wherever we are this week, whoever we meet, and whatever we do, let’s also try to be supportive, compassionate, and encouraging in order to help other people, while honoring Christ at the same time.

Questions for personal reflection

What do I hope to accomplish this week? How can I reflect and share Christ’s goodness to those that I encounter?

Prayer:            Lord Jesus, we are all called to be servants of Your Kingdom, followers of Your way, and ministers of Your Gospel. Help us to convey our faith to others in effective and lasting 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 send him a message, please send an email to

Today’s image is one of John’s latest Communion drawing called ‘Sanctification.’ If you would like to view a larger version, please click this link: Sanctification.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Daily Devotional - Hope for the Weary - Isaiah 50:4a

Isaiah 50:4a    The Sovereign Lord has given me a well-instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary.

            We all get weary at times and wonder what life is really about. Some of us are over-worked and under pressure much of the time. Others are over-worried and fighting depression. Some folks are lonely and barely manage to get through each day. Still others find life hard to endure especially when family, friends, or loved ones are struggling, too.

            Being human means that we will experience good days and bad days, broken dreams and unfulfilled promises, hardships and perhaps even hostility. However, it’s good to know that we are pilgrims passing through this planet, heading towards something else, something bigger, and something better.

            Being human also means that we can appreciate beauty, kindness, love, and peace. We can be inspired by others, encouraged through their words, and comforted with their presence. In the midst of our worries and weariness, good friends and faithful people can make all the difference. The Irish often say that all people need is ‘a kind word and a smile’ – which are great gifts to receive and are wonderful blessings to share.

            When we take time to read the scriptures, we often find verses and passages that reflect our current experiences. This reminds us that God’s Word is alive and relevant, with the potential to sustain us in times of trouble and encourage us in days of joy.

Questions for personal reflection

How am I feeling today? Am I willing to ask God to guide and sustain me with His Word?

Prayer:            Lord Jesus, thank You for allowing Your Spirit to be present with us each day. You know everything that we are experiencing; You understand all that we are currently going through. Encourage and sustain us; embrace and remain with us. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.

John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to send him a message, please send an email to

Today’s image is an old drawing of John’s called “A New Earth.” If you would like to view a larger version, please click this link: New.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Christian Book review: Lessons from the East by Bob Roberts

                I was delighted to see such a book being written. For decades, I have believed that the center of Christ’s Church is not to be found in a Western Christian nation, but more than likely in Asia. Recent estimates show that by the year 2030, China will become the largest Christian nation in the world.

                Bob Roberts has worked with pastors and church leaders from all over the planet. He has seen what the Spirit is actually doing across the nations. His book is a welcome refreshment of church growth ideas that are borne out of real experiences of pastors around the globe, rather than the same old hypothetical formulas for growth and success, to which Western churches and pastors seem addicted.

                Bob relates much of his work with global pastors and offers many new insights into how Christianity operates in other regions of the world. Every chapter has many lessons which could radically, yet positively, alter US congregations. The book is divided into three main parts, all of which tell Bob’s personal faith journey. For me, as a Presbyterian pastor, Part II – Kingdom Hearts, contains vital information, challenges, and experiences, which I am hoping to share and apply with our church elders. We’ve been looking for something missional and exceptional. Bob’s ideas, which he has gleaned from overseas pastors, may be essential for the continuing life, work, and ministry of many congregations across the US, including the one that I currently serve.

                The book is easy to read and is also an excellent resource for pastors, church leaders, staff, and congregations. It is a refreshing view of Christianity as a positive worldwide movement. I highly recommend Bob’s book to every pastor who is seeking something substantial, inspiring, and productive for their ministries.

Daily Devotional - Called to Serve - Colossians 3:23

Colossians 3:23  Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, and not for men.

            It’s time for our church elders to bring on board a new class. At Erin Church, we seek people to lead the congregation through their commitment, decision-making, and prayers. In today’s busy world, getting good folks to commit to three years of eldership is a hard task and requires a lot of faith, as well as patience. It’s even more crucial to seek God’s calling of elders these days because of the changing times that we live in. For any church to survive the societal turbulence, it takes focused people who are willing to work for the Lord on behalf of the congregation.

            Some good folks think that they are not worthy or that they won’t have enough time. Other people feel that they are not yet ready or fully prepared to undertake such an important leadership task. That’s actually a very good way to approach eldership. If any person believes they deserve such a position, then perhaps they should think again. Eldership is not a reward for being a good church person; it is a calling which God confers on the individual because He can see their potential for what lies ahead in the life, work, and ministry of the church.

            If you look at the folks God called to leadership in the Bible, all of them are imperfect, untrained, and unworthy. Moses wanted God to choose his brother Aaron instead of himself (Exodus 4:1-20); David was the youngest in his family (1 Samuel 16:1-13). Peter pleaded with Jesus to go away from him because he was a sinful person (Luke 5:1-11); and even Paul, the writer of today’s verse, initially hated Christ, Christians, and Christianity before he was converted (Acts 9:1-9).
            As church members, we should be open to the calling of the Spirit and let God take care of the details. God doesn’t call us because we’re perfect; He calls us because He needs us to fulfill His work in our congregation.

Questions for personal reflection

How will I respond if I am asked to serve God as an elder? How can God help me to fulfill that call?

Prayer:            Lord Jesus, You know us as we are and how imperfect we can be. You understand our fears and worries, as well as our issues and concerns. Help us to set these aside and follow Your bidding. 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 send him a message about today’s devotional, please send an email to

Today’s image is one of John’s drawings for Psalm 26. If you would like to view a larger version, please click this link: Psalm 26.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Daily Devotional - Love and Compassion: Colossians 3:12

Colossians 3:12          Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.

            The outpouring of love and compassion that I’ve seen on the internet after the Orlando Massacre has both humbled and deeply touched me. I know that there are still some ignorant folks venting their spleens and spreading hate, but their voices are diminishing and their influence is negligible. What I’ve seen are many photographs of people from all over the world attending candle lit vigils and showing their compassionate unity with the victims and families of the dreadful shooting. It will never take away the loss and pain that the affected friends and families will always feel, but it will offer a level of comfort and support in the midst of their agonizing grief.

            Religious congregations and secular companies, people of faith and those of none, have joined together in sadness and grief, shock and loss. It’s sad that such a level of basic goodness and unified humanity has been engendered by a terrible tragedy; however, if we remain united we can change and make better decisions. Sensible gun laws and acceptable choices can be accomplished, but only if we work together toward a brighter future for our children, grand-children, and great-grandchildren. It won’t be easy, but it can be achieved. It starts at a personal level and continues to expand in our community, country, and world.

            As Paul wrote long ago, God’s people are meant to embrace and express compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. If I want to experience these in my life, it all starts with me; if you are seeking the same, it begins with you, too.

Questions for personal reflection

How has the Orlando Massacre affected and changed me? How can I show God’s love and compassion to others at this time?

Prayer:            Lord Jesus, help us to become God’s people and Your servants through personal acts of love, kindness, and compassion to others, this day and every day onward. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.

John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to contact him, please send an email to

Today’s image is John’s drawing of a Celtic Cross in rainbow colors. If you would like to view a larger version, please click on this link: Cross.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Daily Devotional - Massacre in Orlando - Galatians 3:28

Galatians 3:28            There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

            This weekend’s massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida has sickened, angered, and depressed millions of people across our nation and the world. It’s unbelievable that someone would be so wicked in attacking a vulnerable, defenseless community. It’s inconceivable that one person could inflict such devastation within a short period of time. Sadly, massacres like this are nothing new in the history of the United States. They are all about targeting and murdering a specific group of people whose ideas, culture, and lifestyles differ from the shooters.

On April 12th, 1864, hundreds of African American Union soldiers were shot, bayoneted or bludgeoned to death by Confederate troops at Fort Pillow in Tennessee. Despite surrendering, they were targeted and murdered simply because they were black. Such an appalling massacre would be called a war crime today.

            On December 29th, 1890 at Wounded Knee Creek in South Dakota,  more than 150 men, women, and children were massacred by the 7th Calvary and 51 were wounded (4 men and 47 women and children, some of whom died later); some estimates placed the number of dead at 300. They died because they were Lakota Sioux. Twenty soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor for the horrendous massacre. In 2001, the National Congress of American Indians passed two resolutions condemning the Medals of Honor awards and called on the U.S. government to rescind them. It still hasn’t been done.

            And now, on June 12th, 2016, 49 people were ruthlessly murdered and 53 others wounded in a massacre at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida, perpetrated by one evil man. The victims were wickedly killed simply because they were gay. Like those massacred at Fort Pillow and Wounded Knee, they were cruelly murdered for being part of their own unique community.

            Hatred and prejudice, xenophobia and an unhealthy obsession with automatic weapons, all play their part in these inhumane attacks and murderous massacres. Until we fully address these issues, people who are different culturally and ethnically will remain vulnerable, even in their own communities which should be havens of safety and security.

            Our churches will pray for the victims, their families, their friends, and their communities, and ask God for healing, support, and comfort in the midst of all the pain. However, we also need to pray for common sense to prevail against an obsessive and sinful culture concerning weapons. We also need to be proactive in reaching across our diverse communities in order to unite against the common foes of ignorance, prejudice, and hatred. At Erin Presbyterian Church, we try to epitomize this through applying our vision statement:

Unified in Christ, we actively seek to create harmony in a diverse community through compassion, mutual respect, and love.

Prayer:            May Christ bring us together as one. Amen.

John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to write to him, please send an email to

(Today's devotion is now available as an audio podcast