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.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Table Turner - Matthew 21:13

Matthew 21:13           “It is written,” Jesus said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’” (NIV)

            The Temple in Jerusalem was meant to be a sacred place where anyone’s prayers could be heard. It didn’t matter who you were or where you came from, if you sincerely wanted to ask God for help, you could actually do it within the Temple courtyards. Even foreigners and aliens were granted this privilege because the outer court was designated as a place of prayer for them. Unfortunately, in Christ’s time, the elite worshippers treated this area as an extra space to set up their money-changing tables, as well as the selling of all sorts of animals. It meant that the whole area became a menagerie of moneymakers, instead of being a quiet dignified place where foreigners could safely pray.

            This commercial set up angered Jesus for two reasons. Firstly, it dishonored God’s House of Prayer – it was a holy area for meditation, confession, and worship, not a wholesale arena for markets, commerce, or wares. Secondly, the place that was set aside for the foreigners had been designated by the grace of God; now it was being desecrated by the greed of men. Jesus condemned the bigotry and injustice that was taking place in God’s House, which is why He angrily turned over the tables and threw the money-changers out of the Temple courtyards.

            Faith and justice, as well as grace and mercy, were key components of Christ’s ministry. In this passage, He teaches all of us today that places of worship are holy areas and that how we treat foreigners does not go unnoticed by God. In a world which is increasingly beset by religious intolerance and contempt for outsiders, Christians should actually remind themselves of what Jesus did in the past and how that should influence what we do now. Such a personal reflection will not be comfortable, but then again, who said that having faith in Jesus was ever going to be easy?

Point to ponder

What made Jesus angry? Why should I deeply care about those things, too?

Prayer:            Lord Jesus, You want all people to freely come to God and receive His blessings. Help us to be gracious, compassionate, and loving to others, especially those who seem so different from ourselves. In Your Holy Name, we humbly pray. Amen.

Today’s image is one of John’s stained glass designs called ‘A New Earth.’ If you would like to view a larger version, please click on this link: New.

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

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Dealing with Change - Matthew 17:22-23

Matthew 17:22-23     When they came together in Galilee, he said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life.” And the disciples were filled with grief. (NIV)

            The disciples appear to have missed the point. Jesus has told them about His death and resurrection, but they got hung up on the bad part of His message. Of course, it could be that they were shocked and couldn’t get past the image of Christ being killed. I guess if we had been in their shoes at the same time, we might have dwelled on it, too. This shows us how human the disciples really were, which means we can often relate to their natural responses to all Christ said or did.

            We live in immensely transitional times, so it’s very easy to get downhearted about all the things beyond our control. We can choose to be fearful about the future or we can decide to remain faithful to the values that we personally embrace. Change is never easy, but it can be an opportunity to consolidate our reliance on God. I personally have found that when I’m faced with turbulent transitions, I pray more often and more deeply. This makes me understand how much I actually depend upon God to help me endure and enables me to eventually overcome my changing circumstances. Instead of dwelling on my difficulties, I prayerfully hand them over to God, letting Him do what I can’t, and allowing Him to lead me where He wants.

Point to ponder

What am I afraid of most, right now? Am I willing to let God help me?

Prayer:            Lord Jesus, You perfectly understand our present circumstances. Embrace us at this moment in time and lead us each day. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.

Today’s image is one of John’s Autumn drawings called ‘Season Finale.’ If you would like to view a larger version, please click this link: Tree.

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

Monday, January 23, 2017

Always There - Matthew 14:14

Matthew 14:14           When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, He had compassion on them and healed their sick.

            We often read about Jesus healing crowds of people in the Gospels, but today’s highlighted verse takes place at a deeply emotional time for Christ. He has just heard that His cousin John had been beheaded by Herod, which causes Jesus to go and find a solitary place. He wants to be alone to deal with His grief because the pain He must have felt must have impacted Him. It was a time to get away from the world and reflect upon where His future lay. It was a time to be alone, in order to weep and grieve the loss of family.

            But even in the midst of seeking to be isolated, the crowd clamor to find Him. There are still people to heal, sicknesses to cure, and demons to cast out. The people need Jesus to do something for them and want Him to fix their problems now. When Christ saw them, He could have been angry with them for breaking His time of grief; instead, as Matthew clearly states it, ‘He had compassion on them and healed their sick.’

            I don’t know about you, but Jesus’ response deeply affects me. It tells me that He always has time to help His people and that He is willing to hear our prayers, complaints, and issues, no matter how long they take or how often we approach Him. Christ’s compassion confirms my faith in Him. He knows who I am and understands what I need. He helps me when I’m down and He lifts me up when I most need Him.

            Perhaps you’re going through a difficult time or someone you know is having some serious problems. Please understand this: when you come to Christ directly, He hears your prayers and holds you in His compassionate, healing hands. Be embraced with His goodness today and be encouraged by His love.

Point to ponder

What issues am I struggling with today? Am I willing to bring them to Jesus in my prayers?

Prayer:            Lord Jesus, we thank You for Your compassion and mercy, forgiveness and grace. Be with us throughout this day and grant us Your guidance and love. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.

Today’s image is one of John’s winter drawings called ‘Winter Has Come.’ If you would like to view a larger version, please click this link: Winter.

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

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