Friday, April 28, 2017

Happy 428 Day - Mark 14:55

Mark 14:55 The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death, but they did not find any. (NIV)

            As a teenager, I was very cynical about the Church and what Christianity stood for. I was determined to do my own thing and go my own way, so I had no need of any of the joy that Jesus was supposed to bring or the love that God had for my life. In fact, when one of my younger brothers brought in a Bible to the house with a ‘Jesus is Lord’ sticker on it, I mocked him in front of the family. As far as I was concerned, Jesus didn’t exist and anyone who thought differently was a complete idiot. Christ’s story was just a fantastic lie made up by religious fanatics who couldn’t cope with His death.

            A couple of years later, everything changed. Instead of being a stupid, drunken lout to my friends and family, I accepted Jesus into my life and decided to become a Christian. The evidence that I denied suddenly became an experience that I embraced. At the 428 Gospel Club in the heart of Glasgow, I surrendered myself to Jesus one Wednesday evening. My life has never been the same ever since that precious moment. And today, on 4/28, I fondly remember those friends that I made for life, including Evelyn my wife, and give thanks to God for leading me to Christ, even though I had followed a reckless path of alcoholism which could have destroyed my life.

            Today, I would encourage everyone who is reading this message to embrace Jesus in their hearts and lives. He can change everything and set you on a new path of spiritual discovery. “Today,” as the preachers used to say at the 428 Gospel Club, “can be the beginning of the rest of your eternal life.” All you have to do is to let Jesus embrace you, once and for all.

Point to ponder

Am I weary of trying to be strong? Am I willing to let Jesus become my strength?

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, You love us completely, no matter who we are or what we have done. Enable us to embrace Your reality in our lives and lead us from this day forth. In Your Holy Name, we humbly pray. Amen.

John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. You can view the church website at this link: www.erinpresbyterian.org.


Today’s image is another of John’s latest Pentecost drawings called ‘Spirit 2017.’ If you would like to view a larger version, please click this link: Spirit.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Perpetual Blessings - Genesis 48:15-16a

Genesis 48:15-16a Then Jacob blessed Joseph and said, “May the God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked faithfully, the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day, the Angel who has delivered me from all harm—may he bless these boys.” (NIV)

            I love the recorded blessings between inter-generational families in the Old Testament. There is something holy and sacred when people of an older generation bestow their approval and beliefs to a young and upcoming age group. It is a special gift which is the elderly’s right to give and it is a wonderful opportunity of encouraging young people with faith, hope, and love.

            In our wee church, we have several special events currently taking place that epitomize such a great gift. The first involves our annual Confirmation Classes when our youth are encouraged to join the church. We teach them all about the life, ministry, and mission of our congregation and emphasize their important role in all that we seek to do for Christ. The second occurs when our Senior Highs graduate and go to college – along with their families, we constantly pray for them and hope to support them during their college years.

            The third event is our annual Spring show that our Sonshine Kids present to the church and wider community. They have been practicing for almost nine months and their leaders have continually encouraged and supported them during rehearsals. Our children are blessed with the skills and support they receive from their families and church members. This is an important moment in each of their young lives, so we embrace their excitement and enthusiasm for the shows, as well as sharing prayers and faith with them throughout the whole year. It’s a blessing which will be with them for the rest of their lives.

            When Jacob blessed Joseph’s children, he was passing on a promise that God had given to his own father and grandfather. He wished them well for their future and laid a foundation of faith which they also passed on to their own descendants. It was a gift of love and a great example of how God continues to give His blessings to all of us throughout the years. Perhaps today, in the same way, there is someone younger that you know who will be greatly encouraged by your faith, love, and support.

Point to ponder

Who blessed me with faith? How am I passing this gift on?

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, we thank You for God’s blessing throughout the centuries and across all generations. May we continue to bestow this gift to those younger people in our lives whom we value, cherish, and love. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.

John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. You can view the church website at this link: www.erinpresbyterian.org.


Today’s image is one of John’s latest Pentecost drawings called ‘Pentecost2017.’ If you would like to view a larger version, please click this link: Pentecost.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Deeply Distressed - Mark 14:33

Mark 14:33 Jesus took Peter, James, and John along with Him, and He began to be deeply distressed and troubled. (NIV)

            Like most folks, I try not to let things distress or disturb me, but when they do, my prayers are peppered with worries and anxieties which make it difficult to focus on my problem or really ask God for help. As a pastor, I should know better, but as a human being, I suffer from the weaknesses and frailties that we all have as finite creatures. If my thoughts are scrambled because of stress, my prayers are full of moments when I feel as though I’m wrestling with God. Within my heart, I know that He truly loves me, but my mind shoots past that thought and heads out into the wide unknown where uncertainty and insecurity abide.

            When I read about Christ’s daunting prayer experience in the Garden of Gethsemane, I get it and feel Jesus is a kindred spirit struggling with His humanity. It’s obvious He doesn’t want to die or experience the torment that is about to befall. He’s looking for a way out and clings to God, hoping to get some sort of reprieve. When it doesn’t come, even after pleading three times with God, Christ accepts that there is no other way to save humanity. His struggle is over and He agrees with God’s decision. He surrenders Himself to His Father’s will. His human spirit embraces His divine purpose, so the conflict is over.

            Perhaps you’re going through a tough time or some unhappy circumstances. Maybe you’re stretched beyond your limits and are having troubling trying to focus. Allow God into the midst of what you’re struggling and let Him help you to solve and overcome your issue. Remember that Jesus experienced something similar and knows all of weaknesses and fears. Let Him heal you of all that harms you and help you through all that hinders you. It’s what He does best; it’s why we call Him ‘Savior.’

Point to ponder

What is hurting me right now? Am I willing to let Christ embrace me?

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, be with us now in the midst of all that we are presently experiencing. Be our constant Guide and loving Savior. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.

John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. You can view the church web site at www.erinpresbyterian.org.


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