Monday, September 29, 2014

World Communion Devotion: Feed the World - Matthew 15:36

Matthew 15:36         Then Jesus took the seven loaves and the fish, and when he had given thanks, he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and they in turn to the people. (NIV)

            One of the first pictures that I ever saw of Jesus was contained in a children’s book. In my mind’s eye I can still see it. Jesus is standing at the top of a hill with his hands held up in prayer to God. Before Him, on a rock, loaves and fishes have been placed. His disciples are gathered beside Him and a great crowd of people are around them, all over the hillside. It was a beautiful picture of the miraculous feeding of thousands of people and it has stayed in my heart ever since.

            As an adult, the nearest that I ever get to experiencing this bounteous beauty happens each month during the Communion service at the church I serve. About a hundred and fifty people are offered a little square of bread and a small cup of wine; they are spiritually fed and soulfully satisfied. They are at peace with God and filled with Christ’s love. It’s a wonderful church moment of grace and hope. Needless to say, I look forward to this experience each month.

            This Sunday, the whole world will be celebrating Communion across the entire globe. People from other lands will share in this amazing and wonderful feast. To me, World Communion Sunday is almost as important as Christmas Day, Easter, and Pentecost. It’s the one day in the year when Christians everywhere share in the blessings of Christ’s sacrificial love. It’s about as close to ‘peace on Earth’ as we will ever experience on this side of glory.

            So wherever you are this Sunday, let me urge and encourage you to join in this celebratory feast of Christ. Isn't it amazing that little squares of bread and small cups of wine will unite millions of Christians across the world? Isn't it wonderful that Christ’s miraculous feeding of His people is still experienced today?

Questions for personal reflection

What does Communion mean to me? How will my spirit connect to other Christians across the globe on World Communion Sunday?

Prayer:          Lord Jesus, we thank You for the gift of Communion which has become a holy and precious experience in our lives. Thank You for the promises that are fulfilled through the giving of Your sacred body and blood on Calvary, as well as the receiving and partaking of the holy bread and wine that we are offered at Communion. Bless us and all Your people on Earth, especially during World Communion Sunday. In Your Holy Name, we thankfully pray. Amen.

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

Today’s image is John’s latest drawing for World Communion Sunday. If you would like to view a larger version, please click on the following link: Communion.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Gospel Devotion: An Art Lesson - Matthew 14:11

Matthew 14:11         His head was brought in on a platter and given to the girl, who carried it to her mother.

            When I was growing up in Glasgow, Scotland, my Dad used to frequently take my siblings and I to the Kelvingrove Art Gallery in the heart of the city. It was always a fascinating place to visit and because my Dad was a great city historian, he used to tell us stories about the museum, as well as some interesting facts about that part of Glasgow.

            The museum is one of the most important art galleries in the world because it contains paintings by Rembrandt, Renoir, Picasso, Dali, Van Gogh, Monet, as well as many others by famous artists. When we visited the museum, it took a whole day to walk the hallways and corridors, sections and levels. If ever I get back to Scotland, it will be one of the first and foremost places that I’ll visit.

            One of the museum’s sections contained art by Italian painters from before, during, and after the Renaissance. One of paintings both startled and shocked me when I saw it for the first time. It was Dolci’s rendition of Salome carrying the bloodied head of John the Baptist on a silver platter. The woman in the painting is beautiful, but the macabre sight of John’s the Baptist’s decapitated head is horrendous. When I first saw it, I found myself both appalled and attracted to the painting at the same time. It was entirely a weird experience for such a young schoolboy.

            The Biblical account of this event (Matthew 14:1-12) reminds us of the evil that is in the world and which innocent people face in every generation. We only have to glance at the current news headlines to see this type of wicked inhumanity occurring in the Middle East and, unfortunately, across the globe. As Christians, we are meant to confront evil with God’s love, which is never easy to do, especially when people of our own faith are victims of oppression and persecution.

            So today’s message deals with the reality of evil on our planet, but also challenges us to use the divine vehicles of hope, faith, and love to change the world. It may not be easy, but it is Christ’s way.

Questions for personal reflection

How do I initially respond to reports of wickedness across the world? What am I doing with my faith to make my community a better place?

Prayer:          Lord Jesus, following Your ways is often difficult, especially in the face of wickedness and violence, conflict and evil. Help us to rely upon You to fortify our spirits, so that we may become channels of Your mercy and instruments of Your peace. 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 or ask a question about today’s message, please send him an email to

Today’s image is Dolci’s painting of Salome. You can read more details of the painting at the following link: Salome.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Christian devotion - Where Was I? - Matthew 12:7

Matthew 12:7           If you had known what these words mean, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the innocent.

            I always find today difficult. The memories that I have of 9/11 are perhaps different from most people. When all of America and the rest of the world was shocked by the terrorist attacks, I was sitting at a hospital bed holding the hand of a friend who was dying. The quietness throughout the whole medical floor was unreal. Doctors and nurses were watching a portable television at the ward desk. No one spoke; all of them were absorbed in the catastrophic insanity and merciless attack on the World Trade Center towers. The whole ward appeared to stand still and you could sense a terrible fear permeating throughout the hospital. Soon everyone was on high alert, fearing the absolute worst because there were rumors that hundreds of planes had gone missing.

Meanwhile I was holding my friend David’s hand, watching the monitors slow down, waiting for that last moment of his life. Across from me, his wife Linda sat with tears streaming down her face, as she lovingly patted his hand and quietly pleaded with David to stay alive. We were powerless in a helpless world. A little side-story within a frightening moment of history. We really didn't know what was happening outside, but death also visited us on that dreadful and painful morning.

Later on today, I’ll go over to David’s grave, where Linda is now also buried, and place some flowers over them. I’ll talk to them about that sad day, but also remind them of the pleasant memories that we shared which I still carry in my heart. I’ll also promise them that one morning, I’ll see them again in that beautiful land where suicidal madness and fanatical martyrdom have no reward; where suffering, pain, and evil cannot penetrate; where God actually wipes away all of our tears.

May God be with us all as we remember the past, knowing that He still watches over us presently, and will lead us to a better, not bitter, life through His Son Jesus Christ. Amen.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Salvation Devotion: Texting

Matthew 11:19         “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her actions.”

            Traffic on the interstate to church this morning was very busy, so I had be doubly alert about the vehicles around me. I hoped that the other drivers were doing the same until I noticed that the car behind me was getting very close to my own. From my rear view mirror, I could see the cause – the young woman behind me was busy texting as well as driving. No doubt she thought that she was multi-tasking and that her message was very important. Unfortunately, she was causing me to speed up and the drivers around her to do the same. She didn't know it, but she was also weaving in her lane. Thankfully, no accident occurred, but if she keeps doing it then one day she will probably cause a terrible crash.

            In today’s highlighted verse, Jesus said that ‘wisdom is proved right by her actions.’ Throughout my life I have found that to be the case, especially in Church world. The wisest people that I have known have usually been focused faithfully on ministry or mission, or have regularly participated in worship, study groups or classes.

            Much of what I do is in the preaching and teaching realm of Church world. I can’t make people do the right faithful things, but I can offer them Christ’s words and God’s guidance. However, much like the young woman who thought that she can text and drive at the same time, some people are going to do what they want to do and believe what they want to do believe. The trouble is this: they are potentially going to lose their salvation by doing their own thing, going their own way, and believing what they want to accept.

            ‘Wisdom is proved right by her actions.’ If God offers salvation to those who truly believe in Jesus, would it not be wise to do something about it now, on this side of eternity? Almost saved, as the old preachers used to say, is the same as not being saved. Almost getting it right has the same consequences of getting it totally wrong. As our young people would say: YOLO – You Only Live Once – which is absolutely right, but it also comes with this caveat: you only have this opportunity to be saved by Jesus before death; after we die, even Christ cannot change things.

Questions for personal reflection?

Am I saved? If not, what am I going to do about it?

Prayer:          Lord Jesus, Your teachings in the Gospels are mostly about making the right decisions in different circumstances and ultimately about making the One Great Choice to be saved by You. Enable us to diminish our pride, so that we may humbly accept You as our only Savior and Lord. 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 my latest paper sculpted drawings called ‘Caledonian Soul.’ If you would like to view a larger version, please click on the following link: Cross.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Advent Devotions for Kindle

This e-book contains short devotionals for every day of Advent. They can be read at any time of day. Each daily section has a lectionary Bible reading, an emphasized verse, a devotional, an art image for meditation, personal questions for contemplation, and a communal prayer at the end.

The Advent readings that I’m using this year all belong to the Old Testament Prophets, whose ancient words reveal to us the promises of God that have been fulfilled through Christ’s Birth, as well as those that have yet to be completed when Christ returns.

Get your copy at the link below…J

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Christian devotional: Real Faith - Matthew 9:29-30a

Matthew 9:29-30a   Then Jesus touched their eyes and said, "According to your faith will it be done to you"; and their sight was restored.

            Faith is a very rare commodity these days. I’m not talking about a religious notion, or a spiritual feeling, or even a mystical experience. I’m talking about real solid faith in Jesus. I've been a pastor for almost thirty years and during that time I've seen many people mistakenly think that what they believe in is faith. What they actually hold on to is wishful thinking, just like in the old Peter Pan stories, where if you think good thoughts and add some pixie dust, you can really fly.

            Faith isn't a feeling, nor is it a daydream. Faith in Jesus actually requires focus, commitment, service, and humility. Because people are so one dimensional in their thinking, they naively believe that just thinking good thoughts about Jesus is all that is required. They delude themselves into the notion that being nice is what counts, and they wrongly equate that with being faithful.

            Faith is much more than a spiritual trivial pursuit; it is the life quest that we are all given from the moment we are born to the day that we die. We have one opportunity to get it right, to be found by God through faith in Jesus. If we set Him aside or falsely think that everything we do is blessed, approved, and condoned by Christ, then we’re tragically and eternally fooling ourselves.

            Faith, real faith, is not just something that we live for, it’s also a divine gift that we die with. If we go to meet our Savior without following, worshipping, or serving Him, then we won’t find Him at all. The Gospels give us all of the material, resources, and clues that we need about what real faith looks like; if we think that we can make it up for ourselves and wing it through life, then we’ll end up on the wrong side of glory. Faith requires commitment, but commitment is so inconvenient at times.

            So, let’s all truly, sincerely, and honestly ask ourselves this today: to whom am I being faithful? To Christ or myself, to His teachings or my own ideas? We cannot hide the truth from ourselves, and we certainly cannot fool Jesus either.

Questions for personal reflection

Am I faithful to Christ or am I just living a lie? Am I committed to His Church or am I just committed to myself?

Prayer:          Lord Jesus, we all want to have real faith in You. We really want to be Your followers and servants, disciples and messengers. Forgive us for playing at religion, or for feigning spirituality. Challenge our choices when they conflict with Your guidance. Change our lives when we contradict Your Word. 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 ask questions or make comments about today’s message, please send him an email to

Today’s image is one of John’s latest artworks. It’s called ‘Chalice,’ and it was made using paper sculpting and crayons. If you would like to view a larger version, please click on the following link: Chalice.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Christian devotions for Kindle Users

Looking for short devotions for meetings as the Church year begins? Got a Kindle? Then look no further. All you need is here: I have written several devotional books which are available on Kindle. You can check them all at the following link boxes.



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