Thursday, February 04, 2016

Lent Devotions: A 40 Day Journey of Renewal

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

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

In US http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01BGREW2M

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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Family Devotions - An Old Photograph - Romans 12:12

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

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

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

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

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

Questions for reflection

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

Prayer:            Lord Jesus, thank You for the faith that You have given us and the hopes that we share. We look forward to the day when we shall be with You in God’s Kingdom and reunited with all of our faithful loved ones. In Your Holy Name, we gratefully pray. Amen.

John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to make a comment or ask questions about today’s message, please send him an email to Traqair@aol.com.

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

Monday, January 18, 2016

Small group Bible study: Enjoy Life

Many Christians are now regularly meeting in local coffee houses to study God's Word, share their faith, and discuss their spiritual ideas. I'm writing a series of light conversational Bible study books, which will enable small groups to meet for 45 -60 minutes each week, or even once per month, to build up their friendship, fellowship, and faith.

The theme of this first book is called "Enjoy Life." More conversational books will follow in the series.

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


Friday, January 08, 2016

Devotions for Lent - Lenten Devotion books by John Stuart

Devotions for Lent are becoming more popular among Christians of all denominations. The following e-books contain 40 daily devotions for Lent and can be used individually, in a small group, or family setting. These Lenten devotional books are all available on Amazon. Just click on the boxes and you'll be taken to the home page for each Lent devotional book, with a description of its contents.


             


My latest Lenten devotional book, "A Path for Pilgrims,' will be published soon.

Short devotion: Enjoy Life - Romans 6:23

Romans 6:23  For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (NIV)

            Yesterday, I participated in a wonderful funeral service. That may sound weird, but it turned out to be a joyous celebration of a life lived well. The person concerned was a very gentle, humble, and kind man, who touched the hearts and lives of practically everyone that he knew. His family shared some beautiful memories and there was a lot of laughter, mixed together with our tears. It was a blessing to be there and a cheerful event filled with faith, hope, and love.

            In the afternoon at the graveside, I improvised on some of the words from the Church of Scotland’s Book of Order. I told the mourners “We are not meant for the darkness of despair or death, but are created to enjoy God’s light and love.” It was a touching moment and I could feel the presence of the Holy Spirit with us. I think we all realized that the wages of sin may indeed bring about our deaths, but the everlasting life which Christ has won for each one of us, is the greatest gift we shall ever know.

            From time to time, we all contemplate our mortality and the impact that death makes in our lives. However, the beautiful gift of faith grants us an assurance that death is not the end; it’s just the inevitable transition to a new and eternal beginning. We may lose loved ones to death and feel an emptiness in our lives, but Christ promises us that we can be with Him and all our loved ones in God’s Kingdom through the faith that we embrace and share.

Questions for personal reflection

How has death affected my life? How can Christ’s love restore my faith and hope?

Prayer:            Lord Jesus, You experienced dying and conquered death so that we may be given the opportunity of everlasting life. Help us to live our lives in that hope, so that we may enjoy the light and love of God, both in this life and the one that is yet to come. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.

John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to comment on today’s message, please send him an email to Traqair@aol.com.


Today’s image is one of John’s latest drawings called “Planet Maker.” If you would like to view a larger version, please click on this link: Maker.

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Short devotion: Blue Jays - Romans 5:17

Romans 5:17  For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!

            This morning when I drove into the church parking lot, I was surprised to see a flock of blue jays hopping on the grass in front of our Fellowship Hall. They were feeding on something, but as there were no berries on the trees, I wondered what they were eating. As I watched a few of them fly away, I saw that they had small white cubes in their mouths. I quickly realized that they were feeding on the Communion Bread from last Sunday morning!

            After each Communion service, our church elders dispose of the extra bread and wine by emptying the cup’s contents on the grass, as well as scattering the small squares of bread on the lawn. Eventually God’s creatures come and feed on the elements – insects, birds, and small animals. Today, however, was the first time that I have seen any of them actually taking Communion!

            Grace is a wonderful gift that we’ve been given through Christ, so that we may dwell with God in His Eternal Kingdom. Seeing the blue jays feeding on the bread crumbs reminded me of the simple way that my Heavenly Father nourishes me with the Bread of Life and the Cup of Salvation.

            May you experience the richness of God’s grace and the blessing of His goodness today.

Question for reflection

What does Communion mean to me? How have I experienced God’s grace through it?

Prayer:            Lord Jesus, thank You for the gift of grace that You purchased for us through the giving of Your Body and Blood. We know that we do not deserve such a bounteous blessing, so we are humbly grateful for what You have done and what we have been given. In Your Holy Name, we cheerfully pray. Amen.

John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to comment on today’s message, please send him an email to Traqair@aol.com.

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




Wednesday, December 30, 2015

New Year devotion: Year's End - Ecclesiastes 2:17

Ecclesiastes 2:17         So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

            There was a time when I hated my life so much that I just wanted to end it all. Happily, three friends rescued me and I have enjoyed a lot of the last forty years since that dark time. This doesn’t mean that I’m not subject to anxious, troublesome, or depressing moments; like most human beings, I have my up and down times. However, even in a bad year like 2015, I have experienced some sweet and successful moments. The good does outweigh the bad; my joy for life overcomes the pain I have experienced.

            I get the feeling that the writer of Ecclesiastes must have been given practically everything to him on a silver plate. I don’t think he ever knew what hunger, poverty, trouble or pain really were. His observations come across as someone who has too much time on his hands, who never really worked for a living, or who was largely unaware of the struggles that most folks endure. He is like a rich monarch or a pampered celebrity; he fusses a lot when things don’t go his own way. He berates Life because it hasn’t lived up to his expectations.

            I contrast this with the coming of Christ into the world. He has all the privileges, power, and riches of Heaven, and yet He ends up being born to working class parents, in a borrowed barn, lying in a feeding trough. If Jesus had been like the writer of Ecclesiastes, He would have come to Earth on a golden chariot, accompanied by thousands of angels, displaying all of God’s mightiness, power, and sovereignty.

            But Jesus became like us to identify with our struggle, our grasp of reality, as well as our share of pain, toil, and trouble. And because He did this, Christ not only completely understands our hardships, setbacks, and problems, He also wants to rescue us from them for all of eternity.

            So today, let’s embrace this thought: Life isn’t meaningless with Christ – He has a purpose – all we have to do is to accept that we are part of His wonderful plan.

Questions for personal reflection

As I look back over 2015, what problems, struggles, and troubles did I experience? How did Jesus help me to endure, overcome, and learn from them? What do I hope He will help accomplish in 2016?

Prayer:            Lord Jesus, You walk with us each day and share our struggles and storms. Be near to us at the end of this year, and go before us into 2016. Help us to turn to You constantly for guidance and encouragement, strength and love. In Your Holy Name, we walk 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 Traqair@aol.com.


Today’s image is one of John’s 2015 nativity drawings. It’s called “Mama’s Boy.” If you would like to view a larger version, please click on this link: Boy.