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.


Thursday, February 11, 2016

Starting a Small Group Bible Study - Coffee House Conversations

          All over the land, Christian folks are meeting together in their favorite coffee places, sharing their faith and ideas, and studying Bible passages together. I’m writing a series of simple Bible study books for such groups called “Coffee House Conversations.” My hope is that these books will make it easy for committed Christians to organize regular groups of their church friends and other folks, for faith conversations and the sharing of their spiritual experiences.

          These books contain seven Bible studies each, which can be used by small groups or individuals for Sunday School, Coffee groups, or House meetings. The purpose of each study is to help participants share their faith, as well as their questions, ideas, and comments, in an amiable way.

          Each study should last between 45 to 60 minutes. Different people may lead and enable each study – the format is simple and easy to employ. Currently, I've written three study books, with the promise of more to come. You can view each book online by clicking the following links:

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Church devotion: Fools for Christ - 1 Corinthians 1:18

1 Corinthians 1:18     For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (NIV)

            There are some Christians today who believe that the Cross was accidental and not a part of God’s plan. They say that Christ’s message of love is what is important now, and that to pin our faith on being forgiven through Jesus’ agonizing death is to worship a God that is vindictive, violent, and vile.

            Paul would call them foolish and that they will end up perishing because they cannot accept the purpose of the Cross. I agree with Paul because if I accept that Christ’s death was purely accidental, then God is powerless and not worthy of worship. It would also mean that Jesus was just a foolish preacher who got caught up in his own rhetoric and deserved to be killed by the authorities. Christ would become just another was a self-centered religious simpleton instead of a selfless Savior.

            For those of us who accept the power of the Cross as being predestined by God, we embrace an understanding that we are sinners who need to be saved from our sins. We don’t ever want to be separated from God and we don’t want to be cast aside forever. We claim the power of the crucified Christ, whose body was broken for our mistakes and whose blood was shed for our transgressions. In other words, without the Cross there is no forgiveness, and without Christ being nailed to that Cross, there is no hope of life after death. We would rather be fools for Christ on this side of life than fools for all of eternity on the other side of death.

Question:        What does Christ’s Cross mean to me? How has it shaped my faith?

Prayer:            Lord Jesus, You are the Savior of the world and the Redeemer of our souls. Your life was predestined by God to end in a sacrificial way. You accepted God’s will to be crucified, so that we can be forgiven of our sins and restored to God’s favor. Thank You for not abandoning us; thank You for loving us so much that You willingly sacrificed Your Life. 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 ask questions or make comments about today’s message, please send him an email to

Today’s image is one of John’s new Lenten Cross drawings. If you would like to view a larger version, please click on this link: Cross.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Lent Devotions and readings - A 40 Day Journey of Renewal

My latest Lent devotional e-book has just been published on Amazon. It contains daily devotions, prayers, suggested Bible readings, and reflective questions for every day of Lent. It's a simple and beneficial way to keep Lent, in order to become prepared for Holy Week.

Click the link below to check out a copy. Other links for different countries can be found here:



Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Family Devotion - An Old Photograph

Romans 12:12      Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. (NIV)

            I’m looking at an old photograph on my church desk. It’s a picture of my Mom in her early twenties. She has black raven colored hair, large beautiful eyes, and a lovely smile. She’s wearing pearl earrings, as well as a decorative Isle of Man brooch on her jacket collar. I think the photograph may have been taken on her honeymoon with my Dad because they went to the Isle of Man after their wedding.

            My Mom looks young and beautiful, happy and joyful. She’s just married the man she loves and both of them are on the threshold of a lifetime together. She has no idea of the hardships yet to come, but her face looks bright and hopeful. The years ahead will be bleak at times and our whole family will be scarred emotionally and mentally, but we will survive and become supportive of one another, even though we’re scattered and separated by thousands of miles.

            The photograph reminds me that my Mom was once young and strong, filled with hope and happy to be in love. That memory consoles me and takes away most of the pain and bitterness that I have carried for far too long. I know that my brothers and sisters, whom I dearly love, feel the same way.

            Despite her illnesses and deep depression, my Mom never lost her faith. She still prayed to God in her lucid moments and clung to her beliefs. This also comforts me because as I get nearer to the completion of my own life, I know that I shall see her again, just looking like she is in the photograph. This is what Christ has given us – a hope that perseveres and love that never ends.

Questions for reflection

Is there someone in my life that I look forward to seeing in God’s Kingdom? How does that hope affect my faith and relationships today?

Prayer:            Lord Jesus, thank You for the faith that You have given us and the hopes that we share. We look forward to the day when we shall be with You in God’s Kingdom and reunited with all of our faithful loved ones. 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 a comment or ask questions about today’s message, please send him an email to

Today’s image is one of John’s latest Lenten Cross drawings called ‘Lent Changes Everything.’ If you would like to view a larger version, please click on this link: Lenten Cross.