Friday, August 18, 2017

Making A Difference - Judges 6:15

Judges 6:15 “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.” (NIV)

            Like most Christians, I love the story of Gideon in the Old Testament. He starts from humble beginnings and ends up becoming one of the greatest leaders the Israelites had ever known. He was chosen by God to do something significant and make a difference in his generation. In the Bible passage, Judges 6:1-24, when the angel of the Lord visits with him, Gideon cannot believe what is being asked of him. In his own eyes, he’s too small, too insignificant, and too weak to change his people’s world and make an impact on his community.

            In times of turmoil and crisis, we can all feel that way. There are too many problems to overcome and we convince ourselves that we don’t have enough power, resources, or strength to make a difference. We believe that we are weak vessels, unable to stand up to what is going wrong in our society or too insignificant to be able to change things. However, when we read the Bible we soon discover that God changes things when the humblest, weakest, and most powerless of folks become resolute, focused, and intentional. I guess God likes it when we rely on His strength instead of our own and follow His guidance rather than doing it ourselves.

            We can all become agents of change and confront evil in our cities, towns, and communities. We can all stand up for what is right and face down what is false. Instead of worrying about current situations, we need to pray. Rather than buckling under every crisis, we need to build up ourselves as people of faith, compassion, and justice. No matter who we are, God can lead us to do better things. No matter what we’ve done in the past, God can use us today to make a difference, to right wrongs, and build a better, freer, and lovelier world for future generations. After all, if God could take a weak person like Gideon and turn him into a strong leader, then who knows what God can do with each one of us?

Point to ponder

What changes would I like to see in the world today? Am I ready to let God help me make those changes?

Prayer: Lord God, You know every weakness about us and yet You are still willing to call and equip us to do Your work in the world. Allow us to make an impact in our congregations and communities so that changes can be made which will make our world a better place. In Christ’s Holy Name, we pray. Amen.

John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. You can read the church website at: You can also send John an email with your questions, thoughts, and ideas to

Today’s image is one of John’s cross drawings called “Celtic Rainbow.” If you would like to view a larger version, please click this link: Cross.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

A Prayer for Today

John 7:6-7 Therefore Jesus told them, “My time is not yet here; for you any time will do. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that its works are evil.” (NIV)

Lord Jesus,
These are complicated times
Which try our souls,
Test our spirits,
And conflict with our faith.

The specter of hatred
Has overshadowed our land,
And the confusion of evil
Has frightened our people.
We have lost the path
That promotes peace,
And have fallen from the way
That leads to love.

Lord Jesus,
We need Your Spirit to guide us.
We need Your words to save us.
We need Your ways to mend us.
The Spirit of justice and liberty
Weeps over our land,
Our leaders, and our people.
We know that we have sinned
By allowing ignorance, intolerance,
And injustice to divide us.

Lord Jesus,
Forgive our false ideas
And foolish notions.
Protect us from ourselves,
And the pain we cause
Through pride, self-righteousness,
And indifference.
Give us the courage
To denounce evil,
And disavow ourselves
From prejudice,
Chaos, and hopelessness.

In Your Holy Name,

We pray. Amen.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Turning Point - John 6:63-64

John 6:63-64 (Jesus said) “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” (NIV)

            It was a turning point in Christ’s ministry. For a while, many people followed Him because they expected Jesus to fulfill their own longings for their nation, people, and personal lives. Christ’s mission, however, was about fulfilling what God wanted, which ultimately meant some people would turn their backs on Jesus because He would not do what they expected. But Christ was adamant about what He was sent to do: His ministry had grown beyond their parochial expectations; Jesus had come to bring salvation to the entire world and not the restoration of an exalted Jewish State.

            Even today, some Christian people balk at Christ’s words: “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing.” In a society that is obsessed with our physical well-being to the exclusion of our spiritual growth, what Jesus said is still difficult to accept. We spend so much of our earthly time and resources trying to keep our bodies healthy and pure that we tend to forget two things: a) we are not physically immortal and b) our spirits are eternal.

            Now I don’t think that Jesus would condemn us for looking after our earthly bodies – healthy eating and regular exercise are good for all of us – but I do think He would expect us to focus just as much on the health and well-being of our spirits as we do on our bodies. In the end, it’s not how we physically appear that is going to be important when we come face to face with God; it’s how well our spirits are connected to Him through Jesus that is going to be eternally important.

            So, perhaps next time that we look at starting a new diet plan or an exercise regime, we should also set aside the same amount of time, energy, and effort to going to church, reading the Bible, and praying daily to God. After all, as Jesus said, “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing.”

Point to ponder

Am I as focused on holiness as I am on healthiness?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, encourage us to look after our spirits and grow in faith. Enable us to accept each day as an opportunity to grow closer to You. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.

John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. You can read the church website at You can also send John an email to with your feedback, questions, and comments.

Today’s image is one of John’s stained-glass drawings called “As a Dove.” If you would like to view a larger version, please click this link: Dove.