Friday, November 17, 2017

In the Past - Acts 22:4

Acts 22:4 “I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison.” (NIV)

            I sin. You sin. We all sin. There’s not one of us perfect or sinless. We all have deep moments of regret or guilt from our past that we struggle with on a regular basis. To be sinful is to be human; to be perfect is to be Jesus, so none of us will ever reach that divine standard of sinlessness.

            In today’s reading, (Acts 22:1-16) the Apostle Paul is addressing an angry mob in Jerusalem. They believe he is ruining their faith and they want to run him out of town. When Paul is given the opportunity to speak, he lets them know about his history. He is Jewish-born, has been educated by Gamaliel, one of the most renowned Jewish teachers of his day, and he has hunted down and sent Christians to their death.

            What??? Was Paul involved in the persecuting and killing of Christians? The great apostle, who is still revered after almost two thousand years, was a killer of Christ’s people? How on earth did he get the job of being the missionary to the Gentiles? Why should we even read or listen to the words from such a sinful killer of Christ’s followers? Something must be wrong somewhere. God must have made a mistake.

            No, there’s no mistake. It was Jesus who chose Paul on the road to Damascus. It was Christ who turned his life around and appointed him to the task. It was Jesus who decided that Saul the slayer of Christians could become Paul the preacher to Gentiles. Christ changed his life from one of defiance to one of obedience.

            I sin. You sin. We all sin. We all need Jesus to save us from ourselves and to restore us to God’s favor. It’s His perfection that makes us holy. It’s His grace that forgives our past. It’s His mercy that gives us a new beginning and the opportunity to live for God and not ourselves. After all, if this was good enough for Paul, it’s more than good enough for us.

Point to ponder

What is my deepest regret? How can Christ release me from the past?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, even though we were sinners and enemies of God, You still came into the world to die for our sins and grant us the opportunity of forgiveness, renewal, and restoration. We thank You for this wonderful act of grace which still amazes us. In Your Holy Name, we thankfully pray. Amen.

John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to make comments or ask questions about today’s message, please send him an email to Traqair@aol.com.


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

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Handling the Truth - Acts 21:38

Acts 21:38 “Aren’t you the Egyptian who started a revolt and led four thousand terrorists out into the wilderness some time ago?”

            It appears that fake news has been around for thousands of years. In part of today’s passage (Acts 21:37 – 40) the apostle Paul’s presence in Jerusalem had started a riot. The Roman commander quickly responded and sought to arrest Paul. The charges? According to the commander, Paul fitted the description of a wanted outlaw who previously caused a revolt and recruited four thousand terrorists to form a rebellion. Obviously, the commander had been misinformed about Paul and was ready to arrest him based on the fake news he had been given.

            Passing on false information, including gossip and rumors, is something that Christian people are seriously commanded not to do. Reputations can be destroyed because of false rumors and mistaken charges. Christians who do this shame Jesus whom they follow and serve. In fact, Christ Himself gave a strict warning about this grave sin: “But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have passed on. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:36-37). This includes passing on Fake News by email, Facebook, Twitter, or other social media.

            As people who call themselves Christians, we are meant to be salt in a tasteless world and light in a time of darkness. If we fail to be truthful and honest because we allow our prejudices and pride to influence our choice to forward unconfirmed and false information, then we damage the community we are meant to help heal, put ourselves under God’s severe judgment, and diminish Christ’s sovereignty over our lives.

Point to ponder

Have I ever passed on fake news or false information to hurt other people? Do I understand that this can have serious consequences for me as a Christian?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, protect us from ourselves, our pride, and our prejudicial views. Keep us from falling into the temptation of passing on false information. Deliver us from doing harm to others simply because we want to pass on gossip or unverified biased opinions. 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 ask questions or make comments about today’s message, please send him an email to Traqair@aol.com.


Today’s image is one of John’s Bible bulletin covers called “I am the Way.” If you would like to view a larger version, please click this link: Way.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Ancient Words - Hosea 10:12

Hosea 10:12 Sow righteousness for yourselves, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, until He comes and showers His righteousness on you. (NIV)

            The ancient prophet Hosea, who lived in Samaria during the 8th century before Christ, was both a religious and political seer. His words, which were among the first to be written down among the Hebrew prophets, mostly dealt with the turbulent times that his people were experiencing. Time and time again, Hosea warned the people that there would be severe consequences if the nation failed to honor and worship God with righteousness and love. The country’s leaders were proud and arrogant, deceptive and unaccountable. Hosea saw that this would have disastrous consequences on all the people, so he stridently urged them to get back to the basics of humility and honesty, faith and devotion which were the bedrocks of the Jewish religion.

            Sadly, Hosea’s words were rejected. The people decided that they knew what was best for themselves and wouldn’t allow the words of a Northern prophet to influence their ways. Their fierce independent spirit and puffed up pride wouldn’t permit them to admit they were headed in the wrong direction and that their leaders were pulling them away from the real truths of God. Instead of humbly turning to God’s righteousness and love, they surrendered themselves to their own selfish and sinful desires, which eventually ruined the nation. However, Hosea’s prophecies endured in written form and generations later the people embraced God’s Word by rejecting the rashness and pride which had almost destroyed them.

            As Christians, we are called to be Christ’s representatives in the communities where we live. Although Hosea’s words and warnings are almost three thousand years old, his prophecies still resonate in our current circumstances. The call to righteousness and love, as well as humility and honesty, is as relevant today as it ever has been, so we are left with the same dilemma: to humbly embrace God’s will or defiantly reject His ways. As always, the choice is ours – the consequences remain to be seen.

Point to Ponder

How does God’s Word affect my life? How is His Word reflected in my community?

Prayer:  Lord God, Your ways are meant to be honored and revered, worshiped and adored. Forgive us when we allow our pride to hide the truth and twist Your Word. Speak to us today in our hearts and communities. Protect us from our pride and misguided paths. 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 ask questions or make comments about today’s message, please send him an email to Traqair@aol.com.

Today’s image is one of John’s latest Christmas candle drawings. If you would like to view a larger version, please click this link: Candles.