Thursday, January 19, 2017

An Old Song - Genesis 8:22

Genesis 8:22 “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.”

            One of the first songs that I ever learned in Sunday School was an old spiritual called “Who Built the Ark.” It tells the story of the animals going into the Ark in different numbers and the fun part of the song came in the motions our class would make to imitate the different animals. It was a great way to learn the story and, later on, my own kids were taught about Noah the same way, using a different song called “Arky, Arky.”

            Noah and the Ark is a great Biblical story to tell children because it allows them to use their wonderful imagination and learn about God’s love for all creatures. As adults, however, the story has different implications about good and evil, punishment and wrath, promises and hope.

            Today’s highlighted verse from the story reminds us that as long as the Earth endures, then the seasonal cycles will continue. However, it places the responsibility of good stewardship of the Earth on human beings. If we destroy, pollute, or contaminate it, then the promise will be broken and the Earth, as we know it, will not endure. After the Flood, God handed back the world to human beings like Noah – it’s now up to us to preserve the planet.

Point to ponder

What am I doing to keep the environment clean? How does it relate to my faith?

Prayer:            Creator God, You gave us this beautiful planet because You wanted us to take care of it. Help us to do whatever we can to keep the Earth, its creatures, and its environment healthy and safe. In Your Holy Name, we humbly pray. Amen.

You can watch and listen to a great kids’ animation of the song “Who Built the Ark?” at this Youtube link:

Today’s image is one of John’s Psalm drawings of a verse from Psalm 24. If you would like to view a larger version, please click this link: Psalm 24.

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

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Seeking Peace - Genesis 8:11

Genesis 8:11    When the dove returned to him in the evening, there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf! Then Noah knew that the water had receded from the earth. 

            It has become a universal symbol of peace throughout the world. Images of a dove with an olive branch in its mouth are still used by the United Nations and other international peace organizations. Most people know that it represents a human yearning for peace throughout the world, but some folks forget that it was first described in the Noah story from Genesis. In other words, it’s not just a universal symbol for peace, it’s a God-given sign of restoration.

            As the waters from the Great Flood receded, Noah needed to know that dry land was emerging, so that he could safely take his family ashore. The immense rains had fallen for forty days and it would take 110 more days before the Ark came to rest on Mount Ararat. This means that Noah, his family, and most of the animals spent almost half a year on the Ark before they could return to the land. The storms were over, but the long wait for the flood to recede must have seemed like an eternity to each living being on board.

            When the dove came back to Noah with an olive branch, he knew in his heart that God’s wrath was over and that peace between God and man was now possible. From that biblical moment in time, the dove has represented God’s presence and the olive branch is a peace offering. Today, on the United Nations flag, our planetary globe is cupped in a half circle of olive leaves, symbolizing the future hope that one day we will live in peace.

Points to ponder

Where do we currently need peace in the world? How often am I willing to pray for peace?

Prayer:            Lord Jesus, You are the Prince of Peace, so we earnestly ask You to send forth Your Holy Spirit to those parts of our world where war and violence are sadly taking place. Allow Your Church to act as peacemaker throughout the nations and give us the ability to embrace peace in our homes, communities, and nation. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.

Today’s image is one of John’s Celtic Cross drawing called Siochain – the Gaelic word for peace. If you would like to view a larger version, please click on this link: Cross.

John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. The church website can be viewed here:

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Conflict Management

Matthew 12:25           Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.”

            Division and conflict ruin families, businesses, churches, and nations. Whenever two groups are pitted against each other, those who get caught in the middle end up being the real victims. For instance, in a hostile divorce, the children end up emotionally scarred for life. In a church conflict, things are never the same and old wounds get re-opened every time there is a difference of opinion. And among nations, where hostility arises, war usually follows and millions of people are displaced, ruined, and decimated.

            When Christ was challenged by the religious leaders of His day about His healing powers, He knew that they spoke out of envy and were trying to shut down His ministry. He confronted their lies, which negatively impacted the people, in order to set the record straight. He also reminded His critics that in causing a conflict they would end up destroying themselves, especially if they promoted false messages and expressed incorrect assumptions.

            In a divided community, Jesus came to restore God’s Kingdom among them and reunite the people under the influence of the Holy Spirit. He wanted them to embrace a new understanding of God, which would heal their divisions and stop their conflicts. Sadly, however, His words went unheeded because those in control were afraid to give up their power over the people. It was left to His real followers to carry on His message, long after He was gone, and take the Gospel to other nations around the world.

            Perhaps you are in the midst of a conflict. Maybe it’s a family issue, a business concern, or even a global worry for you. Whatever is causing it, seek Christ’s peace first in your heart and then reach across the barrier or the gap that the conflict has created. It may be just the solution both of you are looking for, but you won’t know or realize it until you try.

Points to ponder

What conflicts are currently going on in my life? What is Jesus asking me to do about it?

Prayer:            Lord Jesus, we call You the Prince of Peace and the Healer of the nations. Let Your Holy Spirit come into our present circumstances and help us to remedy any current conflict in our lives. Be with us and bless this day. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.

Today’s image is John’s latest Martin Luther King drawing called ‘Tasking the Dream.’ If you would like to view a larger version, please click this link: MLK2017.

John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. The church website can be viewed at

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Leadership devotion: The Call - Matthew 10:1

Matthew 10:1             Jesus called His twelve disciples to Him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. (NIV)

            As a Presbyterian, I firmly accept the priesthood of all believers. To me, this means that everyone is given a specific calling from Christ to do His work in their own community. His ministry is expanded by what we say and do as Christians among our families, other church members, and in the wider world. The credibility of Christianity rises or falls on how we express and display our faith to others.

            When I read about the calling of the First Disciples (Matthew 10:1-4), I remember that they weren’t perfect and they all had flaws. Some of them doubted, others denied Him, and even one betrayed Christ. Jesus didn’t choose them because they were holy; He called them because each one of them had the potential of advancing God’s Kingdom.

            No matter who we are or what we’ve done, Christ calls us continually to do His work and share His ministry. Some days we get it right; other days we fail. The good thing is this: Christ is still willing to call us, day after day, because He loves us completely, forgives us totally, and restores us thoroughly to God’s Kingdom.

            Think about your calling from Christ and as you do this watch and listen to a congregation from my hometown of Glasgow, Scotland sing the beautiful modern Scottish hymn called “The Summons.” You can watch it at this link:

May Christ guide and bless you this day. Amen.

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

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Church Conflict devotion - United in Christ - 1 Corinthians 12:20

1 Corinthians 12:20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body. (NIV)

            We live in a divided world and factional times. Partisan politics are hampering countries across the world from being united and strong. Sadly, warring nations still exist on our planet. Religious schisms and fervent fanatics are ruining our confidence in God. It seems as though we are on a precarious precipice, which is disintegrating each day through personal attacks, constant crossfire, and philosophical wars of attrition. Atrophy is setting in all around us, instead of a brave new world of a golden new age. We are at a crossroads – politically, religiously, and socially. Unless we start working together as one dominant species on one single planet, which is whirling through space, we’re going to end up destroying ourselves and the universe won’t even know we existed.

            Decades ago, I joined the church because I thought it was the best vehicle to change things across the globe. I still believe in that concept, especially when I see Christ’s Church around the world trying to make lives better. Strong, local congregations are the key to healthy, compassionate communities. Sadly, as Christians, we’ve struggled for so long against one another that we’ve missed precious moments and gracious opportunities to spread Christ’s love all around us.

            I think that the Apostle Paul also experienced this kind of divisiveness and disunity among faithful followers, which is why he initially wrote to several Mediterranean church plants. He could see a time when the broken Empire would need a strong, unified church. His emphasis on several parts within one body was meant to show the local congregations that no matter how diverse or different people were – female or male, Greek or Jew, slave or free – they all could work together to form an effective ministry and mission, which would honor Christ’s work and expand God’s Kingdom throughout many regions. That same collective understanding of who we are as Church, as well as maintaining a strong unity, is even more necessary today and essentially crucial for the healing of our broken, divided world.

Questions for personal reflection

How can I contribute to the unity of my local church? How can that unity help my local community?

Prayer:            Lord Jesus, You are the Holy One of God in whom our faith should be united. Gather us together in our local congregations, so that we may effectively undertake and fulfill Your mission in our local communities, as well as around the world. In Your Holy Name, we serve and pray. Amen.

John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to make comments or ask questions about today’s message, please send him an email to John is always delighted to receive your ideas, suggestions, and messages.

Today’s image is one of John’s Holy Week drawings for 2016 called “Betrayed.” If you want to view a larger version, please click on this link: Betrayed.

Faith devotion: Faithful Promises - Isaiah 12:2

Isaiah 12:2      Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation.”

            We all go through fearful and unsettling times. Sometimes, those moments occur when we’re worried about our families or friends; at other times, we may be concerned about our careers or work projects; there may also be times when our health declines or something accidental occurs in our lives. Whatever the circumstances, we feel frail and vulnerable, unprotected and absolutely human.

            When we are fearful, it helps us to understand that God is always faithful. His words and promises from the past become relevant and meaningful to us, especially when we read them in times of trouble or crisis. God’s Spirit reaches to us from the pages of the Holy Scriptures and across the centuries to let us know that He is with us, standing beside us, or even carrying us through painful moments and worrying times. Grace and love are the great gifts He bestows upon us; compassion and comfort are blessings that will sustain us, enabling us to endure and overcome whatever assails us.

            Today’s verse from Isaiah 12 is a beautiful promise that can help us get through our present difficulties and personal problems. As Christians, we receive these words through the blessings of our Savior Jesus Christ, who forgives our sins, guides us through life, and restores us to God’s everlasting favor. Our faith is focused on Him, because in Him we have everything that we will ever need in this life and the next.

Questions for personal reflection

What presently troubles or worries me? How can God’s promise through Isaiah help me?

Prayer:            Lord Jesus, You are the Savior of our souls and the Light of our lives. In You and through You, we experience God’s grace, love, and compassion. Thank You for allowing us to come to You with our prayers and problems. Thank You for being with us every day. In Your Holy Name, we gratefully pray. Amen.

John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to make comments or ask questions about today’s message, please send him an email to

Today’s image is one of John’s 2016 drawings for Holy Week. It’s called ‘The Beginning.’ If you would like to view a larger version, please click on this link: Beginning.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Holy Week devotions & prayers

For the past three years, I've written a special daily devotional book for Holy Week. Each book contains poems, prayers, and devotionals exclusively written by me. I wrote for Christian folks who may be too busy at work, school, or other places to join in the traditional services and masses that take place during Holy Week.

The books can be read on a daily basis, which helps the reader cultivate a sense of the sacred in her or his life during Holy Week. The following books are all available for those interested in Holy Week devotions.