Friday, December 15, 2017

A Longest Night Prayer

A Longest Night Prayer

Take my grief, Lord,
Heal the hurt;
Embrace my weary spirit.

Let Your comfort
Overflow my soul.
Nourish my heart and
Grant me rest,
Especially at night when
Taunts my mind.

Never forsake me,
Include me in Your thoughts.
Gently carry me toward
Healing and hope.
Tenderly touch my soul.


© John Stuart 2017

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Christmas Credit - Romans 4:23-24

Romans 4:23-24 The words “it was credited to him” were written not for Abraham alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. (NIV)

            My parents were working-class people who raised a large family of six in Glasgow, Scotland. We went through some hard times, but at Christmas, they both did their utmost to ensure that all us kids were given the special gifts we hoped for from Santa. I guess like every other parent in our neighborhood, they borrowed money at a high-interest rate and paid it all back throughout the New Year, only to begin the debt cycle again when December came around. When I look back, I don’t know how they did it, but I’m thankful they loved us deeply to make certain that our Christmases were wonderful times.

            There were no credit cards in those days, so each Friday evening a credit agent came to our house for the weekly payment that my folks had to make. The ritual was usually the same – my Dad would give his pay packet to my Mom – who would take out the amount owed and hand it to the credit man. He would then plow through a whole host of cards, write in the payment and initial it. I don’t ever remember my folks missing a payment, even though the interest rate would have been very high. Over the years, they must have paid back thousands of pounds, but they did it, not just for Christmas, to keep us six kids fed, clothed, and sheltered.

            In today’s passage from Romans, Paul writes about how God credits us with righteousness when we believe in His Son Jesus and that He was raised from the dead. Because of sin, we are completely indebted to God and have no way of paying back what we owe, not even on a weekly basis when we go to church on Sundays. However, the great thing is that God does not leave destitute of His love and care. He allows us to be restored to His favor through the death of Jesus, who paid in full our outstanding debt to God. In other words, Jesus becomes both our creditor and guarantor, so that when we fall into sin, God credits us with Christ’s righteousness and permits us to be fully pardoned. This is why we call the Gospel ‘Good News.’

Point to ponder

How much do I owe Christ? How does His forgiveness help me to renew my faith each day?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, may we be eternally grateful for the salvation that You have obtained for our souls. We know that we do not deserve such love and mercy, but we are truly thankful for Your sacrifice and 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 offer some feedback on today’s message, please send him an email to

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

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Book Review: A Crazy, Holy Grace - Frederick Beuchner

Frederick Beuchner: A Crazy, Holy Grace

Memories are made for this…

                I had never read any of Beuchner’s books before this one, but a number of my pastor colleagues have been referring to his works for years. This book intrigued me because of its title – A Crazy, Holy Grace. Throughout my pastoral ministry, I have seen this in action, especially among folks who have had tragic childhoods or heart-rending grief. Beuchner’s book is an ideal resource for people who are struggling with the pain of a great loss, as well as their faith in God.

               Beuchner tackles grief from the basis of his own heartbreaking family experiences. He expresses the reality of his painful burdens and focuses in on the purpose of memory in the healing process. He converses casually with the reader and doesn’t come across as holier-than-thou. The chapter which touched me most was the one called ‘The Magic of Memory,’ where he writes an imaginary conversation with his deceased grandmother. It’s a very touching moment and one that gets to the very heart of dealing with the hurt of loss.

                The book would make a great small group study or to help a grief therapy group find coping mechanisms. Anyone who loves C. S. Lewis books will be delighted with excellent work of Beuchner. And now that I have read this first one, I look forward to reading more of his writing.