Tuesday, August 09, 2022

Short devotion: Serving the Kingdom - Romans 16:17-18

 

Romans 16:17-18 I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery, they deceive the minds of naive people. (NIV)

Like most good folks, I’m fed up with those who are constantly causing division and strife across the world. They seem to think that being aggressive and uncompromising are badges of success and medals of glory. They attract both belligerent and ignorant people, who sadly become their followers and pawns, leading them away from God because they are idolized and lauded as having no faults. This is a slippery slope and something that good Christians should totally avoid. To be manipulated by smooth words and flattery is to be led into deception and destruction. It’s one of the oldest sins that there is, and it is one of the deadliest for our souls.

We need to remind ourselves that we solely belong to God’s Kingdom, so we serve Christ first and foremost. The devil effectively uses nationalism to pull people away from churches and set up their own patriotic pseudo-religion. It’s alarming to see good, hard-working, and honest people being led away by a pied piper, but it’s happened many times throughout history, so it’s not really surprising.

Jesus teaches us that God’s Kingdom is above any and all nations. It’s God’s community on earth where aggression, self-centeredness, and arrogance have no place. Speaking out against those things may lead to persecution and rejection, but that’s what the true cost of discipleship and service in God’s Kingdom entails. Faith, real faith, not a manufactured or manipulated faith, is required for true followers of Christ which means loving our neighbors and not hating them, helping the marginalized and not hindering them, supporting aliens and foreigners in our midst, not shaming or condemning them. It’s a hard task for those who are Kingdom builders, but it’s the only true way to expand Christ’s community and faithfully serve our Lord Jesus.

Q: Am I a Christian in God’s Kingdom or something else?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, we try to live for You and are commanded to share Your love. Protect us from those who use deception and division to increase their power and popularity. Shape us into the Christians we should be. In Your Holy Name, we humbly ask. Amen.

 

John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Friday, July 29, 2022

Short devotion: Unworthy - Luke 12:6-7

 

Luke 12:6-7 Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows. (NIV)

A couple of times this week, I’ve had friends confess to me about how unworthy they feel to be loved by God. It bothers them greatly and hinders them from coming back to church. They genuinely feel that because Covid has isolated them from coming regularly to the sanctuary to worship on Sundays, they have somehow disappointed and failed God. They seem to think that this unworthiness has separated them from both the worship community and the Lord Himself.

This is very hard to bear, and I can remember going through a similar time when I strayed away from the church. The feeling of unworthiness creates a barrier and forms a shell of shame around your spirit. It’s difficult to break through and overcome; it’s also one of the best weapons that the devil uses to keep people away from God.

The good news is this: we are all unworthy to be loved by God and yet, despite what we feel, God still values us as His children and His Son’s servants. This is why Jesus told His people not to worry about their lives or be anxious about their unworthiness. God valued them greatly and loved them deeply, so deeply, in fact, that God sent His Son to die for unworthy people and restore them to God’s favor forever.

So, know this: we who are unworthy, are welcomed back by God to worship in Christ’s church, not because of who we are, but because of Who God is and what Jesus has done.

Q: What makes me feel unworthy of God’s love? How has Christ overcome this for me?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, there are times when we feel that we have failed You and sometimes this stops us from worshiping with others. Help us to accept that we are all unworthy, but that we are also valued highly by God, Whose love for us never ends. In Your Holy Name, we humbly and thankfully pray. Amen.

 

Pastor John.

www.erinpres.org

 

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Short devotion: An Invitation - Acts 26:29

 

Acts 26:29 Paul replied, “Short time or long—I pray to God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.” (NIV)

 

I love the genial attitude of Paul when he is being interrogated by the local Roman rulers in Acts chapter 26. He knows that his life is on the line, but instead of remaining fearfully silent or pleading for forgiveness, he shares his faith in Christ and hopes that those who listen to him will come to know Jesus, too. It’s not an act of staunch defiance; it’s a simple profession of faith which he compassionately expresses.

 

I think we can all learn a lot from the apostle about how we can share our faith. He doesn’t compel anyone to comply to what he believes, instead Paul offers an invitation to join Christ’s Kingdom to the rulers and their courtiers who are listening to his testimony. The apostle truly wants them to accept Christ as their Savior, but he does not insist that they must do this. He respects their individual freedom to choose what they want for themselves; all that Paul is doing is being the Gospel messenger that Jesus called him to fulfill.

 

As Christians, we witness to Christ every day through our words and deeds. Sometimes we say and do the right things which may complement our faith; on other occasions, our bad behavior and ill-chosen words can repel those around us from knowing Christ, especially when we try to force our beliefs on others who think, live, and do things differently. Remember, Paul did not coerce Agrippa and Festus into becoming believers; he sincerely invited them to consider it.

 

Q: How do I project my faith to others? Am I invitational or confrontational?

 

Prayer: Lord Jesus, we were invited to have faith in You through other people who followed Your way. We know that we are flawed and imperfect, so we ask for Your guidance to help invite others to faith through compassion, grace, and, above all, love. In Your Holy Name, we humbly pray. Amen.

 

John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. You check out the church website at www.erinpres.org to see what’s currently happening there.