Monday, March 27, 2023

Short Church devotion: Everyone Else

1 Thessalonians 3:12 May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. (NIV)

Recently, I was teaching a Sunday school class on the third chapter of Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians. We had quite a good discussion on what Paul wrote long ago, especially when his deep concerns about the young Macedonian church were diminished when he received word from Timothy that the congregation’s faith was firm and flourishing. It was a wonderful moment of joy and relief for Paul who was worried about the spiritual strength of the church folks.

As he exalted in their faithfulness, Paul also gave them a special blessing by writing, May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.’

It’s a beautiful word of encouragement because Paul was asking God to increase their love for one another which would effectively build up the congregation, but then he added something greater: he asked the Lord to let their love overflow ‘for everyone else.’ In other words, Paul hoped that the church people would not just keep the love of God to themselves, but that they would love everyone else with no exclusions. What a wonderful blessing for any church!

Sadly, some Christians in our current communities have forgotten this. They love their own people exclusively and treat others around them disdainfully. They wound minority groups with words that sting and marginalize others by condemning their lifestyle choices. They earnestly believe that they are faithfully fulfilling Christ’s mission with hateful rhetoric and brutal attacks. They hide behind their bibles and flags in order to protect themselves from being swayed from their strict beliefs. Their words are venomous, and their hatred is vile. They really represent themselves and totally misrepresent Christ. They have forgotten or have never accepted Christ’s command to love one another, or even Paul’s words to let their love overflow for everyone else. It’s a great shame because they undermine God’s work to make this world a better place and instead end up creating a bitter planet.

If we want to change this counterfeit Christianity, it has to begin with us personally and individually. God’s love is not just for ourselves, our church, or our faith – as Paul stated, it’s for everyone else. And if all of Christ’s congregations could practice this faithfully, what a wonderful way to be church in the world!

Point to ponder: How would loving everyone else challenge and change my faith? Am I willing to follow Christ and share Him in a loving way?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, You loved the whole world so much that You died for everyone, not just for some. You loved Your people and everyone else, so encourage us to do the same. In Your Holy Name, we humbly pray. Amen.

John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. You can check out what’s happening at the church by clicking this link:

Monday, January 16, 2023

Short devotion: Setting Me Aside - Psalm 34:4


Psalm 34:4 I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. (NIV)

We live in anxious times and I suspect that many of us, including me, are just glad to get through each day. There’s so much uncertainty in the world and it’s affecting each one of us. We don’t know what lies ahead and, after three years of instability, we may wonder if things will ever change for the better. It’s been a tough time to endure and we’re weary, even in Churchworld.

When I came across today’s verse in my daily readings, it reminded me to seek God in order to cope with my fears. Far too often, when I’m faced with difficulties, I offer up a rocket flare of a prayer to God, asking for strength to sustain me, as well as a timely solution to my problem. It’s not an ideal way to build any solid relationship with God, for it causes me to treat Him as my personal spiritual paramedic and individual issue solver. In other words, I’m only using God for special emergencies.

Seeking God, on the other hand, takes time. It requires me to stop what I’m doing in order to have a deep conversation with God. I get so used to rushing my prayers that I forget Whom I’m actually addressing. However, when I intentionally set aside my busyness or anxiety, and patiently explain to God what I feel or fear, I humbly listen for His counsel, wisdom, and teaching. Because I focus on God and not me, my fears subside and my anxieties diminish.

I think this is why Jesus invites all of us to come to Him when we’re weary or burdened. It takes time, as well as personal intent, to respond to such an invitation. Christ means us to use it as a relationship-builder with Him, and not as a problem solver for us. He wants us to seek the Lord, be given His answer, and then be delivered from all our fears.

Point to ponder: What is currently making me most anxious? Am I willing to seek the Lord and take time to talk to Him about it?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, You know us so well and are fully aware of what is presently troubling us. You’re waiting for us to set aside time to let You know how we feel, so that You can embrace us in the midst of our fears, hearken to our issues, and offer Your counsel. Teach us to pray again and to trust You completely. Amen.

John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. You can see what’s happening at the church by viewing its website at

Today’s image is one of John’s latest winter drawings called “Snow Moon.” You can view a larger version at this link: Snow Moon.

Thursday, December 15, 2022

Blue Christmas Service Video

 Christmas can be a tough time of year for those who are grieving, lonely, or anxious. This online video service is meant to be supportive and meaningful for people who are going through a tough time. May God comfort and strengthen you all.