Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Short Devotion - An Old Story - Genesis 35:14-15

Genesis 35:14-15        Jacob set up a stone pillar at the place where God had talked with him, and he poured out a drink offering on it; he also poured oil on it. Jacob called the place where God had talked with him, Bethel. (NIV)

            As a schoolboy, I was taught that the stone pillar which Jacob placed at Bethel thousands of years ago, was somehow transported to Scotland and became known as The Stone of Destiny. When ancient Scottish kings were crowned, they sat on a coronation throne which was built around the stone, supposedly conferring God’s blessing on their reign. Eventually, during the wars between Scotland and England, the English king took it as a victor’s trophy and had it placed below the coronation throne in Westminster Abbey. In 1953, Queen Elizabeth was crowned on the same throne over the stone. As a gesture of goodwill to the people of Scotland, she returned it in 1996 and had it placed in Edinburgh Castle, where it occupies the same room as the Scottish Crown Jewels.

            It’s a delightful story, but it really doesn’t date back to Jacob’s time. A group of geologists has studied the stone and they believe it is part of the red sandstone which is found around Scone Palace in Scotland, where the Scottish kings and queens were officially crowned. It seems that the Scots have a touch of what the Irish call ‘blarney,’ when it comes to telling tall tales.

            In the Bible, Jacob set up the original stone pillar as an everlasting witness to God’s grace in preserving him and his family, as well as for the promises of posterity which would be fulfilled in the multitude of the future Hebrew people and formation of a Jewish nation in the Promised Land centuries later. It was a turning point in Jacob’s life which allowed him to settle in God’s country with a divine blessing that would not be broken.

            As we each look over our lives, remembering where we came from and looking forward to the times that lie ahead, let’s not forget to be thankful to God for sustaining and blessing each and every day of our lives. We may not fully know what lies ahead, but of this, we can be certain, the God who holds us dearly in His hands today, also holds every tomorrow in His hands.

Point to ponder

What Bible stories do I remember from my childhood? How do those stories still affect my faith today?

Prayer:            Gracious God, we thank You for the fulfillment of Your promises over the centuries and across the world. We have faith today simply because You arranged it long ago. Help us to be mindful of how we pass on our faith to the younger generations in our lives. In the Name of Jesus Christ, our Savior, we pray. Amen.

Today’s image is one of John’s Scottish designs called ‘Caledonian Soul.’ If you would like to view a larger version, please click this link: Soul.

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

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Sermon on Matthew 9:1-12 - The Works of God

An audio podcast of my sermon "the Works of God.' preached at Erin Presbyterian, Knoxville, Tennessee on Sunday March 26, 2017.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Tell Them - Mark 5:19

Mark 5:19       Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” (NIV)

            When I first became a Christian, I wanted to tell the whole world about Jesus, but my biggest problem was how to communicate my faith to my family and friends. They knew everything about me – the good, the bad, and the ugly – so convincing them that I had changed was an uphill task. They watched me go from a heavy drinking alcoholic to becoming a fervent disciple of Jesus. I guess they thought that all I was doing was replacing one form of addiction with another, which to some degree was actually true. It took years for them to accept that my faith was truly a life-changing experience for me, but I don’t think it had any real influence over their own individual spirituality.

            At the end of the Gospel story, when Jesus heals the demoniac (Mark 5:1-20), the healed man asks to follow Jesus and go with Him. Christ, however, did not let him. Instead, Jesus wanted the man to go back to his own people and tell them the story of his miraculous cure. In other words, Jesus was giving him a mission to spread the news about God’s mercy and grace in a region that had actually rejected Jesus. It would be an uphill task because the man’s people would remember him as a deranged lunatic, so it would take years for his story to be accepted.

            We all love our families dearly, as well as our closest friends. Sharing our faith with them can sometimes be a hard thing to do, but it is a worthwhile mission. We never know what long-term affect our faithfulness to Christ will have with the kinfolk around us. So long as we love and cherish them, our faith may have a positive influence on their own lives. We just have to keep praying and persevering without being self-righteous, condemnatory, or over-bearing. As Jesus Himself said, “Tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how He has had mercy on you.”

Point to ponder

How do I communicate my faith to my family? Do I show them love, mercy, and grace?

Prayer:            Lord Jesus, bless our families and friends with Your love and goodness. Help us to cherish and support them, so they may see that our faith in You is both compassionate and encouraging. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.

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

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