Thursday, May 25, 2017

Great Expectations

Luke 6:37 Jesus said, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” (NIV)

            Of all the sayings of Jesus, I find this one to be among the hardest to put into practice. Whenever people upset me, whether it be family, friends, or acquaintances, I find it difficult to initially forgive them. I think unkind thoughts and harbor some resentment. I want them to be punished for upsetting me or at least put through something similar. I dwell on the hurt and ponder another saying, definitely not from Christ, ‘don’t get mad, get even.’ Even though I am a pastor with over thirty years’ experience, I’m a human being first and foremost, with all of the accompanying common weaknesses, faults, and sins.

            Because I’m so human, it makes me wonder why Jesus said this in the first place. If He knew it was very difficult and almost impossible to practice, why set up His followers to fail? If we are all guilty of judging, condemning, and not forgiving others, does this mean that we have no hope of being saved? Did Jesus expect us to live holy and perfect lives in order to be accepted and embraced by God?

            The more I read this passage, the better I understand my need for being honest with myself, as well as the absolute necessity of requiring God’s grace. If I arrogantly think that I am perfect, do no wrong, and have no need of forgiveness, then I am dangerously deluding myself and placing my soul in perdition. However, if I humbly acknowledge that I am as guilty as sin and often fail to practice what Christ preaches, then I am confessing my faults and placing my soul in His hands. Just like most of us, I would rather seek God’s mercy and grace than rely on my own misunderstanding and graceless ways.

Point to ponder

Have I recently judged, condemned, or not forgiven someone else? Have I confessed my failure to Christ? What does He expect me to do now?

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, You never said that faith would be easy or that we could live according to our own standards as Christians. As Your people, You challenge and confront us constantly because we carry Your Name wherever we go and whatever we do. Help us to become channels of Your mercy and conduits of Your grace. In Your Holy Name, we humbly pray. Amen.

John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. You can read the church website at www.erinpresbyterian.org.


Today’s image is one of John’s latest Pentecost drawings called ‘Fiesta.’ If you would like to view a larger version, please click this link: Fiesta.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Perpetual Blessing - Genesis 48:15-16a

Genesis 48:15-16a Then Jacob blessed Joseph and said, “May the God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked faithfully, the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day, the Angel who has delivered me from all harm—may he bless these boys.” (NIV)

            I love the recorded blessings between inter-generational families in the Old Testament. There is something holy and sacred when people of an older generation bestow their approval and beliefs to a young and upcoming age group. It is a special gift which is the elderly’s right to give and it is a wonderful opportunity of encouraging young people with faith, hope, and love.

            In our wee church, we have several special events currently taking place that epitomize such a great gift. The first involves our annual Confirmation Classes when our youth are encouraged to join the church. We teach them all about the life, ministry, and mission of our congregation and emphasize their important role in all that we seek to do for Christ. The second occurs when our Senior Highs graduate and go to college – along with their families, we constantly pray for them and hope to support them during their college years.

            The third event is our annual Spring show that our Sonshine Kids present to the church and wider community. They have been practicing for almost nine months and their leaders have continually encouraged and supported them during rehearsals. Our children are blessed with the skills and support they receive from their families and church members. This is an important moment in each of their young lives, so we embrace their excitement and enthusiasm for the shows, as well as sharing prayers and faith with them throughout the whole year. It’s a blessing which will be with them for the rest of their lives.

            When Jacob blessed Joseph’s children, he was passing on a promise that God had given to his own father and grandfather. He wished them well for their future and laid a foundation of faith which they also passed on to their own descendants. It was a gift of love and a great example of how God continues to give His blessings to all of us throughout the years. Perhaps today, in the same way, there is someone younger that you know who will be greatly encouraged by your faith, love, and support.

Point to ponder

Who blessed me with faith? How am I passing this gift on?

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, we thank You for God’s blessing throughout the centuries and across all generations. May we continue to bestow this gift to those younger people in our lives whom we value, cherish, and love. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.

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


Today’s image is one of John’s latest Pentecost drawings called ‘Pentecost2017.’ If you would like to view a larger version, please click this link: Pentecost.

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 traqair@aol.com. 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: www.erinpresbyterian.org.

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: www.erinpresbyterian.org.

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: www.erinpresbyterian.org.

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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QGNMW6WRvLs

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 www.erinpresbyterian.org.