Saturday, July 20, 2019

July 20 devotion - Faith School

2 Timothy 1:13           What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. (NIV)

            When the apostle Paul was writing to his protégé Timothy, he was trying to ensure that the next generation of believers would hold fast to the faith that Paul personally experienced and taught. This would be have been written about thirty to forty years after the Resurrection of Christ. During those 3 or 4 decades, Christianity had flourished across the Mediterranean, especially in the southern region of what we now call Turkey. However, with this wonderful growth, there also came a plethora of different teachers and preachers who all had their own personal ideas of what constituted the Gospel Truth.

            Paul’s personal appeal to Timothy in writing reveals to us that the apostle, who was imprisoned at this time, was gravely concerned about the faith of the new churches being hijacked by false teachers and greedy preachers. Paul advised to Timothy to be on his guard against such unscrupulous people who would use their charm, influence, and power to mesmerize believers, in order to lead them down the wrong path and away from Christ. Paul also knew that Timothy, who was destined to become the Bishop of Ephesus, would be very influential among his peers. If the fledgling faith was going to survive in the region, it would require Christian leaders who had been inspired by sound teaching, and who expressed their beliefs through their faith and love in Jesus.

            With the amazing amount of information available to us from the Internet, we can sometimes experience difficulty in discerning what is true or false teaching with regard to our Christian faith. New ideas, fresh perspectives, and novel opinions can sometimes attract us, but they may also detract us from following the truth. I personally go back through the four Gospels whenever I’m faced with a new approach to my faith. If I can’t find something that would corroborate the new idea, I set it aside. That may be too simple for some folk but, after almost forty years of trying to be a Christian, I have learned that it works for me.

            May God bless you as you grow in faith and enable you to share the love of Jesus.

Questions for personal reflection

Who initially taught me about the Christian faith? How have I passed on my faith experiences to the next generation?

Prayer:            Lord Jesus, we thank You for the gift of faith which has influenced, shaped, and directed our lives. We praise You for Your true teaching about God. Grant us new opportunities to share our faith and love in You with others around us. 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 Please also feel free to share or forward this message to your own family and friends.

Today’s image is one of my Celtic Cross drawings called ‘Celtic Heart.’ If you would like to view a larger version, please click on this link: Cross.

Friday, July 19, 2019

A Real Citizen - Acts 22:28

Acts 22:28 Then the commander said, “I had to pay a lot of money for my citizenship.”
“But I was born a citizen,” Paul replied. (NIV)

(Reading about Paul’s ancient rights as a Roman citizen in today’s passage stimulated these thoughts which I think need to be expressed, read, and pondered.)

Twenty-five years ago, our family came to Knoxville for a once-in-a-lifetime vacation. We had always wanted to see America, so when we were given the opportunity of swapping pulpits for six weeks with a pastor in South Knoxville, we jumped at the chance. Little did we know that God was moving in mysterious ways and turning our vacation into a lifelong vocation.

In 2002, Evelyn and I became naturalized citizens, and our daughters were granted this honor two years later. It was our way of saying, “thank you,” to the many people who had welcomed, befriended, and supported us at Erin church. It also gave us the wonderful privilege of being able to vote in national elections for the very first time, as well as living freely under the liberties granted to us by the Constitution. Even though we were not born here, our citizenship gave us the same rights as all who were.

Recently, though, those blessings seem to have changed and we wonder if we are now second-class citizens. Immigrant-citizens like us are now cautious about speaking out about injustice or criticizing government policies. We are inwardly fearful of expressing our right of free speech in case it interferes with our citizenship status; we are silent because our accents are a dead give away that we come from somewhere else other than the United States. This saddens me deeply because our family happily became citizens almost two decades ago. People like us are now afraid of being told to ‘go back to our own country’ simply because we may disagree with what’s happening in America today.

Last week, Evelyn and I were in Washington D.C. for a short trip. We visited all the wonderful places in and around that remarkable city – the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the Capitol Building, Arlington Cemetery, Mount Vernon, and even stood outside the Whitehouse. We also went to the National Archive Museum to look at the actual Declaration of Independence, as well as Lincoln’s handwritten Emancipation Act. Those are sacred documents which every American citizen – born or naturalized – should see at least once in their lives. We both came away from seeing those manuscripts with a sense of awe, but also with a brand-new determinism to be patriotic Americans and speak out against injustice, corruption, and intolerance wherever and whenever we come across them. We are, after all, citizens of the United States and have equal rights to do this as real Americans, which is how God truly blesses America.

Point to ponder
What rights of citizenship are most sacred to me? What rights from God are given to everyone?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, we are just pilgrims passing through this world until we reach Your Heavenly Realm. Remind us that we all belong to You, so we should treat one another with the same love and grace You personally grant to us. In Your Holy Name, we freely and faithfully pray. Amen.

John Stuart is the Scottish 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, no matter who you are or where you’re from. 😊

Today’s image is one of John’s patriotic drawings called “Liberty Lights.” If you would like to see a larger version, please click this link: Liberty.

July 19 devotion - Overcoming Fearful Times

2 Timothy 1:7  For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline. (NIV)

            We live in fearful times, so many people feel anxious and insecure. We worry about the future of our families, communities, and nations. We wonder if peace will ever come or whether we will ever be safe. The spirit of this post-modern era is full of self-doubt and uncertainty. The 21st century, which so many of us thought would bring about wonderful solutions for the security, health, and prosperity of the whole human race, has been a great disappointment so far. Perhaps toward the end of this century, we may begin to get it right.

            As a pastor, biblical scholar, and theologian, I find it difficult not to relate the decline in church-going Christianity with the societal increase in fear and anxiety. It seems to me that the opposite fear is faith and the reverse of anxiety is assurance. Christ came to offer both faith and assurance to humanity, so is it too simple to think that the solution to the angst we are currently experiencing actually resides in the form of Christianity we are rejecting?

            I also think this why the apostle Paul encouraged Timothy with the words of today’s highlighted verse. They both lived during anxious, insecure, and deeply disturbing times. Paul offered Timothy the same remedy that I believe we need today: a divine assurance that the Spirit with which God blesses us, can overcome any anxiety, fear, or insecurity through power, love, and self-discipline.

            Wherever you go today, or whatever you face, please know this: God has your back because He fills you with His Spirit first.

Questions for personal reflection

What am I worried about today? Am I willing to let God’s Spirit subdue my fears and overcome my problems?

Prayer:            Lord Jesus, You are the Savior of our souls and the Champion of our faith. We look to You to lead, guide, and be with us through whatever we have to presently face or endure. 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 ask questions or make comments about today’s message, please send him an email to

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