Thursday, April 16, 2015

Bible devotion: Tennessee Pharisees - Luke 14:11

Luke 14:11    “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

            A strange thing happened in the Tennessee legislature this week. The House passed a bill declaring that the Bible should be the State Book, giving it special status just like the State Bird, State Song, State Flower, etc. An ex-pastor, who is now a politician, proposed this bill. It was accepted by the majority and will now proceed to the State Senate, and then to the Governor’s desk for signing, if it passes there.

            To me, this is a pointless exercise of fundamentalist posturing which will be fruitless and successfully challenged on the grounds of its unconstitutionality. It’s a banal bill and a ludicrous law which only taints Tennesseans as stereotypical backward, bible thumping hillbillies whose ornery ways castigate the forward thinking and future planners for our beautiful State.

            All of you know me. I love the Bible – its stories and teachings, history and poetry, messages and tenets. I try to live by Biblical standards, but also fail miserably as a sinner. The Bible is God’s Word for me and I read it daily for guidance, sustenance, and inspiration. To make it the official book in Tennessee degrades the Bible to a tawdry and subservient political level, where crafty representatives and wily politicians will use it to promote their own self-righteous, sacrilegious, and charlatan ways. I thought that the Pharisees no longer existed; it seems that they are alive and well in the Tennessee legislature. Instead of acting humbly and showing love, the House representatives are exalting themselves and religiously oppressing others – something that both Jesus and the US Constitution strongly and accurately oppose.

Question for reflection:      What does the Bible mean to me? How do I apply its teachings with my life?

Prayer:          Lord Jesus, You warned Your people constantly about self-righteous leaders and oppressive lawmakers. You confronted their hypocrisy and often challenged their misdirected and foolish ways. Enable us to freely, faithfully, and even constitutionally resist those who would try to use their religion to humiliate others and exalt themselves. In Your Holy Name, we sincerely pray. Amen.

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

Today’s image is one of John’s latest church drawings called “Communion Cup.” If you would like to view a larger version, please click this link: Cup.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Gospel devotion: A Narrow Door - Luke 13:24

Today’s Bible readings can be found at these links: Psalm 80:8-19 and Luke 13:18-27.

Luke 13:24    Jesus answered: “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.”

            Over the weekend, a new survey was released which suggests that the United Kingdom is among the least religious countries in the world. The survey was conducted by the Win/Gallup organization and a news report about the results can be read here: ITV News.

            The findings of this survey do not surprise me at all. Over the past twenty years, I have seen Christianity decline in Britain, which I think has occurred due to an increase in both humanist secularism in society and liberal progressiveness in the mainline churches. Church attendance is waning and religious connections are diminishing. Those who are still left in the Church are either disillusioned with the direction that their progressive leaders are following, or they are actually deluded into thinking that such a path will make the Church vitally relevant - it doesn't, because not having much to believe in is very quickly transformed into believing nothing at all.

            Lots of people don’t really read the Gospels any more. They carry around in their hearts and minds an artificial Jesus of their own making who loves everyone, indulges everything, and accepts anything. Nothing could be further from the Gospel Truth. Jesus Himself talked about a narrow door to salvation, not a broad gate or an open field. Progressives would have us believe that the wider that the Church makes the gate, the more people we can gather together for the Kingdom of God. If that were the case, then why on Earth did Jesus ever talk about a narrow door?

            The Truth of the matter about salvation, which should be defined as the forgiveness of our sins and our everlasting re-connection to God, is this: it is only experienced through a narrow door, controlled by God and confined to Christ’s teachings; it is not a broad opening, constructed by our beliefs and ever-widened by our opinions. The sadness about this stark Gospel reality is this: more people in the present generation of Brits will never find that door because of the failures of their Christian leaders. The concern that I personally have is that the United States is heading down the same erroneous way. The only happiness, however, is this: the door to salvation is still open – we just have to make the right commitment to Jesus in order to walk through it.

Questions for reflection:   How committed am I to Jesus? Am I willing to walk through His narrow door to find salvation? If not, then how can I be saved?

Prayer:          Lord Jesus, help us to seek a real understanding of Who You are and what You actually taught. Keep us from shaping You into our own image, and enable us to be willing to be shaped, led, and saved by You. 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 Communion drawings called “This Is.” If you would like to view a larger image, please click on this link: This Is.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Church Meeting Devotions: A Second Chance - Luke 13:9

Luke 13:9      “If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.”

            The parable about the unfruitful fig tree (Luke 13:1-9) is all about second chances. The story concerns an owner who wants to cut down a barren fig tree because he has no use for it in his garden. His gardener, however, wants to give the fig tree another chance. He is willing to work at it, digging the soil around it, as well as fertilizing it throughout the year. The gardener seems to be convinced that this extra work will enable the fig tree to produce its fruit in due season.

            The parable relates to us the real ministry of Christ. He is sent among us to reclaim us for God’s Kingdom. He works hard at preparing the way for our salvation. He gives us stories and teachings, parables and tenets to guide our lives. He even sacrifices Himself for our sins, hoping that we will recognize His hard work in our personal spiritual lives, so that we may become faithful and fruitful Christians. In other words, Christ graciously gives all of us a second chance, a new beginning, a fresh way to be restored to God’s favor and love.

            I don’t know how Christ’s ministry affects your life, but I know that I am totally grateful for the work that He has done in me, to reconnect me to God. Without Christ, I still would be a hapless wanderer and a hopeless soul. With Jesus, I am a child of God’s grace and a redeemed servant in His Kingdom.

Question for reflection:      Do I need a new beginning in my life? Am I willing to let Jesus work that new beginning in me?

Prayer:          Lord Jesus, only You can restore us to God and only You can make our lives fruitful. Please work within us and around us, so that we may recognize the second chance and new beginning that You willingly bestow upon us. May we be reclaimed by Your love and blessed through Your grace. 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 comment or ask questions about today’s message, please send him an email to

Today’s image is one of John’s latest Pentecost images called Beginnings. If you would like to view a larger version, please click the following link: Beginnings.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Gospel devotion: Seventy Years Ago - Luke 12:57

Luke 12:57    “Why don't you judge for yourselves what is right?”

            Most folks who constantly quote Christ’s words, “Judge not, lest you be judged,” probably don’t know that today’s highlighted verse actually exists in scripture. They usually quote Jesus’s words, so that no one can disagree with their choices. They use His Words as a barrier to dialogue about what is right and what is wrong. In other words, Christ’s saying is used to shore up an amoral and hedonistic society where ‘right’ is individually defined as ‘everything that helps me do what I want to do.’ Conversely, ‘wrong’ is defined as ‘everything that hinders me from doing what I want to do.’

            However, today’s verse adds a new dimension and one which serious Gospel readers know and understand. Judging others may be considered hypocritical by Christ because of the amount of personal sins that everyone carries, but judging what is right is not condemned at all. Evil in our communities, societies, and civilizations needs to be recognized, confronted, and dealt with by followers of Christ. Good Christians become bad witnesses when they know and see something that is evidently wrong, but fail to say or do anything about it. A recent example of this would be the slaughter of the 147 college students in Kenya that happened on Good Friday of this year. Where was the moral outrage? What major voices were raised against this inhumane evil? How much attention was given to this horrifying event by the media?

            Judging what is right is never popular. Seventy years ago today, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was executed by Hitler for speaking out against Nazism, as well as for being involved in the bomb plot to assassinate that monster. Dietrich knew what was right and he courageously condemned Hitler’s evil at a time when the vast majority of German Christians cowered away from such a confrontation. Bonhoeffer’s last words simply expressed his faith: “This is the end – for me, the beginning of life.”

            At some point, we’ll be faced by someone who will express to us those words, “Judge not,” in order to silence any disagreement we may have. Perhaps our response should be this: “Yes, but Jesus also said, “Judge what is right.”

Question for reflection:      Where and when have I heard or seen the words “Judge not” being used? How would Christ’s other words of “Judge what is right” have changed the situation or conversation?

Prayer:          Lord Jesus, You alone are the King of kings and the Judge of all the Earth. Grant us the gift of discernment to know right from wrong, as well as knowing the right words and right time to say or do what is necessary to confront the evils in our society and times. In Your Holy Name, we humbly pray. Amen.

John Stuart is currently the pastor at Erin Presbyterian 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 attached image is one of John’s latest Pentecost drawings called “Kairos.” If you would like to view a larger version, please click the following link: Kairos.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Holy Week devotion: Easter Sunday - John 20:1-18

Bible reading: John 20:1-18

Today’s verse:                  John 20:17
Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

            Today is the greatest day of celebration on the Christian calendar. This is the Day that Christ was raised, so we should be glad and rejoice in it. This is the Day which makes our faith so important, not just for us, but for the entire world.

            As we read the Gospel narrative about Christ’s Resurrection, we should make time to re-pledge our hearts to Him, re-connect our spirits to God, and renew our hopes and dreams in Jesus, our Risen Savior and Almighty Lord.

            We are Easter people, redeemed from our sins by Christ’s sacrifice and restored to God’s Everlasting Kingdom by the power of Christ’s Resurrection!

How will I share my joy in Christ with the world today?

Prayer:            Lord Jesus, You are the Savior of the world and our Almighty King. We rejoice in You this Day and forevermore. Amen.

Holy Week devotion: Vigil Saturday - John 19:38-42

Bible Reading: John 19:38-42

Today’s verse:                   John 19:38
Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body.

            I like the Gospel story of Joseph of Arimathea. He’s an unsung hero during a time of sadness and crisis. Before the crucifixion, Joseph had been a secret follower of Jesus, but didn’t want to tell anyone because he was afraid of what people might say. After the crucifixion, Joseph boldly goes to Pilate and asks for Christ’s body – he is no longer afraid to be associated with Jesus; he is no longer scared to be a marked man.

            Throughout this week, we may have had opportunities to witness for Christ and show others that we are Christians. Tomorrow, we will be given another occasion to show our faith at church, at home, and in our community.

How will I celebrate Easter? Am I willing to show my faith to everyone I encounter?

Prayer:            Lord Jesus, as we await the light of a new Easter dawn, prepare us to be witnesses of Your Resurrection and disciples of Your ways. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.

Holy Week devotional: Good Friday - John 18:1-19:37

Bible Reading: John 18:1-19:37

Today’s verse:                   John 19:19
Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read,

            Jesus was totally humiliated by being crucified. Although many drawings and paintings have Him wearing a loincloth to preserve His modesty, Christ was stripped naked and completely uncovered. This must have been awful for Him, as well as His family and His friends, to endure. It was a shameful way for the Son of God to die.

            His shame was also compounded by Pilate’s sign which mocked Christ’s claims, as well as those of His Jewish people. His death was brutally painful, but His spirit was also absolutely crushed. There was nothing noble about His crucifixion because there is nothing uglier than sin, which He had totally become, in order to save us.

How does thinking about Christ on the Cross affect me? Do I understand what He endured in order to save me?

Prayer:            Lord Jesus, You died for us painfully and shamefully, cruelly and wickedly. May we never take Your sacrifice for granted. In Your Holy Name, we humbly pray. Amen.