Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Christian devotion: Rescuing Refugees - Exodus 22:21

“Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt.” – Exodus 22:21

            The recent terrorist attacks in Paris, Beirut, and Baghdad have resulted in a lot of paranoia and prejudice being expressed by politicians in public, people on the street, and even pastors from pulpits. Instead of being faithful, numerous Christians are being fearful and allowing heartless cowards to disrupt their lives. The whole point of being a terrorist is to foment terror and provoke insecurity; when we allow ourselves to be driven by our fears instead of relying upon our freedoms, we lose our liberty and become captive to tyranny.

            I am dismayed and deeply disappointed in political leaders who, through their xenophobia, seek to close our borders, reject refugees, and castigate an entire religion as being hostile, volatile, and violent. When we allow that kind of intolerance and prejudice to go unchecked, we start to go down a totalitarian path, the likes of which we have not seen or known in almost eighty years.

            The men, women, and children who are fleeing the Middle East are not seeking to fleece our resources, overturn our society, or destroy our civilization. They are running away from rabid religious extremists who want to eradicate them. If we were in the same tragic and fearful plight, we would want to get our families and friends to safety wherever we could find it.

            As Christians, we are known as People of the Book to the Islamic world. This means that they regard us as being shaped and influenced by God’s Word in our Bibles. We also, in the Bible Belt, take great pride in applying the scriptures in our daily lives. Since this is the case, then our attitudes and choices, our opinions and compassion for Syrian refugees, and others like them, should be based upon these words, which come directly from God:

“Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt.” – Exodus 22:21

            The tragic situation in the Middle East may take decades to heal; the helpless situation of the Syrian refugees can be dealt with now. We need to open our hearts and arms, our communities and borders to receive them. We need to be faithful Christians and not fearful citizens. We need to show compassion instead of rejection. We need to do what Christ, who was once a refugee, would do: we need to welcome them.

Questions for reflection

Am I going to live in fear or by faith? Am I willing to welcome or reject refugees?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, Your family once fled from the violence and tyranny of Herod, who wanted to kill You as a child. You know the anxiety of being a refugee; You understand the need to be welcomed and made safe. Help us to overcome our fears and apply our faith, according to God’s Word. In Your Holy Name, we 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 one of John’s drawings called Stellar Icon, featuring Mary and Jesus as refugees. If you would like to see a larger version, please click on this link: Mary.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Bible devotion: Addie - Proverbs 19:11

Today’s Bible readings can be found here: Proverbs 19:11-20 and Acts 17:24-34.

“A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.”
 – Proverbs 19:11

            Evelyn and I have just taken in a wee rescue dog, which we have now called Addie. She’s cute and reminded us so much of our last dog, Abbey, that we decided to give her a new home.

            Addie was rescued from a Puppy Mill. For the last seven years, she has been locked up in a small cage, producing puppy litter after puppy litter. When she could no longer give birth to any more puppies, she was scheduled to be euthanized. What a cruel way to treat a wee dog! Puppy mill owners are horrid people, and, at this time of year, when folks go looking for Christmas puppies in pet stores, most of the public is not aware that many heartless and cruel puppy mills advertise pups and supply unscrupulous stores with pets.

            Addie doesn’t wag her tail and is very wary of anyone approaching her. She doesn’t like to go outside because she’s not used to wide open spaces. She’s not house trained either, so Evelyn and I will have to be patient with her. We want to make the second half of her life full of love and fun. We want to restore her life to what God meant her to be.

            The Book of Proverbs mentions patience and wisdom quite often. The two go hand in hand. We all need patience, especially when we find ourselves in stressful situations. Sometimes among family and friends, even in church, our patience runs out and we foolishly say or do something impulsive or resentful. Even as a pastor for nigh on thirty years, I still make those basic mistakes. Wisdom, however, helps us to repair the damage and restore our relationships, which is, in fact, what God has done through thousands of years of dealing with humanity.

            Perhaps one day, Addie may wag her tail, showing Evelyn and I that our patience has worked. One day, too, we may smile in the Lord’s presence, showing God that His patience with us, has also worked.

Questions for personal reflection

Have I offended someone recently, or have I been offended? How can God help me to repair what’s been broken and restore what has been lost?

Prayer:            Lord Jesus, You are the Great Healer of the World and the Everlasting Restorer of our souls. You patiently work with us, reclaiming us for God and reconnecting us to His favor. Allow us to show the same patience and grace with our family and friends. 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 make comments or ask questions about today’s devotion, please send him an email to Traqair@aol.com.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Remembrance Day poem


We remember the fallen,
We remember the dead.
We remember the young ones
Whose life blood was shed.
We remember their sacrifice,
We remember their pain;
We remember the promise
Of “Never again!”

We remember our veterans,
We remember their loss.
We remember their valor
And what it has cost.
We remember the poppies
And see all the crosses.
We remember in silence,
The toll of war’s losses.


We will cherish our freedom,
We will cherish our lives.
We will honor the memory
Of their sacrifice.
We remember the fallen,
Whose life blood was shed.
Each sunset and sunrise,
We will honor the dead.

© John Stuart 2015

Monday, November 09, 2015

Joyful devotion: Filled with Joy - Acts 16:34

Acts 16:34       The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household.

            Before he became the great reformer, Martin Luther was terrified of God. He believed that God was out to get him, especially during thunderstorms. He suffered mentally and emotionally, as well as spiritually. He constantly went to Confessions, sometimes for six hours at a time! His priestly confessor, Johann von Staupitz complained that Martin was wearing him out. He often tried to explain to Luther about the grace of God and that Christ had died for every one of his sins. All that Martin needed to do was to trust Jesus and love God. But Luther would not believe it. Instead, he continued to be afraid and feared Christ as a terrifying judge.

            Thankfully, there came a momentous time in Luther’s life when he realized that God’s grace was more than sufficient to allow Martin to stop torturing himself and be forgiven. His fear was replaced with faith; Christ’s judgement was exchanged for real joy.

            In today’s passage, (Acts 16:25-40) we can read about a jailer who was so terrified that he strongly thought about killing himself. The words of hope from Paul and Silas, as well as God’s grace turned his life around. After being baptized, along with the rest of his family and household, the jailer experienced the real and lasting joy that God brings to people who believe in Jesus for the first time. Paul and Silas were God’s chosen servants to bring about this remarkable conversion. The jailer received Christ’s spirit in his heart, encountered God’s grace, and embraced the Spirit’s love. For the very first time in his whole life, the jailer knew what it was to be forgiven of his sins, released from his fears, and restored to God’s Kingdom.

            We all go through times of doubt, fear, and low esteem. We all battle with the world and feel unworthy. We all have shameful secrets and past regrets. If we dwell on them, we will become as miserable as sin; however, if we dwell on God’s gracious love, like Luther and the jailer from the past, our fear will disappear and Christ’s joy will reunite us to Him.

Questions for reflection

Am I afraid of God? Am I willing to find peace and joy in Jesus?

Prayer:            Lord Jesus, we confess that we are sinful and selfish, prone to stubborn pride and tempted every day. Forgive us for being faithless and fearful; help us to seek God’s grace, joy, and love. In Your Holy Name, we 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. John is always interested in your thoughts. And, if you ever find yourself in Knoxville on a Sunday morning, the people at Erin will make you feel welcome and will be delighted to worship with you.

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

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Christian devotions: Divine Gift - Acts 13:39

Today’s Bible readings can be found online here: Proverbs 15:1-11 and Acts 13:36-52.

Acts 13:39       Through Christ everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the Law of Moses. 

            One of the greatest gifts of Christianity is that people, even the wickedest among us, can be forgiven by God. This allows all of us to begin our lives again and make a new start. Many of us have past regrets and have made terrible mistakes. We carry the burden of our guilt within us, and sometimes even punish ourselves for being so foolish, corrupt, and sinful. To be human, is to be frequently wrong. To be forgiven, is to be set free from the past.

            Our beautiful world and wonderful planet is full of broken, guilty, and remorseful people. Much of the disappointments we experience or cause, are deeply rooted in our sinful nature. We all could be better people; we all could make better choices; we all could do better things with our lives.

            Christ gives us a gracious opportunity to begin again, no matter who we are, no matter what we’ve done; no matter what age we are, and no matter what hurt or damage we have caused. He sacrificed Himself for our sins and, as Paul preached long ago, ‘everyone who believes is set free from every sin.’

            Today, I rejoice in the eternal fact that I am forgiven. I hope that you can also receive and experience this greatest of all gifts from God. As the poet, Alexander Pope once wrote: ‘to err is human; to forgive, divine.’

Personal questions for reflection

What is currently my biggest regret? Have I truly asked Christ to forgive me?

Prayer:            Lord Jesus, You are our Divine Savior and Gracious Lord. We know the wrong that we have done and the disappointments we have created. Forgive our past mistakes and foolish choices. Allow us the opportunity to begin again and to re-start our lives by being connected to You. In Your Holy Name, we gratefully and humbly 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 one of John’s latest drawings called “Northern Delights.” If you would like to view a larger version, please click on this link: Northern.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Advent Devotions 2015: Love Came Down Among Us

I've just completed my 20th devotions e-book for Kindle readers. It's called "Love Came Down Among Us." The book contains 27 new daily devotions, beginning on the First Sunday in Advent (Nov 29) all the way through to Christmas Day.

Each daily devotional includes a suggested scripture passage, a highlighted Bible verse, a short devotion, questions for reflection, and concludes with a prayer. Each day also has its own unique artwork, drawn by me.

Hundreds of people use my e-book devotions each year. The cost is only 99 cents, which is both a bargain and a great investment for every reader.

The devotions can be used on a personal basis, with a small group, at church staff meetings, or even for special family devotions.

You can view and purchase the e-book by clicking the following image. Enjoy !