Friday, February 21, 2020

Accordingly - Ezekiel 7:27

Ezekiel 7:27 According to their way I will deal with them; according to their own judgments, I will judge them. (NRSV)

What a shocking thing it is to realize that God will judge us just as we judge other people. In a culture where Facebook is used to air our grievances, provoke arguments, and battle with our neighbors, what a terrible thing it should be to know that God will treat us exactly the same way we treat others.

Facebook was meant to be a great tool of the new enlightened age; instead, it has become a platform to heighten hostility, spread falsehood, and promote prejudice, especially against the poor, the needy, the powerless, and the alien – all of whom deserve our patience, support, and love according to both the Old and New Testaments.

Sadly, there is a disdainful type of Christianity that is creeping across the internet and permeating our society through the instant channels of social media. Instead of being hailed as people of the Book whose compassion and love make people wonder who are these Christians, we take great delight in nailing each other to our communication crosses in order to impress like-minded Pharisees and skewer the opposition. And even after the damage is done, our compassion is gone, and our self-righteous stinger has made its poisonous impact, we still have this problem with God: He will judge us by our own standards; He will treat us according to our own words and ways.

All of this should make us seriously ponder about those who lead us whether it be religiously, politically, socially, or even leisurely. If we follow those who are constantly berating others or belittling them, then we are tarred with the same brush in God’s eyes. If we choose to excuse bad behavior from those that we should expect more, then we are in danger of becoming both leaderless and rudderless. And if we capitulate our ‘Christianity’ for something or someone that is obviously unchristian, then we are definitely going down the wrong path. As the Apostle John once wrote of the same kind of deluded Christians in his time:

1 John 2:9 Whoever says, “I am in the light,” while hating a brother or sister, is still in the darkness. (NRSV)

And if you think that I’m excusing myself from this issue, then think again. I have done my fair share of name-calling, post-trolling, and stone-walling on Facebook, too, so when I read God’s Word for today, it hit me clearly between the eyes also. Being a Christian is never easy; being self-righteous always is.

Application: Am I guilty of disdaining others because they think, act, or look differently from me? Do I understand that God judges me according to how I judge others? Am I willing to repent, so I can repair and renew my faith in Christ? Am I really a Christian?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, we are not just meant to follow You; we are supposed to witness on Your behalf. We can ask to be forgiven of our prejudices and pride, but with that gift of forgiveness, we are meant to change our ways. Teach us the gravity of knowing that God will treat us exactly as we treat others. Keep us from deluding ourselves or being misdirected. In Your Holy Name, we humbly pray. Amen.

John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. Come and join us for worship at 11:00 AM on Sundays. You will be made very welcome😊

Today’s image is one of John’s latest drawings called “Lent Maker.” If you would like to view a larger version, click this link: Lentmaker.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Looking Forward - 2 Peter 3:13

2 Peter 3:13 But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells. (NIV)

At times, our world can be a very scary and unpredictable place. Changes challenge us constantly and most folks get weary of all the social, political, and religious turmoil that is constantly going on. We try to keep up with things, but eventually, we run out of steam. The world keeps moving on and we sometimes feel left behind.

But this is where our faith becomes meaningful. We remember that our destination is not tied to this frenetic world. As Christians, we look forward to a time when God through Christ will recreate a New Heaven and a New Earth which means that all the former things like pain, suffering, conflict, and war will be replaced with peace, grace, and love.

Application: Am I worried about the future? Am I willing to leave it all to God, so I can look forward to when he makes all things, including myself, new?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, we live in anxious times so we are asking for Your peace to be present in our lives. Help us to focus on what You are doing in the world, so we may prepare ourselves for the recreation of everything. In Your Holy Name, we wait and pray. Amen.

John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. Come and join us for worship each Sunday at 11:00 AM. You will be made very welcome 😊

Today’s image is one of John’s Smoky Mountain drawings called “Heaven meets Earth.” If you would like to view a larger version, please click this link: Heaven.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Challenging the Church - 2 Peter 2:2

2 Peter 2:2 Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. (NIV)

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I find the letters at the end of the New Testament to be quite discouraging and void of anything positive. It makes me wonder what was happening during those times that made the Apostle Peter to sternly rebuke people in the Church. It’s almost as if Christianity had lost its direction and that the only way for it to be put back on the right course was to confront false leaders and challenge their ‘depraved conduct.’

Peter knew all about this because he had been guilty of the same things when he denied Jesus three times and swore vehemently that he never knew Him. It was a shameful act that Peter never forgot, so when he challenged false teachers for leading the people astray, he recognized the real damage that those fake leaders could wreak on the Young Church. It was a ministry that was necessary and like most of the other true disciples, it would cause him to be martyred.

As Christians, we are meant to exemplify all that is good about God and true about Christ. If we become influenced by false teachers and charlatans, we not only endanger our faith, but we also ruin the witness of the whole Church. Peter’s stark words challenged the counterfeit teachers of his day, but they are also a serious reminder for all of our churches to discern God’s truth and Christ’s way in our own world.

Application: Do Peter’s words challenge my beliefs? How do I discern God’s truth in the world?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, the words of Peter may sting us today because we are sometimes guilty of obscuring the truth and going astray. Teach us clearly what Your Way is all about and help us to follow that path faithfully. In Your Holy Name, we ask for help and pray. Amen.

John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. Come and join us for worship on Sundays at 11:00 AM. You will be made very welcome 😊

Today’s image is an early drawing by John called “Sleep on, Simon Peter.” If you would like to view a larger version, click here: Sleep.