Friday, May 27, 2016

Memorial Day Poem

Memorial Day Poem 2016


I do not claim
To know your name,
Nor understand
What you had planned,
Before the blare
Of mad warfare,
Took you away
From this free land.

I only know
You faced a foe
And fought for me,
To keep us free.
One life to give,
That we may live
So thankfully,
For Liberty.

Now, at this time,
I keep in mind
The noble price
Of sacrifice.
I will recall
You gave your all,
And made your stand
For this Free Land.

John Stuart  2016

Devotion: Forgetting the Past - Isaiah 43:18

Isaiah 43:18     “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.”

            Living in the past is a sure fire way to spoil the present and sabotage the future. As human beings, we are both blessed and cursed with powerful memories. Some of them are really good and cause us to be cheerfully nostalgic. Other remembrances are very painful and can sometimes be unhealthy.

            Letting go of the past is something that God calls us to do. It’s not easy to accomplish, but neither is lumbering a lot of baggage which weighs us down emotionally, spiritually, and even physically.

            God urges us to forget former things and not dwell on the past. His Son Jesus died painfully on the Cross, but God does not dwell on that terrible moment. Instead, He looks forward to the brightness of an eternal future where we will abide in His Kingdom and enjoy His everlasting love. This is why God wants us to let go of the past – so that we can look ahead to our future with Jesus.

Questions for reflection

What am I still carrying as a burden from the past? Am I willing to let it go and allow God to grant me a better present, as well as a brighter future?

Prayer:            Lord Jesus, You are our Savior; please save us from ourselves. Release us from the past and guide us to a hopeful future. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.

John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. Please feel free to share this email with family & friends.

Today’s image is one of John’s Creation drawings called “Let There be Light.” If you would like to view a larger version, please click on this link: Creation.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Church Growth Thought for Today: Philippians 1:9-11

Church Growth Thought for Today

Philippians 1:9-11       And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

Paul prayed for the Philippian church to grow in love, knowledge, and understanding, so that the whole congregation could determine what was best for its people to remain faithful to Jesus and become fruitful for Christ, in order to glorify and praise God.

May we pray the same each day for our own congregations. J

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Verse for Today: Ephesians 6:18

Verse for Today

Ephesians 6:18            And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

            We all need prayer in our lives, especially during times of trouble or personal crisis. Prayer enables us to communicate to God what is actually worrying us. Whether we speak out loud or internalize our prayers, God listens to what we have to express. And sometimes, when things get too much, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us through our tears, so that our prayers and requests come directly before God. This is just another gift of Christ’s grace; this is a blessing of believing in Him.

            So today, feel confident that God knows what is going on in your life. Pray to Him for He hears you; and if you can, pray for other people, too, especially your loved ones and those good folks in your church.

Prayer:            Lord Jesus, thank You for the gift of prayer and for the blessings of Your grace. Hear our heartfelt requests, as well as our personal concerns. In Your Holy Name, we earnestly pray. Amen.

John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you have any special prayer requests, please send John an email and he will pray for you. God bless. J

Monday, May 23, 2016

Christian devotion: Justice and Jesus - Isaiah 42:3b-4a

Isaiah 42:3b-4a           In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on Earth.

            We all have different ideas about justice and what it actually means. For some people, justice implies getting even with someone who wronged them. For others, it can mean making someone pay excessive damages and full reparations for a disappointment, mistake, or tragedy. Justice can also involve giving equal rights to those who have been marginalized by society, or degraded by our culture. It is also sought by those who are impoverished or oppressed throughout the world, where injustices are perpetrated by people in power. In fact, all across the Earth, billions of people are constantly seeking justice, human rights, and equality.

            Isaiah’s prophecy in chapter 42 has been interpreted as a foretelling of the Messianic role Christ was to fulfill seven hundred years later. Jesus would become the Chosen Servant of God who entered the world to right all wrongs, bring justice to the powerless, and restore the dignity of God’s people who had been oppressed by the Romans. After His Resurrection and Ascension, He would be revered as the Judge of the entire Earth, who would ensure that the wicked are finally brought to justice and that the poor are exalted above all others in the future Heavenly Kingdom.

            As Christians, we are called to follow Christ, so the seeking and supporting of justice should be a key part of how we apply our faith. If we use our religion to lord it over other people, we have maligned Christ’s ministry. If, however, we focus on the equal rights of all people and see justice as a main emphasis of Christ’s teaching, then we will positively and effectively witness to God’s love and Christ’s grace. In other words, Justice and Jesus are fully entwined; you can’t have one without the other. You can’t serve Jesus without seeking Justice.

Questions for personal reflection

Where do I see injustice in my community? How can Christ’s Church seek and support justice for my community?

Prayer:             Lord Jesus, You are the Savior of the World, who brings good news to the poor and justice to the oppressed. Help us, as Your followers, to pursue justice in our communities and around the world. 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 questions about today’s message, please send an email to

Today’s image is one of John’s drawings for Trinity Sunday. It’s called the ‘Triune Heart of the Universe.’ If you would like to view a larger version, please click this link: Heart.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Church Devotion: Puzzled by Paul - Ephesians 4:30

Ephesians 4:30            And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 

            Whenever I read today’s chosen verse, I often wonder what it truly means. I find it hard to picture Christians grieving the Holy Spirit, so it perplexes me that Paul wrote this as an important lesson, yet I fail to understand it. In my experience, grieving entails suffering, separation, sadness, and loss. Does this mean that Paul is teaching that we can lose the Holy Spirit in our faithful lives? That would be a terrible calamity for any person. That would mean eternal separation from God.

            So I wrestle and struggle with the text, especially in times when my faith is weak and my commitment to Christ is diminished. It makes me fearful of stepping toward the edge of a spiritual abyss, from which I may not be able to clamber out. The whole context of the verse is the fuller passage where Paul is writing about behavior. His teaching makes me question my own sinful behavior and honestly have to ask myself if I’ve wandered from the path that I’m meant to be on.

            And then, in the middle of my struggle, I am reminded of Christ’s grace by the Holy Spirit. I may feel awkward and ashamed about my behavior. I may have been selfish and sinful in recent days. I may have allowed myself to be distracted by other things which have distanced me from God. I may have done a hundred things which disappoint God, sadden Christ, and offend the Holy Spirit, but I am not forsaken or abandoned, forgotten or cast aside. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit continually redeem me, reclaim me, and restore me to the Kingdom and favor of my Heavenly Father.

            Perhaps you are also struggling with commitment and sin. It may be that you’ve fallen away for a while and taken a wrong turn. It could be that you feel as if you’ve let down God and disappointed Jesus. If so, then please know this: Christ’s grace is sufficient to forgive you, love you, and restore you, too.

Questions for personal reflection

What is currently troubling me in my life? How has it affected my faith? Am I willing to come to God with it in prayer? Am I ready to seek Christ’s forgiveness and grace?

Prayer:            Lord Jesus, being human is really difficult at times, especially when we try to be more faithful, attentive, and devoted to You. Forgive our faults and failures. Allow us to restart our lives. Grant us Your mercy and grace, so that we may be restored to God’s love and majesty. 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 on today’s message, please send him an email to

Today’s image is one of John’s latest Pentecost drawings of the Holy Spirit as a dove descending to the Earth. If you would like to view a larger version, please click this link: Dove.