Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Devotion: Two Places at One Time - John 11:21 & 32

John 11:21    “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 

John 11:32    When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

            It seems that even Jesus could not be present in two places at the same time. His friend Lazarus died, and when Jesus finally arrived at his home, both the sisters, Martha and Mary, express their grief and disappointment. If Jesus had arrived sooner, they each told Him, their brother would still have been alive.

            Looking back over the whole story, we discover that Jesus deliberately delayed Himself and continued His teaching in Jerusalem when He first received the news that Lazarus was ill. We now know that He did this in order to perform an amazing miracle. However, the fact that He was only 2-3 miles away from where Lazarus was sick, must have confused, and possibly angered, the two concerned sisters. Jesus deliberately chose to stay away, despite their pain and their pleas.

            We all go through times like that. We can’t ever be in two places at the one time, so we make choices based upon our personal priorities. Sometimes we get it right; on other occasions we end up disappointing someone who could do with our help, encouragement, or even our prayers.

            At the end of the story, Jesus resurrected Lazarus and restored him to his sisters. There appeared to be a happy ending and the time of brief disappointment gave way to a wonderful celebration. However, this is more than just an amazing miracle; the whole incident is parable about how we deal with death and who has the power to resurrect our souls. We may encounter loss, grief, and disappointment on Earth, but through our faith in Christ, there is a special time ahead when He will wipe away all tears from our eyes and restore us to our faithful loved ones, who have undergone that mysterious journey before us, and have been welcomed into God’s everlasting Kingdom of peace, love, and life.

Questions for personal reflection

Have I ever disappointed someone by not being there for them when they needed me? Have I ever been disappointed by someone who did the same to me? Am I willing to seek or give forgiveness?

Prayer:          Lord Jesus, sometimes we get hurt by other people because we expect too much from them. At other times, we disappoint others by not living up to their expectations. Help us to be sensitive and supportive to those who need us; allow us to be gracious and forgiving of those who have failed us. In Your Holy Name, we humbly pray. Amen.

John Stuart is currently 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 Celtic Cross drawings. It’s called Celtic Sunrise. If you would like to view a larger version, please click on this link: Sunrise.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Ministry devotion: An Old Joke - John 10:4

John 10:4      When He (the Good Shepherd) has brought out all His own, He goes on ahead of them, and His sheep follow Him because they know His voice.

            Like most pastors, I’m often jokingly told that our jobs are easy because we only work one day a week. Usually, I laugh along with the person, who thinks this is exceedingly funny, but within my heart, I’m actually weeping for myself and other pastors. What most folks never realize is that we’re always working, always praying, always thinking about the church and the people, even when we’re supposed to be resting, vacationing, or having a day off. If people really want to tell the joke as pastors truly experience it, it should be told this way: Pastors are God’s biggest fools – they don’t even get time off for good behavior.

            Ministry is the one occupation on Earth that has one unique and important part of its function – ministry has eternal consequences. The butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker only deal with the here and now. Teachers, counselors, and therapists deal with life issues and personal choices. Business people, political leaders, and CEOs work with expanding their markets and lifetime events. Only ministry deals with the eternal side of things; only ministry outlasts them all.

            My main role, like that of many pastors, is to guide folks toward Christ, so that in the midst of all of society’s noise, they can still hear His Voice calling them. It’s not a popular responsibility, which is why less folks are becoming pastors these days. It’s not something that you can equate with anything else either, because none of the other wonderful professions, vocations, or careers involve eternity.

            Perhaps next time, when you’re with a pastor and feel the urge to tell the old one-day-a-week joke, set it aside; instead let her or him know how much you are blessed by that one day in the week, when the pastor tries to help you get closer to Christ, so that one glorious day you can experience the joy, peace, and love that is everlasting.

Question for personal reflection

How often do I think about the eternal side of my life? Am I willing to let my pastor help me to seriously contemplate eternity?

Prayer:          Lord Jesus, help us all to listen for Your voice, so that we may positively respond to Your calling. Enable us to embrace Your words, so that we can actually attach ourselves to Your Way, Truth, and Life. Bless all who seek to lead us to You. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.

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


Today’s image is one of John’s drawings for the church kids, based on Psalm 23. If you would like to view a larger version, please click on this link: Shepherd.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Bible devotion - An Old Word - John 8:24

John 8:24 (Jesus said) “I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am He, you will indeed die in your sins.”

            Sin is such an outdated, old-fashioned, and archaic word that is seems ludicrous for the Church to still use it in today’s society. Sin is such a pejorative, judgmental, and intolerant word that someone should outlaw its use entirely and ban it completely from our conversations, messages, and Bibles. It does no good to call anyone a sinner; it is not fair to point out sinfulness; it is absolutely inhumane to bring someone’s sin to the attention of others, after all, didn’t Jesus say, “Judge not, lest ye be judged?” And what about that plank in the eye stuff, wasn’t Jesus warning His followers about hypocritically condemning others?

            And yet, when we read the Gospels, we find Jesus warning His own people and religious leaders about the dire consequences of dying in their sins. If they didn’t believe He was sent from God as the Chosen One, their sins could never be forgiven. If their sins remained unforgiven, then they would be separated from God forever. In other words, Jesus was teaching His people, as well as us today, that sins have consequences, not just in this life, but in the world that is yet to come.

            Sin is such a current, present, and relevant word that it seems ludicrous for the Church to abandon its use in today’s society. Sin is such a descriptive, apt, and universal word that everyone should be aware of its constant use by Jesus and include it in our prayers, sermons, and Bibles. It does no good to avoid the fact that we are all sinners; it is unreal to think that we are sinless; it is eternally disastrous to be kept unaware of our sins, after all, didn’t Jesus say, “Judge what is right, instead of accepting what appears to be right” (John7:24) and “If you do not believe that I am He, you will indeed die in your sins?”(John 8:24).

Questions for personal reflection

How sinful am I? What am I doing about my sins?

Prayer:          Lord Jesus, we cannot fool You because You know everything about us. We strive to be good people and committed servants to God, but we often get distracted or tempted and end up sinning miserably. Forgive our sinful ways and help us to truly turn to You for guidance, wisdom, and mercy. In Your Holy Name, we humbly pray. Amen.

John Stuart is currently 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 drawings called “Eternal Savior.” If you would like to view a larger version, please click this link: Savior.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Church devotion - The Road to Freedom - Psalm 119:45

Psalm 119:45           I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts.

            The Confederate Flag will be taken down in Charleston, South Carolina today, which will be a good thing. As much as I love the South and living among Southern people, racism is still a blight which tarnishes the brightness of this beautiful region.

            For some people, the flag is a symbol of heritage and history. For others, it is an emblem of segregation and injustice. Whatever it was, there is no doubt in my mind as to what it has become: an icon of white privilege and racial oppression.

            Freedom is a fragile gift, given to us by God. It is a blessing that we are meant to share. Liberty, equality, and justice are the three fundamental bedrocks of true freedom, just as hope, faith, and love are at the heart of real and authentic Christianity. Hatred and bigotry, as well as racism and prejudice, threaten our freedom; they are the cruel channels of fear and tyranny, as well as being the devil’s instruments of social and moral terrorism.

            Taking down the Confederate Flag in Charleston signifies the beginning of a long and laborious process of actively ensuring that all people, who are created equal, are treated, respected, and accepted as equals all across this beautiful land. It will take years of courage and commitment, as well as tears of fortitude and faith, to make our nation what we claim and sing it to be: a home of the brave, and a land of the free!

Questions for personal reflection

Am I willing to accept the challenge to truly walk in freedom? Am I ready to make changes in my life that will help to actively create a nation and world that is free?

Prayer:          Lord Jesus, we live in challenging and changing times. Be the Rock of our salvation, as well as the Foundation of our freedom. Challenge our ways and change us, too. In Your Holy Name, we freely 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 drawings called “Candle for America.” If you would like to view a larger version, please click the following link: Candle.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Bible devotion: Forty Years Ago - Psalm 116:12

Psalm 116:12           What shall I return to the Lord for all His goodness to me?

            Forty years ago this month, I tried to take my own life by overdosing myself with the tranquilizers that I was taking. I was eighteen years old, very selfish and self-centered. I wanted to end my life as a means of punishing my parents for the misery that I felt was all their fault. I even wrote a dramatic suicide note which was very spiteful, as well as melodramatic. I felt that I had the right to end my life because it wasn’t going the way I wanted.

            My girlfriend Rhona, and two of my best friends, Stevie and Rose Mary, found me unconscious in my bedroom. When they couldn’t wake me up, they realized that something serious had taken place. They very quickly took me in a taxi to the ER, where my stomach was pumped to get rid of the pills, in order to lessen the impact of my foolish suicide attempt. I spent three days in the hospital recovering from my stupidity.

            The following forty years could never have happened without their life-saving intervention. Somehow God allowed me to live, through their immediate response and quick thinking. I would never have known all of the blessings that I have experienced since then – my marriage to Evelyn, the birth of my two daughters, my faith in God, and the calling He has given me. I was young, rash, and foolish, but God was patient, loving, and merciful.

            Life never gives us everything that we want, but I believe God gives us all that we need. I owe my life to three people on Earth and will always be indebted to them. I also owe absolutely everything to God, who placed them in my life at one of its most crucial and critical of times. I am eternally indebted to God’s grace and goodness, which I can never repay nor given anything equal in return.

            Life is good. Each day is a gift. Every friend that we have is more precious than gold. All the love we experience in life comes directly from God. How can we ever repay those blessings? What shall we return to the Lord for all His goodness to us?

Prayer:          Lord Jesus, we love You. We thank You for the gift of life and love, as well as friends and faith. Help us to share these blessings with all whom we encounter and meet today. In Your Holy Name, we cheerfully pray. Amen.

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


Today’s image is John’s latest bird drawings called “Allyson’s Bird.” If you would like to view a larger version, please click on this link: Lilac Bird.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Family Devotion - The Man Who Has Everything - John 4:10

John 4:10      Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

            The Man who has everything – that’s who Jesus was, still is, and will always be. I often wish that I could find some positive way of letting my family and friends know this amazing truth about Jesus. They all seem to be constantly striving, under a lot of pressure, and continually trying to keep on going with no real understanding about where life is headed. They are all good people and I love them dearly. I just wish that somehow I could convince them that in Jesus they would find all that their restless hearts, minds, and souls is looking for.

            I enjoy seeing their pictures on Facebook, with all of the different and wonderful experiences they have, as well as seeing the places they visit all over this planet. Yet, I sometimes wonder, when they get back from their exciting trips and amazing events, what do they think about when they are alone with their thoughts? What are their hopes and dreams? What do they ponder and wonder about their own existence? Do they have any understanding of their mortality? What beliefs do they have about life after their own inevitable deaths?

            In today’s passage, Jesus encounters a Samaritan woman who has no earthly idea about who He is, what power He possesses, or how He can significantly change her life. She is surprised by His presence and even more amazed at His asking of her for some water. She knows that Jesus is Jewish, so she is startled that He is having a conversation with someone that His race was known to vehemently despise.

            At one point in the conversation, Jesus relates to her about what He can actually do for her. He could refresh her weary soul with His power. As Jesus says, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

            I hope and pray that all of my loved ones, my family and friends, will one day realize, recognize, and receive all that Jesus – the Man Who has everything – can actually give them. It will be wonderful day for them, and a great blessing to me.

Questions for personal reflection

Which of my loved ones do I wish that Jesus would become their personal Savior? Am I willing to continually pray for this to occur?

Prayer:          Lord Jesus, thank You for saving me and for Your wonderful love being continually present in my life. Please help my loved ones open their own hearts and minds to Your presence, so that they may also experience the wonderful joy of truly, personally, and eternally knowing You. 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 send him an email to Traqair@aol.com.


Today’s image is one of John’s latest sunflower drawings called “Just Around the Corner.” If you would like to view a larger image, please click on this link: Sunflower.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Community devotion: Why, God, Why? - Psalm 109:26

Psalm 109:26           Help me, Lord my God; save me according to your unfailing love.

            The inhumane horror that was unleashed last night at a Bible Study in Emanuel AME Church, Charleston, South Carolina, is impossible to understand. Many of the victim’s families and friends, as well as the church members and community will be currently voicing a heartbreaking question of “Why? Why, God? Why?” It’s something that will never be satisfactorily answered. Man’s inhumanity to man is a blasphemous evil which contaminates the whole universe. Eons ago, when God created us and pronounced humanity ‘good,’ it didn’t take us very long to spoil His Creation. In our present age of polemic polarization, we are sadly seeing more of these wicked, horrendous, and barbarous events.

            At Erin Church, in Knoxville, Tennessee, our marketing team has just recently redefined our vision statement. It reads as follows:
“Unified in Christ, we actively seek to create harmony in a diverse community through compassion, mutual respect, and love.”

            It’s not a passive statement; it requires our church to get actively engaged in our city. In communities where fear and distrust, as well as violence and brutality are increasing, our church feels called to get involved in breaking down the barriers that we all have built around race, class, religion, and personal choice. It’s a communal calling which will challenge and change us especially, with the hope that we can bring about effective, positive, and compassionate changes locally, nationally, and even internationally.

            We may not understand why terrible, wicked, and painful events occur in the world, but we can face the challenges that such occurrences engender, by joining with others who truly seek harmony in our diverse community, through the active sharing of compassion, mutual respect, and love.

Questions for personal reflection

Where is my community broken, fearful, and divisive? What can my church do to heal the wounds and bridge the gaps?

Prayer:           Lord Jesus, we pray for the families and church members of Emanuel AME church in Charleston, SC. We know that their hearts will be painfully broken and their minds will be terribly confused. Surround them with Your Holy Spirit, as well as good people and compassionate churches who will care, embrace, and support them. Help us also to do all that we can to minister to our own community with Your compassion, respect, and love. In Your Holy Name, we lamentably pray. Amen.

John Stuart is currently 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 John’s latest stained glass type drawing of Jesus and His disciples on the boat during the storm. It’s called “Storm Stiller.” If you would like to view a larger version, please click on this link: Storm Stiller.