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Daily Devotional - Heaven's Highway

Daily devotionals, short reflections, book reviews, sermons, and studies for busy Christians.

Last Build Date: Wed, 21 Feb 2018 16:06:29 +0000


The Accepted Time - 2 Corinthians 6:2b

Wed, 21 Feb 2018 16:06:00 +0000

2 Corinthians 6:2b “See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation!” (NRSV)             The death of American Evangelist Dr. Billy Graham will no doubt bring back memories for millions of people around the world. Many of them may be thankful for his preaching, words, and books which drew them nearer to God. Others may reflect on a personal conversion experience which was wonderful at the time, but never really took root in their lives. Perhaps they may feel sad at such a disappointment, or maybe they will be re-inspired to try to make that connection with Christ which has been missing from their lives. Whatever the case, there is no doubt that Billy Graham was the leading Christian evangelist of the 20th century and he will be fondly remembered by millions of people on Earth.            Today’s half verse has been used by many evangelists to make people aware that the only guarantee we have in life is this moment we call ‘now.’ We don’t know what will happen in the next hour, never mind the next month, year, or decade. Time doesn’t stand still, except when it comes to an individual end for every person on this planet. The mission of Christianity is to help and encourage people make a decision to accept Christ as their Savior before Death arrives. At each of the rallies and crusades which Dr. Graham preached, this was the climax to the whole event when hundreds of people would get up out of the audience and walk forward to give their lives to Jesus. For them, this was the acceptable time, this was the day of their salvation.            When I write and distribute these devotions, I have one purpose: to help people with their lives by encouraging them to draw closer to God and be embraced by Christ. Due to the wonders of modern technology, people in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Russia, Italy, France and even the Philippines will read this message. I only know a few of them, but I pray that Christ knows all of them as believers, followers, and servants.Point to ponderHave I given my life to Christ? Am I willing to make this the day of my salvation?Prayer: Lord Jesus, You know us completely, yet You still deal with us mercifully and graciously. We are thankful for Your love and we ask that You encourage us to devote the rest of our lives to Your ministry and mission on Earth, in our community and among the people we know. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to give feedback about today’s message, please send him an email to’s image is taken from John’s blog which shows how many folks have read his devotions recently.[...]

What We See - 2 Corinthians 5:7

Mon, 19 Feb 2018 15:59:00 +0000

2 Corinthians 5:7 For we walk by faith, not by sight. (NRSV)            Sometimes the things that we see deeply affect us. It may a tragic news report on the television, or a posted picture online of some disaster far away. It could be the hurt we see in a loved ones’ eyes or real disappointment in the face of someone we know. We may have witnessed a terrible accident or looked upon a lost individual wandering the streets. We may have tentatively read a doctor’s report or a sad letter about someone’s sudden death. Whatever the case, the things that we see often have a profound effect on our emotions, mental health, and spiritual well-being.            During those moments, I wonder how many of us say a silent prayer, asking for God’s help and guidance? How many times do we see something upsetting or beyond our control and quickly turn to God for a deeper understanding or a better outcome? We inwardly retreat to our soul-shell and quietly wait on God to do something to make things easier, if not better, or to make our burden lighter, if not gone. We faithfully rely on God to work things out, to keep us walking by faith, and not be overshadowed by what we see. Faith becomes the pillar of prayer that we can lean on, as well as the fountain of fortitude where we can find the strength to carry on. It may not be easy at first, but it can be beneficial to realize God’s part in our healing, recovery, and restoration. We may have seen something which concerns us, but we also believe in Someone who is concerned for us.            Whatever occurs this week and wherever you go, you are never out of God’s sight, nor are you ever outside of His grace. Know that you are constantly loved and will be given the guidance you need. Point to ponderWhat is troubling me right now? Am I ready to share this with God?Prayer: Lord Jesus, You came into the world to show us how to find God, so that we may place our faith and lives in His hands. You know our present concerns and worries; You know our difficulties and issues. Help us to rely on Your words so that we may be reassured about finding the strength, hope, and love we each need in our lives. In Your Holy Name, we simply pray. Amen.John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to give feedback about this message, please send him an email to’s image is one of John’s drawings called “Lenten Prayer.” If you would like to view a larger version, please click this link: Prayer.[...]

Freedom and Faith - 2 Corinthians 3:17

Fri, 16 Feb 2018 17:06:00 +0000

2 Corinthians 3:17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. (NRSV)            Freedom is something that every American I know of, cherishes deeply. Ever since this beautiful nation began, the fight for Liberty and our individual rights has been maintained and strongly defended. For almost 250 years, the citizens of this vast land have fought against foreign nations and internal foes to sustain what George Washington once described as this great experiment in Liberty. This freedom, however, was not given to everyone when the United States was established, so both a Civil War and a Civil Rights Movement had to take place in order to expand this right of Liberty to more people. As each generation comes and goes, the struggle to maintain unalienable rights and broaden our freedoms continues. It is a work in progress and is being advanced all of the time. What one age group believes is freedom may be contested by a younger generation. What once was hallowed as a precious right may be changed by a better-informed and enlightened people. The idols of the past conflict with the ideals in the present; the outcome of such a struggle will determine who we are as a people and shape who we want to become.As a Christian, freedom is very dear to my heart, especially the freedom from fear and anxiety which can liberate people from the tyrannies of terror, oppression, and self-preservation.  Upholding traditional rights can actually smother the faith of a future generation. When Christ brought the message of the Gospel to His people, it was radical and appeared irrational at times – after all, what right-minded, fiercely individual, and religiously zealous Judean would succumb to a coarse Galilean’s teaching about loving their enemies? Why would they give up protecting themselves by embracing their foes?Why? Because Jesus knew that in order to be truly free they had to give up past idols and sacred cows in order to enjoy the liberating presence of God’s Kingdom among them. Fear had no place in a community of faith. Self-preservation and indignation had no claim with a Teacher who constantly proclaimed self-sacrifice and love. In other words, if we truly seek to be free, then we need to understand that true liberty can only be found where the Spirit of Christ abides.Point to ponderHow much do I cherish my freedom? How does it conflict with or augment my faith?Prayer: Lord Jesus, You are the Lord of Liberty and the Founder of Freedom. You have liberated us from the shackles of sin; You can set us free from our fears and self-righteous ways. Grant us the courage to embrace what is truly right in Your eyes, even if it means letting go of some personal rights in our lives. In Your Holy Name, we earnestly pray. Amen.John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to give some feedback on today’s message, send him an email to’s image is one of John’s latest drawings for Lent. If you would like to view a larger version, please click this link: Lent2018.[...]

Christian Poetry - Time Will Tell

Thu, 15 Feb 2018 04:15:00 +0000

Time Will TellThere is a time for everythingA sacred season for all;A time, in which, we each are born,A moment when we fall.A time to plant some new ideas,A harvest to gather all,But a time to kill and let blood spill,Is that our human call?There is a time for tearing downThe walls our hate has grown,To turn our tears away from fearsAnd learn to laugh, not mourn.A time to dance this sweet embrace,This gift of life we’ve known;To seek the higher way of loveAnd never be alone.Is there still time to show remorseAnd own the pain we’ve caused;To let our spirits speak to us,And change the path we’ve trod?Is there still time to learn of love And make all war outlawed?Is there the will, within us still,To share the peace of God?© John Stuart 2018[...]

Gifts of Children - Zechariah 8:12

Thu, 08 Feb 2018 15:30:00 +0000

Zechariah 8:12 “The seed will grow well, the vine will yield its fruit, the ground will produce its crops, and the heavens will drop their dew. I will give all these things as an inheritance to the remnant of this people.” (NIV)            Last Sunday, we celebrated our annual Gifts of Children service. It was one of the best worship services I have ever attended in my life. The young people, from kindergartners to teenagers, enthusiastically sang, prayed, and preached all about God’s love and compassion. It was a very moving and beautiful experience. I don’t think there was a dry eye among all of our adults in the pews. We were blessed with a wonderful combination of faith expressions from the young people who participated, and we all felt very proud of what they presented.            Such a creative service does not happen without a great deal of focus, energy, and devotion, especially from our program leaders and faith mentors. Throughout the years, our Sunday School classes, Youth Groups, Planet Worship, and Creative Expression programs have planted seeds of faith and nurtured the spirits of our children. They have developed their faith through the continued support and care of their parents and the entire congregation. What we saw last Sunday was the culmination of the ministry of faithful servants who have specialized in developing and growing the spirituality of our young people, which starts in nursery and continues into High school. It is a wonderful blessing and we are grateful for such a gift in our wee church.            Today’s Bible verse encapsulates what we have recently experienced. God promises His people that He will plant, grow, and develop their faith, so that the remnant will have a beautiful inheritance for generations to come. That promise is still relevant and available for all those who choose to embrace it. At our church, it is something that we can further advance, especially if we remain faithful and committed to the work that God has graciously given us through our young people.Point to ponderHow was my Christian faith nurtured as a child? What can I do to encourage and support our church children?Prayer: Lord Jesus, You never turned away children from Your presence and You blessed them continually throughout Your ministry. Help us to follow Your example, so that we can effectively pass on our faith in You to our children and the upcoming generations. 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: Erin. If you would like to respond to today’s message, please send John an email to’s image is one of John’s drawings called “Free Spirit.” If you would like to view a larger version, please click this link: Spirit. style="width:120px;height:240px;" marginwidth="0" marginheight="0" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" src="//®ion=US&placement=B00B9TTJOE&asins=B00B9TTJOE&linkId=8573813e96f7e33c5f453143d98c8371&show_border=false&link_opens_in_new_window=false&price_color=333333&title_color=0066c0&bg_color=ffffff"> style="width:120px;height:240px;" marginwidth="0" marginheight="0" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" src="//®ion=US&placement=B00IFSTMT4&asins=B00IFSTMT4&linkId=38562bf0415c9c0f80e3fa7f42361613&show_border=false&link_opens_in_new_window=false&price_color=3333[...]

Church devotion - Selfie Prayers - 1 Corinthians 13:12

Mon, 05 Feb 2018 15:57:00 +0000

1 Corinthians 13:12 For now, we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. (NIV)            I like to look at Facebook several times a day. Because my family is so far away in Scotland, it gives me the opportunity to see what they’re doing and to comment on their exploits. It keeps me in touch with them in a remarkable way that I could not have done ten years ago. I laugh with them when they’re having a good time; I sympathize with them when they’re having bad days, and I pray for them when they’re going through tough times.            Sometimes they post selfies which make laugh and smile; at other times, I think “Oh no, not another selfie,” especially from my nieces and nephews. I guess, as younger people, they’re just trying to find their way in the world and discover who they are, but there are days when what I call ‘selfie-overload’ takes over my Facebook Newsfeed. I feel as though they are too self-preoccupied and wish that they would limit the number of photos they take, upload, and post.            And then, I find myself praying to God more than several times a day, expressing my own cares and concerns, my worries and expectations, focusing entirely on me instead of loving and adoring God for His grace, forbearance, and mercy. It makes me wonder if God ever rolls His eyes at me and says, “Not another self-centered prayer from John. He’s already talked to me about this so many times today!”            Usually, after this revelation, I end up thanking God for His patience and appreciate how blessed we all are to be children of His grace. Our prayers don’t have to be about us, in fact, they should be more about God and the beautiful gift of salvation which He has promised through His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Perhaps today, we will all make more time to do this, in order to praise God and put Him at the center of our lives.Point to ponderWhat am I most thankful for today? Have I gratefully prayed to God about this?Prayer: Lord Jesus, You know us completely and see how vain we all are. Forgive us for being self-centered. Help us to turn our focus to You and our Heavenly Father. Grant us opportunities to praise and worship You today. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to give some feedback about today’s message, send him an email to’s image is one of John’s Lent drawings called ‘Lenten Prayer.’ If you would like to view a larger version, please click this link: Prayer.[...]

Super Bowl devotion - Team Spirit - Zechariah 4:6

Fri, 02 Feb 2018 15:49:00 +0000

Zechariah 4:6 So he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty. (NIV)            Sunday’s Super Bowl is an annual gladiatorial contest between two mighty teams whose players become warriors on the football field. Both sides use all of their strengths and skills to overcome the other, and the outcome is usually decided by either some clever point-winning strategy or an element of luck. Whatever the final result, the football athletes on the gridiron will have given their best for their team.            As Christians, we are also meant to give the same commitment and devotion to the local congregation that we have joined. Our gifts and talents, as well as our faith and support, enable the whole church to continue the ministry and mission God has appointed. When we worship and work together, we are also given the added bonus of having the Holy Spirit in our midst. The Spirit’s powerful presence directs our ways and gives us the focus we require to be effective and purposeful in the church, across the congregation, and throughout the community. Without the Spirit, we are just a religious club; with the Spirit, we become disciples of Christ and servants of God’s Kingdom.            In the Great Game of Life, the victory has already been won by Christ; all we have to do is to align our lives with His, so that more people can be brought into this important commission that Jesus has asked to undertake and fulfill.            So, whatever plans you have for this weekend, which may or may not include the Super Bowl, plan also to be in church with God’s people to thank Him for Christ’s victory and also to be ready to serve His Son, Jesus our Lord.Point to ponderHow do I share my gifts and talents with Christ’s church?Prayer: Lord Jesus, You have called us to serve You in the world through the Church that You established. Encourage us to joyfully take up the opportunities of faith and fellowship, worship and service that You offer us each week. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to offer feedback on today’s message, please send him an email to’s image is one of John’s Celtic Cross drawings called ‘Son Light.’ If you would like to view a larger version, click this link: Cross.[...]

Christian Poem - When Winter Comes

Wed, 31 Jan 2018 17:18:00 +0000

When winter comes,My soul slows downAnd seeks to hibernateIn the holiness of God.I embrace the frozen Earth,As it divinely revolvesAround the gracious, Crimson sun.Cold air bites my face,Making me thankfulTo be fully aliveIn such an icy season.Darkness extendsAnd then contracts,As the promise of SpringPushes through the frosty ground.My soul reawakens From its sacred slumber,And rejoices in the splendor Of life yet to come.© 2018 – John Stuart[...]

The Trouble with Free Will - 1 Corinthians 10:23

Tue, 30 Jan 2018 15:44:00 +0000

1 Corinthians 10:23 “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. (NIV)            The trouble with both free will and liberty is that we begin to believe there are no boundaries or limits to what we can think, say, or do. We insist on having our own way and protest if anyone infringes on our rights. We govern ourselves and will not let anyone impose restrictions on what we desire to do and woe betide anyone who says otherwise. However, the unintended result is that we end up with a fragmented society where individualism is idolized and social justice is marginalized. We look after number one and everyone else can look after themselves.            That may be the way our society is going, but if apply the moniker ‘Christian’ to our lives, then we live under the sovereignty of God, so our selfish behavior places us under His judgment. This is why Paul emphasized the need to reflect on our conduct. No matter what we do or what rights we think we have, as Christians our deeds should always be accompanied by two questions: Is this beneficial? Is this constructive?            Far too often, we see the religious zeal of Christianity which insists on getting its own way and doing its own thing, no matter how unbeneficial or unhelpful it may be. The rest of society looks on us with disdain and wonder why we’ve disconnected ourselves to the Founder of our faith, especially when we omit to show compassion, love, or grace. We can insist on being right instead of being kind, but all we will do is circle our wagons, build a wall, and enclose ourselves in a pit of our own making which will eventually destroy our effectiveness as disciples of Christ and missionaries of His Word.            So, the challenge that we have before us is this: whatever I seek to say or do today, I need to ask two things as a Christian, living under the sovereignty of God and not my own personal morality: Is this beneficial? Is this constructive?Prayer: Lord Jesus, remind us that we serve You and not ourselves. Keep us from allowing pride or contempt to overrule our compassion and love. Retell us the story of how Your grace has been applied to our lives and help us to share it selflessly with others. 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 give some feedback on today’s message, please send him an email to’s image is one of John’s holiday drawings called “Liberty Roses.” If you would like to view a larger version, please click this link: Roses.[...]

Half Time Devotion: A Godly Promise - Haggai 2:5

Fri, 26 Jan 2018 16:06:00 +0000

Haggai 2:5 ‘This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt. And my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear.’ (NIV)            I love watching the Super Bowl. When I lived in Scotland, I started watching live broadcasts of this great sporting final during the 1980s. From the get-go, I have loved the game and since then I haven’t missed this annual spectacular televised event. Now that I live here in the United States, I get caught up in the team rivalries during the football season, but no matter who appears in the Super Bowl, I root for the game itself which is a wonderful display of athletic strength, coordinated teamwork, and skillful strategies.            As both teams enter the field, the players all have one aspiration: to win the game. In the locker room, the coaches have just given them the last of their inspiring words and positive affirmations about the need for commitment, dedication, and unity on the field to ensure victory. In the end, the team that is most determined and consistent will usually claim the win.            Today’s verse from Haggai contains some inspiring words that God gave to His people during troubled times. The prophet conveyed the blessing of God’s constant presence and reassured them that His Spirit would remain with them. The outcome of this promise was that they did not have to fear what lay head; they just had to trust God’s words, as well as His consistent ways.            That promise is still with us today. We may be facing some new issues in our lives, our homes, our work, and even our church, but no matter what lies ahead of us, God’s constant presence through Christ will be there to guide and support us, to reassure and lead us. Point to ponderWhat challenges am I currently experiencing? Where is God in the midst of them?Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for the presence of Your Spirit in our lives. Bless us with Your guidance and love, so that we may overcome whatever problems or concerns are currently happening. 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 share some feedback about today’s message, please send him an email to’s image is another of John’s Celtic Crosses called ‘Celtic Spring.’ If you would like to view a larger version, please click this link: Spring.[...]

Lent Devotions

Thu, 25 Jan 2018 15:29:00 +0000

I have written several Lent and Holy Week devotion e-books which are available for Kindle readers. Here is my current selection:Lent frameborder="0" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" scrolling="no" src="//®ion=US&placement=B0075QBFU6&asins=B0075QBFU6&linkId=6OZOJOUDBKREAUCT&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true" style="height: 240px; width: 120px;"> frameborder="0" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" scrolling="no" src="//®ion=US&placement=B00B9TTJOE&asins=B00B9TTJOE&linkId=SOBXKJXL4ETVWWRY&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true" style="height: 240px; width: 120px;"> frameborder="0" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" scrolling="no" src="//®ion=US&placement=B00IFSTMT4&asins=B00IFSTMT4&linkId=XAEESOXYNMI37DCS&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true" style="height: 240px; width: 120px;"> frameborder="0" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" scrolling="no" src="//®ion=US&placement=B01BGREW2M&asins=B01BGREW2M&linkId=4MMPPHVW7IJHPVLN&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true" style="height: 240px; width: 120px;"> frameborder="0" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" scrolling="no" src="//®ion=US&placement=B06WGQTYYG&asins=B06WGQTYYG&linkId=9a1d255654750e7f8cab400989117e6f&show_border=false&link_opens_in_new_window=false&price_color=333333&title_color=0066c0&bg_color=ffffff" style="height: 240px; width: 120px;"> Holy Week frameborder="0" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" scrolling="no" src="//®ion=US&placement=B00J2GL7JQ&asins=B00J2GL7JQ&linkId=YBTAUS3Z246VXLE3&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true" style="height: 240px; width: 120px;"> frameborder="0" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" scrolling="no" src="//®ion=US&placement=B00BW74I58&asins=B00BW74I58&linkId=JU2KUOUHF5DP2EB5&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true" style="height: 240px; width: 120px;"> frameborder="0" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" scrolling="no" src="//[...]

A Hard Teaching - Zephaniah 3:5

Tue, 23 Jan 2018 16:16:00 +0000

Zephaniah 3:5 The Lord within her is righteous; he does no wrong. Morning by morning he dispenses his justice, and every new day he does not fail, yet the unrighteous know no shame. (NIV)            Some parts of the Bible are harder to accept and embrace than others. We usually look for promises and blessings from scripture to make us feel good, loved, and accepted by God, especially when we are going through some trying times. However, the Bible is not a quaint book full of positive thoughts and lovely affirmations. It is rooted in the struggle between God and humankind, so there are bits, passages, and sections that are very difficult to read and receive.            Take, for instance, the passage from the prophet Zephaniah (3:1-10). It’s full of doom and gloom because it’s all about God’s wrathful response to the sins of His people. God comes across as a Destroyer of cities and nations which is actually very scary. There doesn’t seem to be anything positive to hold on to, or anything wonderful to glean. Now there are some folks who relish this kind of wrathful judgment in scripture and who use these words to spiritually terrorize other people. They gleefully embrace and apply these scornful words as weapons to condemn others who do not believe in God in a similar way. However, in doing this, they miss the point completely. In the midst of all the damnation and destruction, God is constantly upholding justice each day – for the poor and powerless, the deprived and marginalized.            God is almighty and at any time He could destroy the entire universe, however, His grace endures and His mercy is given each day. Our role, as Christians, is to follow Christ and apply those divine blessings, even in a time when the unrighteous know no shame.Point to ponderWhere do I see God’s justice prevail in the world? How can I align myself with His way?Prayer: Lord Jesus, it is so very easy to condemn others, especially when we do not like what they are saying or doing. We can feel smug and self-important that we are not like them, but that would be false. In the midst of our sinful ways, teach us about justice, mercy, and grace. Help us to apply these gifts to those we dislike, oppose, and even distrust. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to give some feedback on today’s message, please send him an email to’s image is one of John’s Celtic drawings called “Celtic Heart.” If you would like to view a larger version, please click this link: Heart.[...]

Spiritual Depression - Matthew 5:3

Fri, 19 Jan 2018 15:06:00 +0000

Matthew 5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (NIV)            I’ve suffered from depression for as long as I can remember. Sometimes it gets so bad that I have to take medicine; at other times, I manage to get through on my own willpower and strength. It’s not something that you can predict will happen and because there is still such a stigma attached to it, you don’t want to broadcast it or burden others with your woes. You just have to get through each day and hope that the gloom will lift eventually. I find that the winter months can be the most grueling, which may have something to do with the shortened days and longer nights.            When I think about depression, I have my own ideas. Firstly, I think that everybody goes through some form of depression in their lives. Secondly, and I know it will sound crazy, I wonder if we’re supposed to hibernate as mammals and slow down during winter. All our current busy-ness and hyperactivity seems to go against the natural order of things. Even Jesus took time off during the winter months from His ministry to either be at home with His family or with friends.            In my bleakest moments – and believe me, there are some real dingers – I turn to the scriptures for help and comfort. Usually, a verse from the Psalms pinpoints what I’m experiencing, but overall, today’s highlighted verse from the lips of Jesus keeps me focused on getting better and holding on to my faith. I guess this verse appeals to me because depression personally feels like a time of spiritual poverty and emptiness in my soul that only God’s presence and compassion can fill.            Perhaps you weren’t expecting this kind of confession from me, after all, I’m a pastor so I should be so full of the Spirit that depression should not be able to touch or affect me. But like many great characters in the Bible, I’m only human, so of course I can succumb to depression – just like Abraham, Jacob, Noah, Moses, Joshua, Samson, Naomi, Saul, David, Jonah, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Mary, Peter, Thomas, Paul, John Mark…the list goes on.             Whatever you are going through today, please know this: you belong to God and His Kingdom, which means that you are loved eternally and embraced completely.Prayer: Lord Jesus, we all need to be reassured and loved. When depression overwhelms us, keep us safe in Your arms. When spiritual poverty besets us, enrich us with Your compassion and love. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to give feedback about today’s message, please send him an email to’s image is one of John’s drawings of the Cross. It’s called “Celtic Sunrise.” If you would like to view a larger version, please click this link: Cross.[...]

A Powerful Presence - 1 Corinthians 4:20

Wed, 17 Jan 2018 15:09:00 +0000

1 Corinthians 4:20 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power. (NIV)            I spent six years at the University of Glasgow in the Divinity Faculty. The first four years were used to attain a Bachelor’s degree; the last two were post-grad studies in Practical Theology. The Bachelor’s degree prepared me for teaching the Bible and preaching the Word of God. The post-grad studies helped me to see how those words could be applied as ministry in the world.            One of my post-grad assignments involved spending two days per week in a respite center for folks who were suffering from dementia. This was a new field at the time and the medical team of doctors and nurses who worked at the center were pioneering new methods and processes of caring for patients who were gradually losing their connections with the world. I was in my twenties and felt as though I was participating in an episode of the Twilight Zone. I found it difficult to relate to the patients and struggled to hold meaningful, theological conversations with them. I felt completely out of my depth and after a couple of weeks, I wanted to be reassigned.            When I discussed this with my Practical Theology professor, he listened to my concerns sympathetically. I thought that I had convinced him to send me somewhere else, but he reminded me that I wasn’t there to fix the patients, convert them to Christ, or care for their souls. My role was to present God’s Word as ‘presence’. Being there was not just important for the patients, but also for the nurses who cared greatly about the people. The theology I was practicing had a name attached to it: Incarnation. In other words, the power of God was present in and with the people of God. I was just merely a channel of God’s peace and an instrument of His love. I realized there and then that the most powerful way of expressing God’s Word to the world was not through preaching or teaching; it was powerful through just being present.            Since then, in all of the churches that I have served, I have seen this at work through the heartfelt and pastoral presence of the people. It is still a very humbling and beautiful way to practice ministry and I am thankful to be part of a tradition where the priesthood of all believers – the ministry of the people for each other – continues to be the most effective way to practice, extend, and advance the Christian faith. Perhaps, with this in mind, the apostle Paul could also have written today’s verse this way: ‘For the kingdom of God is not a matter of preaching but of presence.’Point to ponderHow can I share God’s presence with others today?Prayer: Lord Jesus, Your presence in our world changed us forever. You left Heaven to be with us on Earth. You reached down to us, so we could be lifted up to God by Your presence. Thank You for being there when we needed You, and thank You for being with us still. In Your Holy Name, we gratefully pray. Amen.John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to give feedback on today’s message, please send him an email to’s image is one of John’s Communion drawings called ‘Epiklesis.’ If you would like to view a larger version, please click this link: Epiklesis.[...]

Worthiness - 1 Corinthians 3:16

Tue, 16 Jan 2018 15:15:00 +0000

1 Corinthians 3:16 Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? (NIV)            There are days when all of us go through some sort of depression or low self-esteem. It may come after a family argument, or when a project fails, or as a result of being unjustly accused. We may feel worthless and empty, of no value to anyone or totally insignificant. We may think less of our gifts and strength and more about weaknesses and faults, especially when we see others around us accomplish much with their lives and be successful. It happens to all of us and if you remember Christ’s struggles throughout His life, you also know He hit rock bottom, too. (John 6:60-66)            Today’s highlighted verse is a great comfort to me when I’m feeling down. It reminds me that God’s Spirit dwells within me, sinner though I am and so unworthy of such a presence. This tells me that God thinks more about me than I do of myself. Because God loves me, I understand that I am a child of His grace and still a servant of His Son.             No matter what you’re going through and no matter what you’ve done; no matter how bad you feel about yourself or your present circumstances, please know this: God’s Spirit abides within you and in His eyes, you are precious, accepted, and loved, not just at this time, but forever.Point to ponderAm I feeling down about myself? Do I know that God loves me truly?Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for loving us so completely that You sacrificed Yourself so that we may be restored to God’s favor and love. In those dark moments when we are down and depressed, let Your Spirit embrace and sustain us from within. In Your Holy Name, we thankfully pray. Amen.John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to send feedback about today’s message, send him an email to’s image is one of John’s recent lectionary drawings based on a verse from Isaiah called “Diadem.” If you would like to view a larger version, please click this link: Diadem.[...]

A Worldly Psalm - Psalm 24:1

Fri, 12 Jan 2018 17:09:00 +0000

Psalm 24:1      The Earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it (NIV)            Psalm 24 has always been one of my favorite passages of the Bible, ever since I first read today’s highlighted verse. To me, this line epitomizes how God sees the world and all of the people on Earth. He doesn’t see boundaries or nations. He doesn’t look at economic classes or intellectual elites. He sees a beautiful blue planet with billions of people. He sees everyone as a special creature and a child of His grace.            Sadly, human history is littered with events which depart from this divine outlook. Human beings have treated each other with disdain, disrespect, and disinterest, forcing the poor and powerless to become helpless and hopeless. Tyrants have often dismissed and inhumanely treated other people just for being weak and wallowing in their misery. Wars and famines continually break out in areas where people are downtrodden and life is worth nothing. To escape these tragic hardships and cruel conditions, people sell their children into slavery or abandon their communities completely to the aggressors. How God can look down and see what we’re doing to ourselves is incomprehensible to people of faith. We believe we are better than this, and that the world is truly worth saving, no matter where people come from, no matter who they are.            As Christians, we are held to a higher standard by God than those of other religions. Why? Because we call ourselves the followers of Christ, the Son of God, who gave His life for everyone. He didn’t cast people off because they were poor. He didn’t castigate folks for where they came from – remember, Christ was born in a dirty stable because His parents were forced to leave their home by a greedy and oppressive Emperor. Jesus, the center of our faith and the King of our lives did not disparage people whose lives were wrecked because His family experienced this, too; instead, He told marginalized people everywhere, ‘Come to me all you who are weary and I will give you rest.’ So, if we still dare to continue to call ourselves Christians, are we not obligated by Christ to do and show the same?Point to ponderWho did Jesus die for? Why? Are we as Christians willing to love other people in the same ways as Christ? Are we willing to welcome those who are so much different from ourselves?Prayer: Lord Jesus, we call You the Lord of our hearts, so we seek to serve You with our lives. There is not one person on this Earth that You do not love, for we are all equal in Your eyes. Keep us from the sins of self-piety or of justifying unbridled prejudice. Enable us to see all others as children of Your grace, just as we hope that we are in Your eyes. In Your Holy Name, we pray.John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to send feedback on today’s devotional, John would be delighted to receive your email at’s image is one of John’s early drawing called ‘Face to Face.’ If you would like to view a larger version, please click this link: Face.[...]

Church devotion - A Clear Conscience? - 1 Corinthians 4:4

Wed, 10 Jan 2018 16:19:00 +0000

1 Corinthians 4:4 My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. (NIV)            I find today’s highlighted verse to be very insightful, especially when I try to justify things I have done, which are questionable. I convince myself that what I’m thinking or doing is right, so, therefore, God will understand, accept, and perhaps even bless my choice. The trouble with that kind of thinking is this: I’m trying to create God in my own image instead of His.            When Paul wrote ‘my conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent,’ he was leaving himself vulnerable from attack by his opponents. They would use it to indicate that the great apostle Paul had sinful flaws and was not perfect. They could point their fingers at him and condemn his ministry because of his personal confession. Paul may have convinced himself and other folks that his deeds were right, but in the end, God would judge him for being a sinner, not a saint.            In our society, we all come across Christians who never seem to question their motives, choices, or deeds. As long as their conscience is clear, they can keep on doing what they want, how they want, and to whomever they want. They equate a clear conscience with approval from God, rather than seeing the truth and understanding that they are sadly and sinfully deluding themselves. As Paul clearly suggests, it doesn’t matter what we think about ourselves, only God can judge if we are truly innocent. And no matter how much salve or cover we place over our consciences, God knows our motives completely and it is those unhidden parts of our minds, hearts, and consciences which will be judged, no matter who we are, what we’ve accomplished, or how we are perceived by other people.Point to ponderDo I use my faith to justify my bad behavior? If I were God, what would I judge me for?Prayer: Lord Jesus, we are sinful creatures with shameful secrets and hidden deceits. We convince ourselves that our behavior is acceptable and our consciences are clear. Forgive us for being deluded by our own vanity and enticed by our own charms. Remind us of our failings, help us to confess our sins, and enable us to change our ways. 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 send some feedback on today’s message, please send him an email to’s image is one of John’s worship drawings based on Psalm 139. If you would like to view a larger version, please click this link: Psalm 139.[...]

New Year devotion - Living for God - Romans 14:7

Thu, 04 Jan 2018 14:12:00 +0000

Romans 14:7 For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. (NIV)            Just after the new year, we’re all full of ideas and goals that we want to achieve. Most of us look forward to the possibilities and opportunities that the next twelve months may bring. It’s as if we’ve all been given a clean sheet with the ability to start again. A lot of people get energized by the turning of the year, so it’s a good time to begin something novel, tackle something fresh, and get excited about the new path that we’re on.            As people of faith, we look to God to give us guidance and reassurance. We hope that all we want to accomplish is aligned with His will. We desire to do something significant and feel that our lives are not just worthwhile, but actually meaningful. In other words, we seek to be all that we can be, using the gifts, skills, and resources that we have managed to accrue and develop. When we use them effectively and devote them to God, we sometimes discover new blessings and opportunities coming our way. Through the giving our lives to God, we honor the important work of His Son Jesus. By choosing to bring our lives into line with God’s will, we are given a deep sense of belonging to God, no matter what lies ahead.            Let’s hope and pray that 2018 will be an exceptional year in which we can deepen our faith commitment to God and develop new ways of experiencing significance in all that we prepare and plan to do. Time is a wonderful gift that should never be wasted; life is an amazing blessing that should always be celebrated. May God bless all of your hope and dreams by allowing your plans to succeed.Point to ponderWhat do I hope to accomplish this year? Have I truly asked God to help me?Prayer: Lord Jesus, we thank You for allowing us to be restored to God’s favor, so we may truly experience belonging to Him. Guide us with Your Spirit throughout this year and help us to accomplish all that we seek to do. In Your Holy Name, we humbly ask and pray. Amen.John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to respond to today’s message, please send him an email to’s image is one of John’s latest drawings called “Celtic Communion.” If you would like to view a larger version, please click this link: Celtic.[...]

Short Devotion - Lip Service - Romans 10:9-10

Wed, 27 Dec 2017 15:36:00 +0000

Romans 10:9-10 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. (NIV)            Can it just be as simple as that? We only have to say a few words and we’ll be saved forever? Is God willing to give us everything when we verbally acknowledge Jesus as our Lord and believe that He rose from the dead? If that’s the case, then what’s the problem? It would only take thirty seconds at most for everyone to be granted eternal life, so surely we can encourage our loved ones, friends, and colleagues to take half a minute out of their busy day to say these simple, uncomplicated words and receive God’s everlasting blessing?            It would be easy if we took the words out of context and applied them at face value. However, we have to remember the time, place, and people that Paul was writing to when he first expressed this thought. The young Roman church was located in the heart of the Empire. Allegiance to Caesar was given through a simple loyalty oath – all a person had to say was “Caesar is Lord,” in order to prove their devotion to the Emperor and come under the authoritative protection of Imperial Rome. For most folks living there, this was easy; for the Christian community, this represented a major problem.            You see to declare ‘Christ is Lord’ meant giving your life, heart, and devotion to a crucified Jewish criminal rather than the almighty imperial Caesar. It was a life or death choice, especially when persecution broke out against Christians. The context means that what Paul is encouraging his Roman readers to do is to displace Caesar with Christ. Under Roman Law, that was both sedition and treason, both of which were punishable by death.            Now, do you understand what this means for us today? Think about the most important thing that we are devoted to today – it could be family, patriotism, politics, sports, or ideals. Whatever it may be, our allegiance to Christ has to be more than those things. If anything gets in the way of our service and devotion to Jesus, then we displace Him and idolize the other. This is why declaring Christ is Lord and believing in His resurrection is so hard to do. This is why so many people fail to get beyond themselves and fall before Christ. Calling Christ ‘Lord’ means we submit to Him, His will, and His way – we cannot negotiate this and put something else on the same level with Him. If we honestly want to be with God forevermore, it will take up the rest of our lives in worship, service, and devotion to Jesus. If we think that there’s any other way, we’re deluding ourselves. If we think that God will accept anything less, then we’ve ignored the context of what Paul initially wrote.            Take time to pray about this. Ponder over Paul’s words. Ask yourself if Christ is really real in your life and He is the Lord of your heart. If there’s something else, it will die with you. If there’s nothing else, you will live with Him.Point to ponderIs my faith in Christ real or do I spend more time with something else? Am I willing to truly cal[...]

Book Review: May the Faith Be with You NiRV Bible

Thu, 21 Dec 2017 18:02:00 +0000

(image) Geeks for God

With all of the recent excitement about the new Star Wars’ movie, I guess it was only a matter of time when someone would produce a sci-fi geek’s version of the Bible. This is not, however, a translation of the Bible that is expressed in Star Wars languages (although I would like to have seen Yoda’s version of Psalm 23 or the Lord’s Prayer).

What makes this a geek’s version of the Bible is the cover and the inserted colorful photographs of outer space and planets. The space photos give a delightful edge to the usual additions of special verses, a list of parables, and a ‘where to find inspiration’ page when faced with strong feelings or problems.

I think young people may be attracted to this version, especially young Christians who are into sci-fi movies and genres. Hopefully, they will also take time to read the Bible and value the wisdom it contains. I just gave a copy to one of my co-workers’ teenage daughters. Her response: “That’s awesome!”

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A Longest Night Prayer

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 16:24:00 +0000

A Longest Night PrayerTake my grief, Lord,Heal the hurt;Embrace my weary spirit.Let Your comfortOverflow my soul.Nourish my heart andGrant me rest,Especially at night when Sleeplessness Taunts my mind.Never forsake me,Include me in Your thoughts.Gently carry me towardHealing and hope.Tenderly touch my soul.Amen.© John Stuart 2017[...]

Christmas Credit - Romans 4:23-24

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 16:40:00 +0000

Romans 4:23-24 The words “it was credited to him” were written not for Abraham alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. (NIV)            My parents were working-class people who raised a large family of six in Glasgow, Scotland. We went through some hard times, but at Christmas, they both did their utmost to ensure that all us kids were given the special gifts we hoped for from Santa. I guess like every other parent in our neighborhood, they borrowed money at a high-interest rate and paid it all back throughout the New Year, only to begin the debt cycle again when December came around. When I look back, I don’t know how they did it, but I’m thankful they loved us deeply to make certain that our Christmases were wonderful times.            There were no credit cards in those days, so each Friday evening a credit agent came to our house for the weekly payment that my folks had to make. The ritual was usually the same – my Dad would give his pay packet to my Mom – who would take out the amount owed and hand it to the credit man. He would then plow through a whole host of cards, write in the payment and initial it. I don’t ever remember my folks missing a payment, even though the interest rate would have been very high. Over the years, they must have paid back thousands of pounds, but they did it, not just for Christmas, to keep us six kids fed, clothed, and sheltered.            In today’s passage from Romans, Paul writes about how God credits us with righteousness when we believe in His Son Jesus and that He was raised from the dead. Because of sin, we are completely indebted to God and have no way of paying back what we owe, not even on a weekly basis when we go to church on Sundays. However, the great thing is that God does not leave destitute of His love and care. He allows us to be restored to His favor through the death of Jesus, who paid in full our outstanding debt to God. In other words, Jesus becomes both our creditor and guarantor, so that when we fall into sin, God credits us with Christ’s righteousness and permits us to be fully pardoned. This is why we call the Gospel ‘Good News.’Point to ponderHow much do I owe Christ? How does His forgiveness help me to renew my faith each day?Prayer: Lord Jesus, may we be eternally grateful for the salvation that You have obtained for our souls. We know that we do not deserve such love and mercy, but we are truly thankful for Your sacrifice and grace. 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 offer some feedback on today’s message, please send him an email to’s image is one of John’s latest Nativity drawings called ‘City of David.’ If you would like to view a larger version, please click this link: David.[...]

Book Review: A Crazy, Holy Grace - Frederick Beuchner

Wed, 13 Dec 2017 00:00:00 +0000

(image) Frederick Beuchner: A Crazy, Holy Grace

Memories are made for this…

                I had never read any of Beuchner’s books before this one, but a number of my pastor colleagues have been referring to his works for years. This book intrigued me because of its title – A Crazy, Holy Grace. Throughout my pastoral ministry, I have seen this in action, especially among folks who have had tragic childhoods or heart-rending grief. Beuchner’s book is an ideal resource for people who are struggling with the pain of a great loss, as well as their faith in God.

               Beuchner tackles grief from the basis of his own heartbreaking family experiences. He expresses the reality of his painful burdens and focuses in on the purpose of memory in the healing process. He converses casually with the reader and doesn’t come across as holier-than-thou. The chapter which touched me most was the one called ‘The Magic of Memory,’ where he writes an imaginary conversation with his deceased grandmother. It’s a very touching moment and one that gets to the very heart of dealing with the hurt of loss.

                The book would make a great small group study or to help a grief therapy group find coping mechanisms. Anyone who loves C. S. Lewis books will be delighted with excellent work of Beuchner. And now that I have read this first one, I look forward to reading more of his writing.

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A Knoxville Story - Amos 6:7

Mon, 11 Dec 2017 17:48:00 +0000

Amos 6:7 Therefore you will be among the first to go into exile; your feasting and lounging will end. (NIV)            There’s a video of a young boy from Knoxville, Tennessee, where I live, which has gone viral with over 20 million views. In the video, the young lad is tearfully expressing to his mom that he is being relentlessly bullied in school. He wonders why this is happening and it is very hard to watch him break his heart. At one point he asks why people who are different should be treated this way. At the end of the video, he also says that things may get better one day.            The response to the video has been overwhelming. Sports stars and celebrities have reached out to the boy and have promised to have lunch with him at school where most of the bullying takes place. News correspondents from across the nation have picked up on the story and many of them are praising the boy and his mother for having the courage to post the video on social media. A college fund has also been set up for the young lad, so that his future may be positive and strong. It’s an amazing example of how the internet can actually be a good thing; it’s a wonderful way of showing how human beings can reach out compassionately to the weak and powerless. Hopefully, those who bullied the boy will stop it and realize the error of their ways.(You can read about the many positive responses to the video at this news link: )            In today’s biblical passage from Amos, the ancient prophet is expressing God’s complaints against those who used their power, wealth, and prestige to oppress and bully the poor and powerless in their land. The message that God gives through Amos is quite stark and clear: in the time of judgment, God is coming after them first. They had been given power and authority to make things better, but they wasted that gift and used it to enrich and empower themselves. When God’s wrath was going to be visited upon the whole community, they would be the first to be punished and sent into exile. The divine message is simply this: God will show no mercy to the merciless.            Such passages are a serious reminder for those in powerful positions that no matter how much faith they may express with their public words, if their actions bully and suppress the weak and powerless, they will be judged accordingly and punished severely.Point to ponderWhere do I see bullying taking place in my community? What am I doing to defend the weak and speak out for the powerless?Prayer: Lord Jesus, injustice and prejudice made You angry. Help us to sift out the intolerant and prejudicial ways within our communities which cause us to veer away from Your words and place us all under God’s judgment. 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 send him a response to today’s message, please email him at’s image is one of John’s latest Nativity drawings called ‘A Child is Born.’ If you would like to view a larger version, please [...]

Advent Devotion - Perfect Peace - Psalm 85:8

Fri, 08 Dec 2017 15:30:00 +0000

Psalm 85:8 Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for He will speak peace to His people, to His faithful, to those who turn to Him in their hearts. (NRSV)            Sometimes we get so busy at this time of year that we forget to listen to what God is saying to us. We get so wrapped up in meeting deadlines – personal and work-related – that we set God aside and promise within our hearts to get back to Him later. It’s not that we mean to diminish God’s presence or lessen His influence over us, we are just too busy for our own good and end up harassing ourselves with stress and pressure, which keeps us awake at night and makes us tired throughout the day. We become our own worst taskmasters and complicate Christmas in ways that were never intended by God.            When I came across today’s highlighted verse, I knew it was meant for me. I’ve been listening too much to other things – the nightly news and political panels, the urgent cry to get everything done, the clamor of crowds, and the voice in my head that keeps telling me I’m not doing enough to make things perfect for other people. I listen to them all and buckle under the burden of these relentless sounds. And yet somewhere, God is saying something substantial and is patiently waiting for me to listen. He speaking peace to me and everyone around me. He is gently and quietly offering His gift of shalom – the perfect peace for our bodies, minds, hearts, and souls. We’re just not listening which is sad because God really wants us to know, receive, and experience this perfect gift of this holy season.            So today, I’ve decided to let go of all those stressful things and loud noises around me. Instead, I’ll let God do what He does best – to speak quietly to my heart and breathe peace into my weary soul. Point to ponderHow much peace do I need from God?Prayer: Lord God, speak quietly to our hearts and help us to free ourselves from ourselves. Help us to stop, wait, and listen so that we may hear Your beautiful and loving words of peace. In Christ’s Name, we pray. Amen.John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to give feedback about today’s message, please send him an email to’s image is one of John’s latest Nativity drawings called “Mary Knew.” If you would like to view a larger version, please click this link: Mary.[...]