Monday, August 24, 2015

Church Meeting devotion: From Afar - Psalm 138:6

Psalm 138:6    Though the Lord is exalted, He looks kindly on the lowly; though lofty, He sees them from afar.

            Every day, I look at my Facebook page. Because most of my family live 3000 miles away in Scotland, it’s about the only regular contact I have with them. I like to read their comments and see what they are doing. I like to share a few jokes with them and look at their photos. I’ve not seen my family in person for over 11 years, so Facebook gives me the ideal opportunity to interact with them from afar.

            In today’s psalm reading, we are told that God kindly watches us from afar. He is really interested in who we are, what we do, and wherever we are situated. Even though God is in the highest halls of divine holiness, He is still focused on what is happening in the lowest levels of human lives. We are His created people; He is our wonderful God.

            So wherever we find ourselves today and whatever we set out to do, let’s be assured that God is always with us, and that the presence of Jesus Christ our Savior abides with us each day through the amazing gift of the Holy Spirit in our lowly lives.

Questions for discussion

What am I hoping to accomplish this day? How will I know that God is with me?

Prayer:            Ever present and Almighty God, thank You for being lovingly interested in our personal lives. Thank You for Your constant watching of what we do, where we go, and whatever we complete. Continue to be with us and bless us with the presence of Your Son Jesus throughout our lives. In His Holy Name, we pray. Amen.

John Stuart is currently the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to ask questions or comment on today’s message, please send him an email to Traqair@aol.com.


Today’s image is one of John’s bulletin cover images for churches called ‘Bread of Life.’ If you would like to view a larger version, please click on this link: Life.


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Justice devotion: His Last Miracle - Luke 22:51

Luke 22:51    But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him. (NIV)

            It was His last miracle. When Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, one of His disciples tried to defend Christ with a sword and ended up cutting off the ear of one of the High Priest’s guards. It was a valiant effort, but a wasteful one. It was also something that Jesus did not condone.

            Instead of calling upon His disciples to attack the mob, Jesus sternly called for an end to the violence. He was not going to be party to any defense of His person; He was not going to start a protest, a rout, or a rebellion. In order to show how committed He was to being a peacemaker, Jesus healed the guard immediately. He didn’t want anyone else to suffer, not even His enemies.

            As Christians, we are called to be peacemakers in our communities, as well as across the world. This is very difficult to do because, like most human beings, we get angry and feel justified about diminishing our opponents or destroying our enemies. It’s very easy for us, and even for me as a pastor, to get caught up in foolish quarrels and trivial arguments which do nothing to promote Christ’s teaching, God’s love, or the Spirit’s way. We want to feel strong by humiliating our foes; we want to be crusaders for religious causes, both of which, Jesus would not condone.

            Christ’s last healing miracle was how He personally practiced His radical teaching of loving our enemies and forgiving those who hurt us. He not only showed His disciples how to practice their faith, but He also beautifully exemplified His teaching to His foes, especially the guard who was the injured victim of the disciples’ religious zeal. This is an important lesson about peacemaking for all of us who call ourselves ‘Christian’.

Questions for personal reflection

How has the practicing of my faith hurt other people? What would Christ have me do to remedy this?

Prayer:          Lord Jesus, Your Life constantly challenges us. Every moment and every incident in the Gospels has been recorded to teach us about how our Christian faith should be lived. Forgive us, Lord, when we neglect Your lessons; help us to become better witnesses of Your peace and love. In Your Holy Name, we humbly 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 Traqair@aol.com. John is always interested in your thoughts. And, if you ever find yourself in Knoxville on a Sunday morning, the people at Erin will make you feel welcome and will be delighted to worship with you.

Today’s image is John’s latest stained glass drawings. If you would like to view a larger version, please click on this link: Glass.


Friday, May 22, 2015

Church devotion: Rebuilding the Church - Psalm 102:16

Psalm 102:16           For the Lord will rebuild Zion and appear in His glory. (NIV)

            There’s a lot of rebuilding that needs to be done in many churches, including our own. The conflicts that we've all been involved in over the last three decades have taken their toll. Worship wars, culture wars, marriage wars, and atonement wars have diminished the life, work, and mission of the Church as Christ’s Bride on Earth. We are meant to be healers in a broken world; sadly, we have become so disjointed, disfigured, and disunited that we are broken, too.

            We need to ask God to rebuild us, one day at a time, and one person at a time. It will not be an easy process because it will require focus, energy, discipline, and commitment. There’s no other way to rebuild congregations or churches. There’s no magic wand, instant success, or easy button to do it. However, it is not insurmountable or unachievable. It can be done and it will be done among those churches who humbly yield to God and sincerely say, “Thy Will be done.”

            Five hundred years ago, the Christian Church faced a similar challenge. The early Reformers like Jan Hus, Martin Luther, and John Calvin knew that the people and priests had to get back to a form of basic New Testament Christianity. It was an uphill struggle – Jan Hus was burned at the stake; Martin Luther was declared an outlaw and hunted down; John Calvin faced death threats on a regular basis. They were successful in growing a new movement and a new church because their message was true to the Gospel. They accomplished much because they remained true to Christ.

            Today, let’s seriously think about reforming our ways and rebuilding the church. Instead of throwing stones at one another, let’s pick up those stones and rebuild our sacred places. Let’s call upon God to give us the grit and determination, as well as the resolve and focus to grow in His goodness, to advance Christ’s Kingdom, and to walk with the Spirit. We can do this. We can embrace this. We can rebuild.

Questions for personal reflection

What must I do to rebuild my commitment to Christ? How can I help others to do the same?

Prayers:         Lord Jesus, we are all a part of Your Church, Your Work, and Your Mission. In recent times, we have wandered away from Your Truth, forgotten Your Way, and have set aside Your Life. Forgive us for tearing down what You have built. Enable us to reform and allow us to rebuild. In Your Holy Name, we humbly 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 Traqair@aol.com. John is always interested in your thoughts. And, if you ever find yourself in Knoxville on a Sunday morning, the people at Erin will make you feel welcome and will be delighted to worship with you.


Today’s image is John’s latest Pentecost drawing. If you would like to view a larger version, please click on this link: Pentecost.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Church devotion: A Derailed Psalm - Psalm 101:1

Psalm 101:1  I will sing of your love and justice; to you, Lord, I will sing praise.

            Psalm 101 starts off so well. The writer declares his intent to sing of noble ideals like love and justice, as well as praising God. Sounds like a great idea and a wonderful way to express his faith; unfortunately, the rest of the psalm does not live up to the initial opening statement.

            Very soon, the psalmist goes into a self-righteous mode and quickly begins to condemn those who do not follow God’s ways. At one point he further declares that:

v5 - Whoever slanders their neighbor in secret, I will put to silence; whoever has haughty eyes and a proud heart, I will not tolerate.

            We are all guilty of this and have experienced it on numerous occasions, from those with deeply entrenched views, as well from those who call themselves tolerant people. Sadly, we all currently see this all-too-human trait in the many forms of moral iconoclasm where opposing groups on abortion, sexuality, war, politics, or poverty tear down each other’s beliefs and standards, in the forlorn hope that the last person standing will win the day.

            As I read the rest of Psalm 101, I wish that the writer had just written a spiritual haiku, for his first words speak so well of what faithful folks like us should aspire toward. The world is full of wounded people and in need of a merciful holy healing, but if faithful people are wounding one another, then how can God’s message be effectively witnessed to, in our communities? I honestly think that if we get rid of our agendas and instead subscribe to the love, mercy, and truth of Christ, then we will have a substantial message to proclaim; otherwise we will fall like the wounded around us, and be of no use to anyone.

Questions for personal reflection

How can I support God’s work of love and justice? Where is God working in my congregation and community today?

Prayer:          Lord Jesus, we all have sinned and fall short of God’s standards and we know that we are unworthy of Your mercy. However, we do know that You love us and command us to love one another. Help us to see where You are working among us, in our congregation, our community, and our country. Enable us to become better servants of Your healing ministry. In Your Holy Name, we humbly pray. Amen.

John Stuart is currently 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 Traqair@aol.com.


Today’s attached image is one of John’s latest bulletin covers for churches for last Sunday. If you would like to view a larger version, please click this link: Easter7B.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Church devotions for Lent on Kindle


Over the years, I've written several devotional e-books for Lent. They all have 40 daily devotions in them with unique devotions, drawings, and prayers. They are all available on Amazon and only cost 99 cents, which is a great price for a spiritual devotional book on preparing your heart, mind, and soul for Easter.


You can find all three books at the links below:


Thursday, January 22, 2015

Opening Devotion: Wonders of His Love - Psalm 36:5

Psalm 36:5      Your love, O LORD, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. (NIV)

            Late last night, as I was taking the weekly garbage out, I looked up at the night sky. It was full of bright stars. I love this time of year because the skies at night are generally cloudless, so there is a vast array of planets, constellations, and even galaxies that can be seen with the naked eye.

            I always get thrilled when I see them so clearly. In response, I usually thank God for such a glorious sight and then I wish that I could actually travel through space to see the wonders of creation in close proximity.

            I also find myself closer to God through looking at His amazing handiwork. I feel His presence in a deep absorbent way that I never experience elsewhere. I guess it’s because I feel so tiny compared to the gigantic astral globes that beautifully sparkle across the heavens. I think to myself that if God could create all the vastness of the Universe, then how almighty and powerful He truly must be.

            Perhaps you are feeling downhearted or vulnerable today. Maybe you think that you’re not important or significant. Perhaps you’re depressed about your life or feel forgotten by everyone around you. Please know this: the One Who created the stars and calls them by name fully knows and loves you. You are not forsaken or abandoned; you are not unimportant or insignificant to Him. You are a child of His grace, made of the same stuff of the glorious stars, and given an everlasting soul that will always be loved, embraced, and known to God through Jesus Christ.

Question for reflection

When was the last time I looked at the stars? What does their existence tell me about God?

Prayer:            Lord God, You are the Creator of all things and the Lover of all living beings. Your power is majestically displayed across the heavens and also intimately felt within our souls. Thank You for allowing us life and letting us enjoy the wonders of Your making. In Jesus’ 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 Traqair@aol.com. John is always delighted to receive your feedback on these devotions.


Today’s image is John’s latest winter drawing. It shows the Oliver’s Cabin at Cades Cove in the heart of the Great Smoky mountains. John has signed 8x10 prints available. If you would like to view a larger version, please click on the following link: Cabin


Monday, January 12, 2015

Grief devotion: A Much Needed Miracle - Psalm 30:11

Psalm 30:11              You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.

            In ancient times, people had different ideas about what to do when mourning. Bible folk used to wear uncomfortable coarse goatskins to physically augment their set period of grief. The skins were normally used for making sacks and must have been very itchy to wear. Usually, they were worn for at least seven days; at the end of that time, the mourners went back to wearing their own clothes. Sometimes people wore their sackcloth for longer periods, depending on how severe their grief actually was.

            The wearing of sackcloth was also practiced by those who felt the need to repent of past mistakes. It was a public display of their remorse and must have been a very humbling experience. In medieval times, monks and priests still practiced the wearing of hair shirts beneath their tunics or robes. Their discomfort was meant to be a constant reminder of their own unworthiness and unholiness before God.

            These days, we tend not to go to these extremes when experiencing grief or expressing our regrets. We can cry out directly to God without adding any ritual in between. We can pray to Him privately about our grief and pain, or express to Him our remorse and shame. We can voice our feelings or vent our spleen; we can think about our regrets and inwardly confess our faults. No matter how we do this, God hears and knows what’s in our hearts and on our minds, even before we give voice to our grief, our repentance, or our complaints.

            In the end, we rest in God’s arms and sob in His presence. Then a miracle occurs – the one described by the Psalmist – He turns our wailing into dancing, removing our sackcloth, and clothes us with His joy. It may take a while and cost us many tears, but of this we can be assured: God’s love can heal our wounds, forgive our sins, and restore our lives.

Questions for personal reflection

Am I presently experiencing a hard time in my life? How am I expressing my feelings to God? What do I hope to receive from Him?

Prayer:           Lord God, we are human and frail, shaped by our experiences and affected by our feelings. You know what we are presently enduring; You understand completely all that we are currently undergoing. Be near to us and embrace us. Hold on to us and guide us. Grant us faith, hope, and love for the days and times ahead. In Christ’s Name, we 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 Traqair@aol.com.

Today’s image is John’s latest drawing for Holy Week. It’s called “Heaven Came Down.” If you would like to view a larger version, please click on the following link: Heaven.