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

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

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Such a Small Word - Mark 12:33

Mark 12:33 To love God with all your heart, with all your understanding, and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” (NIV)

            One of my favorite groups from the Seventies was a band called ‘Lindisfarne.’ They had some great hits and their best album (yes, I am that old) was called ‘Fog on the Tyne.’ I recently added the album to my playing list from Amazon and listening to it took me back to those wonderful days of my High School years.

            In my opinion, one of the best tracks on the album is called ‘January Song,’ which is about how we all need one another, no matter who we are, what age we have become, or where we live. The lyrics contain a very simple verse, which still speaks to me today:

‘And love is such a small word
For something that is so vast,
But in it lies the future
The present and the past.’

            When Jesus was having a conversation with the teacher of the law in today’s Gospel story (Mark 12:28-34), I think He was trying to convey something similar. Christ was impressed by what the law teacher said in reply to His statement about the Greatest Commandment. The cleric appeared to completely understand what Jesus was expressing. Love of God and loving one another are meant to be combined – it is such a small requirement, and yet it contains everything that we truly need to live faithful, meaningful, and joyful lives on Earth.

Point to ponder

How many people do I truly love? How does that love include God and make the world a better place?

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, we all need Your love and need to learn to love everyone. We want to make a difference in our lives, so help us to spread Your love wherever we can and with all whom we meet this day. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.

If you would like to listen to Lindisfarne’s ‘January Song,’ you can do so at this Youtube link:

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

Today’s image is the album cover from Lindisfarne’s ‘Fog on the Tyne.’

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

What Lies Ahead - Genesis 45:7

Genesis 45:7 But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. (NIV)

            Sometimes I wonder why God brought me from Scotland to become a pastor in the United States. The trans-Atlantic move initially disrupted our family and caused some painful separation from our friends, but I believe that God’s hand was preparing the way and His will was being fulfilled for some purpose or purposes that I still cannot always comprehend. Whatever the reason, I hope that what God wants with my life is still being done.

            No matter how often I read or hear about the story of Joseph in the Book of Genesis, his encounter with his brothers in Egypt amazes me. When he proceeds to forgive them of the past by declaring all that happened was God’s doing, it touches my heart deeply. Instead of punishing them for selling him, Joseph finally pardons and embraces them. Rather than getting revenge, Joseph gives glory to God for directing his life to the point where he can offer his whole estranged family salvation. It’s a wonderful story of forgiveness and love, purpose and meaning, which still inspires many people today.

            Perhaps we should all take the time to reflect on our own journey and think about the wonders God has shaped and performed in our lives. We all have special moments, choices, and events which change us completely. If we see them as a part of God’s purpose for our lives, then we will come to understand that there is a higher hand in all that we seek to accomplish and do. Perhaps, like Joseph, we will realize how often God walks ahead of us and keeps all of our tomorrows in His hands.

Point to ponder

What are the most crucial events in my life? How was God involved in them?

Prayer:  Lord God, Your ways are often mysterious and we cannot fully fathom Your thoughts. Help us to look back to the past and see those moments of Your kindness and concern, as well as Your help and healing throughout our lives. Keep us faithful to Your will and continue to direct our journey. In Christ’s Name, we pray. Amen.

John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. The church’s website can be found at

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