Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Heart of a Teacher - 1 Peter 3:18

1 Peter 3:18    For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring us to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. (NIV)

            At the heart of our faith is a cross on which Jesus was crucified. If we take away the cross, much of our faith does not make sense. Christ taught many things about how to be good, how to love one another, and how to share our lives with other people. The only thing that He couldn’t teach us was how to become sinless. No matter how hard we try to be good, we can never avoid making a mistake; this is what makes the cross absolutely necessary.

            Every week, we come before God in His sanctuary to confess our sins; every day, we ask for God’s forgiveness. This means that we regularly admit we have made mistakes and have allowed sin to contaminate our bodies, hearts, minds, and souls. We cannot become sinless, no matter how saintly, holy, or perfect our deeds might be. Jesus couldn’t teach us to become sinless, but He could enable us to become eternally forgiven. This is why the cross, Christ’s Cross, is at the heart of our faith. Our sins are placed upon Christ as He is pinned to the cross; our imperfection is laid upon Him, as He agonizingly suffers. Jesus becomes the ugliest part of all Creation as sin merges with Him on the cross.

            When Christ finally dies, the power of sin dies with Him. It can no longer separate us from God; it can no longer pull us away from His love. As Peter correctly wrote so long ago, ‘For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring us to God.’ Amen!

Questions for personal reflection

How many mistakes have I made this week? How many can Christ forgive with His Cross?

Prayer:            Lord Jesus, we do not fully understand how You defeated sin on the Cross, but we are totally grateful that You accomplished it for us. Thank You for dying for our mistakes, so that we may be allowed to come to God and be with Him forever. In Your Holy Name, we 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 this message, please send him an email to Traqair@aol.com.


Today’s image is one of John’s Holy Week drawings called “Outside a City Wall.” If you would like to view a larger version, please click this link: Outside.


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

How to Begin Again - James 5:19-20

James 5:19-20             My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins. (NIV)

            When I think about how I became a Christian, I sometimes shudder at what would have happened to me if I hadn’t found Jesus. Like most young Glaswegians, I was besotted with alcohol and couldn’t get enough each day to feed my addiction. Somehow I managed to keep my job as an insurance clerk during the day, but after my work, my sole quest was to get to the nearest pub and drink as much as I could buy or mooch until I got drunk. It was a self-destructive cycle which worried my parents and deeply concerned my true friends. When I eventually came to Jesus and poured out my heart to Him, He turned my life around and set me on a path which, thankfully, I am still walking upon.

            Some people think that Christianity is just about loving one another and being at peace with other folks. Those are great gifts to the world, but there’s more to our faith than the Earth dreams of. Christ has the power to change our lives completely for the better, totally and forever. Most folks fear change and resist the urge to humble themselves before Christ, to plainly ask Him for mercy and grace, support and renewal. We all make mistakes in our mortal lives, but perhaps the greatest mistake of all is not taking the opportunity that Christ graciously and lovingly gives us – to stop heading down the wrong path, to turn around to face Him and to allow Jesus to direct our future lives.

            Perhaps you are in a muddle or your life is an actual mess. Maybe you’ve made some decisions recently that have harmed you or hurt others. It could be that you don’t know what to do or how to change things. You may even feel trapped by your own choices. Please know this: Jesus has the power to overcome what you are presently facing and He is willing to give you His power in order to prevail. It is no shame to admit that you have made some bad decisions – we all do that at times – but what would be a shame would be to miss out on a wonderful opportunity to re-set your life and begin again: Jesus can give you that, even now as you read these words.

Prayer:            Lord Jesus, You know of all the bad choices and sad mistakes I have made. Despite these errors, You are still willing to grant me forgiveness and allow me a fresh start for my life. Help me find the courage to admit my mistakes and then turn to You for mercy, grace, hope, and love. In Your Holy Name, I 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 contact John by email to Traqair@aol.com.


Today’s image is one of John’s Cross drawings called ‘First Dawn.’ If you would like to view a larger version, please click this link: https://c2.staticflickr.com/4/3353/3326921922_68d111931e_b.jpg

Friday, September 16, 2016

A Simple Prayer When Stressed Out



James 4:8a      Come near to God and He will come near to you.

Are you feeling isolated and alone, vulnerable and insecure?
            Come near to God and He will come near to you.

Have you put some of your plans on hold, or did someone disappoint you?
            Come near to God and He will come near to you.

Are you feeling empty and run down, exhausted or exasperated with life?
            Come near to God and He will come near to you.

Are you worried about a loved one, your health or your work, your circumstances or future?
            Come near to God and He will come near to you.

Do you feel as though no one understands or cares about what you are going through?
            Come near to God and He will come near to you.

            You are a beloved child of God’s grace and He will draw near to you, to comfort and embrace you, to guide and encourage you, to strengthen and renew you.
            Come near to God and He will come near to you. Amen.


John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee.