Thursday, October 29, 2015
Acts 13:39 Through Christ everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the Law of Moses.
One of the greatest gifts of Christianity is that people, even the wickedest among us, can be forgiven by God. This allows all of us to begin our lives again and make a new start. Many of us have past regrets and have made terrible mistakes. We carry the burden of our guilt within us, and sometimes even punish ourselves for being so foolish, corrupt, and sinful. To be human, is to be frequently wrong. To be forgiven, is to be set free from the past.
Our beautiful world and wonderful planet is full of broken, guilty, and remorseful people. Much of the disappointments we experience or cause, are deeply rooted in our sinful nature. We all could be better people; we all could make better choices; we all could do better things with our lives.
Christ gives us a gracious opportunity to begin again, no matter who we are, no matter what we’ve done; no matter what age we are, and no matter what hurt or damage we have caused. He sacrificed Himself for our sins and, as Paul preached long ago, ‘everyone who believes is set free from every sin.’
Today, I rejoice in the eternal fact that I am forgiven. I hope that you can also receive and experience this greatest of all gifts from God. As the poet, Alexander Pope once wrote: ‘to err is human; to forgive, divine.’
Personal questions for reflection
What is currently my biggest regret? Have I truly asked Christ to forgive me?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, You are our Divine Savior and Gracious Lord. We know the wrong that we have done and the disappointments we have created. Forgive our past mistakes and foolish choices. Allow us the opportunity to begin again and to re-start our lives by being connected to You. In Your Holy Name, we gratefully and 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.
Today’s image is one of John’s latest drawings called “Northern Delights.” If you would like to view a larger version, please click on this link: Northern.
Wednesday, October 28, 2015
Each daily devotional includes a suggested scripture passage, a highlighted Bible verse, a short devotion, questions for reflection, and concludes with a prayer. Each day also has its own unique artwork, drawn by me.
Hundreds of people use my e-book devotions each year. The cost is only 99 cents, which is both a bargain and a great investment for every reader.
The devotions can be used on a personal basis, with a small group, at church staff meetings, or even for special family devotions.
You can view and purchase the e-book by clicking the following image. Enjoy !
Monday, October 12, 2015
Acts 9:15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel.”
I am very wary of pastors and people who dismiss the teachings and letters of the Apostle Paul, usually because they disagree with what he has written about Christianity. Modern day folks may not like what he expressed 1900 years ago, but they conveniently reject him all too easily, forgetting that Paul himself was chosen by Christ, as God’s chosen instrument, to take the Christian faith beyond Judea and the Jewish faith.
Paul’s critics seems to think that their own ideas are either better or equal to his own. I have yet to come across any one of them who has advanced the Christian faith as effectively as Paul did. God did not just choose him arbitrarily; God selected Paul for His own divine purpose of seeing the Gospel being preached and the Church being planted all over Europe, even at the very heart of the Roman Empire.
In my opinion, this means that Paul’s teaching and writings are full of important messages, lessons, and purposes for Christians, no matter where they live, what church they belong to, or in whichever century they exist. If we commonly say that God doesn’t make mistakes, then the choosing of Paul was not an error either. The apostle’s life and letters should be very important to every one of us, especially if we call ourselves ‘Christian.’
Questions for personal reflection
Do I take the teachings of Paul seriously, or am I apt to dismiss his ideas as outdated and irrelevant? Why did God choose Paul in the first place, and how has that decision affected me?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, when You confronted Paul on the Damascus Road, You were setting into motion a major movement in the history of Your Church. Without Paul’s conversion and his teachings, much of who we are as Christians today would not be possible. Remind us that You deliberately chose him to carry out God’s divine purpose, and that selection has even affected us today. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.
Monday, October 5, 2015
Acts 7:40 They told Aaron, ‘Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who led us out of Egypt—we don’t know what has happened to him!’
Today’s passage from the Book of Acts (Acts 7:35-47), contains some of the things that Stephen spoke to the High Priest in Jerusalem , when he was put on trial for preaching Christianity. The charges made against him included accusations that he spoke blasphemous words against God and Moses. He was, therefore, taken before the High Priest, just like Christ, to answer those charges.
Stephen defended himself by re-telling the story of the ancient Hebrew people under the leadership of Moses. Using scripture, he showed how fickle the people of God had actually been, and that they had also historically rejected Moses, which led to the casting of the idolatrous golden calf. Stephen must have hoped that his words would cause the religious authorities to truly reflect on the past and acknowledge that the Jewish people had wandered from the truth. If he could have convinced them, then he would have helped them to understand that Christ had come into the world to redirect the Jews toward God. Unfortunately, instead of guiding them to a better awareness of God’s plan of salvation, Stephen incurred the wrath of the High Priest and incensed the people, who stoned him to death.
Last week, at the Umpqua Community college in Oregon, ten people were murdered, just for being Christians. They were shot in the head for simply declaring their belief in Christ. We usually hear of this kind of inhumane brutality in other lands and from past centuries. It has shocked us all and perhaps has made us more aware of the true costs of our Christian faith. It’s sad to think that such a terrible and tragic thing could happen in our land, and yet, every year, about 100,000 Christians lose their lives across the world for simply holding the same beliefs that we so casually carry in our hearts and minds.
So today, let’s think about how deep our faith in Christ actually is, and ask ourselves this question: do I try to live my life for Christ and is He worth dying for?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, when we think about Christian martyrs we conjure up images from past centuries, instead of in our present world. We conveniently forget that our faith often challenges the wickedness of the world, and so our people become easy targets across the nations. Help us to remain faithful to You. Let Your Holy Spirit comfort and be with those families in Umpqua and elsewhere, who are dealing with such a painful and unjust tragedy in their lives. In Your Holy 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 devotion, please send him an email to Traqair@aol.com.
Today’s image is one of John’s latest drawings called ‘Beyond the Cross.’ If you would like to view a larger version, please click on this link: BTC.
Tuesday, September 29, 2015
Proverbs 5:23 For lack of discipline they will die, led astray by their own great folly.
Yet another singer/celebrity has just been quoted as saying “You don’t need to go to church to be a Christian.” Really? Where did that idea come from? It seems to me that the house churches, Mediterranean worship centers, local synagogues, and even the Jerusalem Temple, were all used by New Testament Christians to congregate in and worship God. They all supported, served, and loved one another, so that church going became a joyful and important event in their weekly lives.
To me, saying that “You don’t need to go to church to be a Christian,” is like saying you don’t need oxygen to breathe, or you don’t need food to grow, or you don’t need water to live. Church going is at the heart of our faith. On Sunday mornings, when I see folks at church, I observe a lot of people who are struggling with issues concerning their families, their finances, and their futures. They come to church, not because they are holy, righteous, or perfect, but because they need to hear that God is still in control, and that people of God care for them. It also gives every one of them the opportunity to offer support and help to the rest of the body of believers.
When celebrities publicly say “You don’t need to go to church to be a Christian,” what they are really expressing is that they are not willing to humble and discipline themselves to go to church. They’ll follow their own path, make up their own minds, live life according to their own beliefs rather than allowing the Church to augment their lifestyles, give them guidance, or bless their lives. Unfortunately, they usually end up with no faith at all and the wise, warning words of Proverbs are yet again fulfilled: “For lack of discipline they will die, led astray by their own great folly.”
Questions for personal reflection
What does going to church mean to me? How can I help others to experience church blessings?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, You call the Church Your Bride because You are committed to its well-being, life, and mission. You established church long ago and by the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit, Your Church has grown into billions of followers on Earth, who regularly gather together to worship God and glorify Your Name. Thank You for this wonderful blessing of church, which helps us to become better Christians. 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 one of John’s drawings for World Communion Sunday, which annually takes place all over the world in churches on the first Sunday of October. If you would like to view a larger version, please click this link: WCS.
Tuesday, September 15, 2015
Acts 2:46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.
I envy the First Christians. Their faith seemed very simple and straightforward. They worshipped and studied each day, and made time to frequently share meals and break bread together. They weren’t encumbered with almost two thousand years of ecclesiastical history, denominational divisions, or cultural conflicts. They just simply, purely, and innocently practiced their faith in cheerful, faithful, and joyful ways.
Where did we go wrong? What moved us off the simpler path to Christ? Christians today are fiercer than ever and fighting battles that are not important. Whenever I read something belligerently written by some Christian group, whether they be conservatives or progressives, which berates the other side, I feel badly inside. In the past, I’ve created and contributed to these self-righteous invectives, but I’ve now reached a point where I ask myself this: what does it prove? How does it help Christ’s Kingdom? What do people outside of the Church think of us?
I’d like to get back to those simpler days of sharing the Gospel and breaking bread together. I’d like things between all Christians to change, so I know that it has to begin with me. I may not get it right all of the time; I hope I don’t wander from the simpler path, but I know that the Church – whether local, national, or even international – can’t go on beating itself with its own stick. The world is broken and we need to be healers sent from Christ, but we can only do that if we honestly heal ourselves of our self-sustained prejudice, arrogance, and ignorance.
Questions for reflection
What is the role of the Church in the world? How does it present that role in my local community?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, we are all sinners saved by Your grace, but sometimes we forget that we are essentially unworthy and unholy. Redirect our lives and re-position us on a simpler path of faith. Cleanse us of ecclesiastical arrogance and cultural conflict. Teach us Your Way, so that we can faithfully present Your Truth and live Your Life. 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 make comments or ask questions of today’s message, please send him an email to Traqair@aol.com.
Today’s image is one of John’s latest drawings. It’s called “Spirit of Autumn.” If you would like to view a larger version, please click on this link: Spirit.
Monday, August 24, 2015
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.