Thursday, October 12, 2017

Never Ending Story - Acts 7:58

Acts 7:58 They dragged Stephen out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.

            I never knew my great-grandfather Andrew Stuart, but I heard some stories about him from my Dad. A hundred years ago in 1917, my great-grandfather was in the Royal Scots Guards who were fighting in the trenches of World War One. He was wounded a week before the Armistice was declared in November 1918. He lost an arm but he didn’t let it debilitate his life. He was born in 1875 and lived until 1955. By all accounts, he was a remarkable man and I would have liked to have personally met him.

            In November of this year, my first grandson is due to be born. I hope I have many stories to tell him about my family and our roots in Scotland. I also find it fascinating that if he lives into his mid-eighties, he will experience the beginning of the 22nd century. That’s six generations covering four centuries – how amazing is that? Each time a life story ends, a new one begins.

            In the New Testament passage from Acts 7:54-60, we read about the sad ending of Stephen’s life, but we are also introduced to another significant life story – that of the young man named Saul. Christ’s work may have been completed for Stephen, but the ministry wasn’t over. Instead, it was being mysteriously transferred to an enemy of the Church called Saul. God’s story was continuing despite what may have been seen as a major setback by Christ’s followers. And the amazing thing is this – that very same story still goes on in our own lives today – person after person, follower after follower, generation after generation, and century after century until Christ’s Kingdom truly comes.

            Isn’t it wonderful to be a part of God’s never-ending story of salvation?

Point to ponder

Who helped me become a Christian? Have I passed on my faith to someone else?

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, Your ministry is remarkable and we feel privileged to play a part in Your continuing mission. Encourage us to be a blessing of faith to someone else, especially among those of a different and future generation. 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 on this devotion, please send him an email to

Today’s image is one of John’s latest art nouveau drawings called “By Any Other Name.” If you would like to view a larger version, please click here: Rose.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Short devotions for meetings

September is usually when local churches begin their calendar year. Programs and projects, classes and congregational gatherings which have been set aside for summer, get back into their full swing. As the people of God gather for different events - classes, studies, dinners, team meetings, and boards, pastors and other church leaders are often requested to begin the events with a short devotional.

Over the years that I have served as a pastor, I have written hundreds of devotionals which are short and to the point. I've used them with the congregation I serve, as well as other meetings in other churches. years ago, I had to hand write or print out those devotions, however, with the advent of tablets and kindles, I can now easily carry devotions with me anywhere.

The two e-books that I have written for pastors and church leaders contain 60 devotions each - 120 devotions in total, which is enough to last for several years. They can also be used as discussion starters for any small groups. Each devotion contains a highlighted Bible verse, a short commentary, followed by a quick prayer. All of the devotions have been tried and tested at various functions and gatherings where I was a participant.

Because pastors and churches normally work on tight budgets, I've kept the price down to $1.99 each or the equivalent of 3 cents a devotion :) Those pastors who have purchased these books have enjoyed reading and using them. For your convenience, I have listed them below this post.

May God bless all of your work for the Lord. May all of your hopes and dreams be fulfilled.

God be with you.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Stewardship devotion - More Than Enough

Exodus 36:5 And they said to Moses, “The people are bringing more than enough for doing the work the Lord commanded to be done.” (NIV)

            It was a beautiful act of community generosity and a wonderful witness of God’s people. Moses must have been very pleased with the response that his people gave to the request for money and materials to build the Holy Tabernacle. As a leader, Moses would have been gratified at how cheerfully the people gave and how effectively their resources could be used. And as a man of faith, Moses must have felt proud that his people honored God in this respectful and generous way. In fact, the people gave so much, that Moses had to send out a special request to give no more because all that was needed had been provided by the community.

            On Sunday mornings, the combined offering in many churches enables them to fulfill the ministries and missions that God calls each congregation to undertake. Individuals could not do it on their own, but when the community of God’s people pools their resources as a thankful free-will offering, they are not just being grateful for the blessings that God has given, they are also being good stewards of God’s gifts. If our society and civilization were to honestly stop and think about how Christians throughout the world make the world a better place, perhaps they would better appreciate our faith. Billions of dollars are used in millions of ways to preach the Word, spread the Gospel, and continue Christ’s ministry in every land across the globe.

            Thank you for your contributions and generosity which make Christ’s churches better faith centers. Thank you for combining your gifts to joyfully advance God’s Kingdom on Earth. May God bless all of your hopes and dreams by allowing your plans to succeed.

Point to ponder

How does my giving contribute to Christ’s ministry?

Prayer:   Lord Jesus, thank You for calling us to Your Church in Earth and for the many ways which our time, talents, and money can be used to enhance Your work in our congregations, communities, and around the world. In Your Holy Name, we thankfully give and pray. Amen.

John Stuart is the Scottish pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. You can read the church website at if you would like to send John an email – he reads them all – please write to him at

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

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Everything Changes

Exodus 13:21   By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. (NIV)

            The world constantly confuses me because everything keeps changing. People talk about TV shows, movies, and actors that I’ve never heard of; stores and restaurants that I used to go to are closed; folks that I once knew in Scotland, as well as the US, have moved away or gone upwards to glory. Nothing stays the same, so I feel nostalgic about the past, unsettled in the present, and fearful about the future.

            I guess the ancient Hebrews felt the same when Moses uprooted them from Egypt and took them into the Wilderness. There was so much uncertainty and insecurity that they longed for the past even though they had suffered under Pharaoh. They couldn’t work out where they were going or what lay ahead of them. They experienced culture shock and wanted things to return to the way they once were. They may not have been happy in Egypt, but it was better than being fearful and traumatized in the desert. Just like the sands around them, their faith had dried up and they felt both helpless and hopeless.

            And then God did something that showed them He was with them every step that they took. His presence was seen ahead of them as a pillar of smoke during the day and a pillar of fire at night. God was leading them every day, further away from their enemies and onward to the Promised Land. No matter what they felt or feared, God would not abandon them. All they had to do was follow His presence.

            The world constantly confuses me because everything keeps changing, but I have learned to look for God and seek His presence each day. When I am fearful, He is faithful; when I feel lost, He always leads. No matter what is in front of me, the Lord is always ahead of me, pointing the way before me by showing me what path to follow. The world may change around me, but God never does, so that assures and comforts me, as it can also do for you.

Point to ponder

What changes have I experienced recently? How has God helped me to cope with them?

Prayer:  Lord God, thank You for loving and leading us. Your presence is always with us and we are blessed by Your compassion and concern. Help us to look for You in all that we experience today. In Christ’s Name, we pray. Amen.

John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. You can read the church website at

Today’s image is one of John’s latest Pentecost drawings called ‘As a Dove.’ If you would like to view a larger version, please click this link: Dove.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Great Expectations

Luke 6:37 Jesus said, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” (NIV)

            Of all the sayings of Jesus, I find this one to be among the hardest to put into practice. Whenever people upset me, whether it be family, friends, or acquaintances, I find it difficult to initially forgive them. I think unkind thoughts and harbor some resentment. I want them to be punished for upsetting me or at least put through something similar. I dwell on the hurt and ponder another saying, definitely not from Christ, ‘don’t get mad, get even.’ Even though I am a pastor with over thirty years’ experience, I’m a human being first and foremost, with all of the accompanying common weaknesses, faults, and sins.

            Because I’m so human, it makes me wonder why Jesus said this in the first place. If He knew it was very difficult and almost impossible to practice, why set up His followers to fail? If we are all guilty of judging, condemning, and not forgiving others, does this mean that we have no hope of being saved? Did Jesus expect us to live holy and perfect lives in order to be accepted and embraced by God?

            The more I read this passage, the better I understand my need for being honest with myself, as well as the absolute necessity of requiring God’s grace. If I arrogantly think that I am perfect, do no wrong, and have no need of forgiveness, then I am dangerously deluding myself and placing my soul in perdition. However, if I humbly acknowledge that I am as guilty as sin and often fail to practice what Christ preaches, then I am confessing my faults and placing my soul in His hands. Just like most of us, I would rather seek God’s mercy and grace than rely on my own misunderstanding and graceless ways.

Point to ponder

Have I recently judged, condemned, or not forgiven someone else? Have I confessed my failure to Christ? What does He expect me to do now?

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, You never said that faith would be easy or that we could live according to our own standards as Christians. As Your people, You challenge and confront us constantly because we carry Your Name wherever we go and whatever we do. Help us to become channels of Your mercy and conduits of Your grace. In Your Holy Name, we humbly pray. Amen.

John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. You can read the church website at

Today’s image is one of John’s latest Pentecost drawings called ‘Fiesta.’ If you would like to view a larger version, please click this link: Fiesta.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Perpetual Blessing - Genesis 48:15-16a

Genesis 48:15-16a Then Jacob blessed Joseph and said, “May the God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked faithfully, the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day, the Angel who has delivered me from all harm—may he bless these boys.” (NIV)

            I love the recorded blessings between inter-generational families in the Old Testament. There is something holy and sacred when people of an older generation bestow their approval and beliefs to a young and upcoming age group. It is a special gift which is the elderly’s right to give and it is a wonderful opportunity of encouraging young people with faith, hope, and love.

            In our wee church, we have several special events currently taking place that epitomize such a great gift. The first involves our annual Confirmation Classes when our youth are encouraged to join the church. We teach them all about the life, ministry, and mission of our congregation and emphasize their important role in all that we seek to do for Christ. The second occurs when our Senior Highs graduate and go to college – along with their families, we constantly pray for them and hope to support them during their college years.

            The third event is our annual Spring show that our Sonshine Kids present to the church and wider community. They have been practicing for almost nine months and their leaders have continually encouraged and supported them during rehearsals. Our children are blessed with the skills and support they receive from their families and church members. This is an important moment in each of their young lives, so we embrace their excitement and enthusiasm for the shows, as well as sharing prayers and faith with them throughout the whole year. It’s a blessing which will be with them for the rest of their lives.

            When Jacob blessed Joseph’s children, he was passing on a promise that God had given to his own father and grandfather. He wished them well for their future and laid a foundation of faith which they also passed on to their own descendants. It was a gift of love and a great example of how God continues to give His blessings to all of us throughout the years. Perhaps today, in the same way, there is someone younger that you know who will be greatly encouraged by your faith, love, and support.

Point to ponder

Who blessed me with faith? How am I passing this gift on?

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, we thank You for God’s blessing throughout the centuries and across all generations. May we continue to bestow this gift to those younger people in our lives whom we value, cherish, and love. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.

John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. You can view the church website at this link:

Today’s image is one of John’s latest Pentecost drawings called ‘Pentecost2017.’ If you would like to view a larger version, please click this link: Pentecost.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Lent devotions - Daily Prayers and reflections

            My latest Lent devotions e-book is now available on Amazon for Kindle readers. This is my fifth annual Lent e-book which hundreds of people from all kinds of denominations (and none) like to use in the lead-up to Easter. ‘Living Lent’ encourages Christian folks to take a short amount of time each day to focus on God and Christ. It’s a great spiritual practice and one that I personally recommend.

            Lent is a wonderful season which prepares people all over the world to get ready for the intense events of Holy Week. Ever since I was a pastor in Scotland, I’ve used this as a time to refocus my faith and strengthen my connection to Christ.

            In this book, you will find 47 daily devotions which start on Ash Wednesday and continue until Easter Day. The devotions are based on a short passage from the Gospel of Mark. If the readers go through the whole book, they will read the entire Gospel from beginning to end. This will help them really get to know who Jesus was and enable them to discover who Jesus is.

            Each day has a Gospel passage, a highlighted verse, a short devotion, a point to ponder, and a closing prayer. Setting aside five minutes each day will accomplish the reading of all of the above. The devotions can be used for personal prayers, family devotions, or small church groups.

            I hope that you will enjoy the devotions and that by Easter Day you will feel more confident about your faith in Christ. If you have any questions or comments to make on the devotions, please feel free to send me an email at I’ll be happy to correspond with you.

            May God bless all of your hopes and dreams, making your plans succeed.