Thursday, April 28, 2016

Church in a Digital Age

Membership vs Relationship

I’m at a special theological course in Columbia Seminary, Decatur, GA which is all about the Church in a Digital Age. It’s a great program and is opening up new ideas which are challenging me. The biggest thing regarding church life is the major shift from emphasizing church membership to cultivating congregational relationships. The vast majority of the upcoming generation – 35 and under – no longer feel the need to join a church, they just want to be accepted, embraced, and allowed to participate in the life, ministry, and mission of a local congregation.

This means that we are transforming from a 20th century statistical institution into a 21st century relational community. Numerical statistics are not as important anymore; nurturing spirits is the key process for churches to survive and thrive.


Wow! This takes Church World to a whole new level, as well as a new way of thinking. I hope I can begin to embrace this change.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Daily Bible Verse

Verse for the Day

John 15:9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. (NIV)

Whoever we are, wherever we are, and whatever we are, know this: Christ invites us to be embraced with His love.


Have a great day - feel free to share this. :)

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Worship devotion - Being Human - Isaiah 29:13a

Isaiah 29:13a              The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouths and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”

            Worship is a very humbling experience because it requires us to set aside time to come into the presence of God. As we enter His holiness, we recognize that we are unworthy and unprepared to encounter His sacred Spirit. We also understand that we have come to serve God by acknowledging that He is our Creator, as well as the Controller of our lives. In other words, worship requires us to let go of who we are, in order to let God be who He is. Worship is not about us; it’s all about God.

            Being human, we get distracted during worship. Instead of focusing on the Lord, we think about other things – our homes, our families, our work, or our schools. We know that we should meditate and ponder on what the Lord has done, but instead we mull over our problems and allow our minds to wander. Sometimes we miss out on the best parts of worship because our thoughts are elsewhere. We don’t do this deliberately; it’s just that we are human beings who get easily sidetracked.

            It’s not a new problem either. Long before there were any cell phones, tablets, or devices, people still got distracted. Even 2,700 years ago, when Isaiah was prophetically given today’s Bible verses, God’s people still found it difficult to focus during worship all of the time. Just like us, they also had their worries, issues, and distractions which is why Isaiah calls them out. The people might have shown up and gathered together to worship God, but their hearts and minds were on other things. They couldn’t sustain their focus on God; they couldn’t free themselves from other diversions.

            So does that mean that worship is ineffective? Certainly not. When we gather together in worship, we are with a body of people who greet and befriend us, encourage and support us through both the good and bad times in our lives. We also share wonderful moments when the Spirit touches our hearts and souls together, so that we can build upon our relationships with God and one another. We come together to worship God in church; we leave together to serve God in the world.

Questions for personal reflection

What distracts me during a worship service? How do I get re-focused on God?

Prayer:            Lord Jesus, thank You for calling us to worship God in church. Thank You for the songs we sing, the prayers we pray, the stories we hear, and the scriptures that are preached. Thank You also for the people who worship alongside us – our families, our friends, our Christian sisters and brothers. Bless the worship we attend and help us to focus on God. 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 or ask questions, please send your email to Traqair@aol.com.

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

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Gospel devotion - Gospel Readers - 2 Corinthians 9:13

2 Corinthians 9:13     Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. 

            Sharing the Gospel these days is very different from how it was done during the Apostle Paul’s time. Usually, we try to encapsulate the whole Gospel into a couple of positive phrases like “love one another” and “do not judge,” making it easy to remember and simple to apply. However, Christ’s Gospel mainly comes to us in four New Testament books, compromising of eighty-nine separate chapters. Condensing the Good News into a couple of words can unintentionally diminish Christ’s life, ministry, and teaching. It may be convenient for us to carry a couple of verses in our hearts and minds, but we could end up with a very superficial understanding of what the Gospel can actually teach us.

In the first couple of centuries of our faith, people laid their lives on the line for the sake of the Gospel. They wouldn’t have done that for just a couple of moralistic mottoes. Christ’s life, death, and resurrection meant everything to them, even if it cost them their livelihood or existence. Those First Christians understood that the Gospel was greater than anything they encountered or experienced; to them, it was infinitely more important than life or death itself.

            Currently, our church’s Confirmation students are reading and studying the Gospel of Mark. By the time their classes are concluded, they will have read all of it, as well as completing homework assignments about each chapter. The young people also have their own questions, ideas, and opinions about Christ’s life, ministry, and death. They are learning that the Gospel has much more depth to it, as well as how it can radically influence their daily decisions and challenge their personal lives.

Perhaps if more church members were to consistently read and re-read the Gospels, they would also embrace and understand the real message of the New Testament narratives. Having only a couple of biblical verses in our hearts and minds is not enough to sustain our spirits or grow our faith. If we truly want to become committed Christians, then surely we need to know what the entire Gospel is about, so that we can positively apply and generously share Christ’s teachings.

Questions for reflection

What was the last Gospel that I fully read? How can I organize reading the Gospels on a regular basis?

Prayer:            Lord Jesus, all that we know about You comes mainly from the Gospels. Without them, we would not know what You said or did. Help us to read and re-read the Gospels on a regular basis, so that we can learn to understand and know what You want us to do with the remainder of our lives. 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 or ask questions about today’s devotion, please send him an email to Traqair@aol.com.


Today’s image is one of John’s Gospel drawings called “A New Earth.” If you would like to view a larger version, please click the following link: Gospel.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Christian Books for Kindle

I've just published my 25th devotional e-book for Kindle users. It's called "Forty Promise Filled Days." The five minute devotions are based on verse from the Apostle Paul's Letters.

Here is a list of my current books: I have written several devotional books which are available on Kindle. You can check them all at the following link boxes.

Inspirational



Advent



Lent


Holy Week



Special Categories



Small Group Bible Studies

Friday, April 08, 2016

Peace Devotion: Perfect Peace - Isaiah 26:3

Isaiah 26:3      You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in You.

            We’re all looking for peace in our lives. Peace and quiet in order to rest. Peace in our households in order to get along. Peace at our work, so we can be effective as teams. Peace in our neighborhood, so we can sleep at night. Peace in our church, so we can minister to the larger community. Peace in our souls, so we can be renewed and re-strengthened by God.

            The old Hebrew word for peace is ‘Shalom,’ which is a complete peace. The perfect peace that Isaiah refers to in today’s verse is even greater than that – it’s a divinely gifted peace which blesses the body with health, the mind with clarity, the heart with strength, and the spirit with holiness. It’s what God meant us to experience when He first created us as human beings.

            As Christians, we look for that perfect peace in Jesus. He forgives us of our failures, restores us to God’s favor, and reshapes our lives so that we can serve God faithfully, cheerfully, and wisely. It’s a wonderful gift and something that we should always aspire toward.

            So, today, in the midst of yet another busy day, let’s seek God’s perfect peace by embracing His presence and placing our faith, hopes, and lives in His loving hands.

Questions for personal reflection

Where do I currently need God’s perfect peace in my life? How may I seek this blessing from Christ?

Prayer:            Lord Jesus, we all need peace in our lives. We call You the Prince of Peace, so we pray that You will allow us this precious gift in our lives, our homes, our schools, our workplaces, and in our communities. In Your Holy Name, we humbly pray. Amen.

John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to ask questions or make comments about this message, please send him an email to Traqair@aol.com. John appreciates your feedback J


Today’s drawings is one of John’s special Celtic Crosses called Seochan, which is a Celtic Peace Cross. If you would like to view a larger version, please click this link: Seochan.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Bible devotion - Faith Under Fire - 2 Corinthians 6:2b

2 Corinthians 6:2b     I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.

            I have always admired the Apostle Paul, not just because of his wonderful epistles, but because of the hardships and struggles he underwent and endured. Whenever I hear a fellow pastor or someone else disparaging Paul because of something he wrote that they don’t agree with, I tend to ask whether or not that person has ever experienced anything similar to Paul.  It’s easy to be armchair theologians and cozy cloistered critics; it’s an entirely different thing to be constantly harangued, unfairly attacked, and frequently abused for what Paul ardently believed.

            Take today’s partial verse, for instance:
I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.’

On the surface, this appears to be a wonderful scriptural promise, connected to God’s love, favor, and blessing. It reads like an amazing gift of God’s goodness and a surplus of God’s generous grace, but Paul follows up on this verse with a staggering list of hardships, drawbacks, and attacks that he personally experienced and endured. Paul was conveying to his letter readers this one hard-to-accept fact: having faith in Christ is a beautiful gift, but it can also cause us a lot of pain, difficulty, and suffering. Truthfully, for faith to be really effective, it needs to be tried and tested in serious situations and unhappy circumstances. Fair-weather faith has no lasting value; however, faith under fire has the ability to grow, deepen, and mature.

For the Apostle Paul, God’s favor was found in a fearless faith, and the day of salvation could even be experienced in times of turmoil and trouble. Perhaps the questions we should be asking ourselves are these:            Is my faith actually real? Has it been put through a crucible?

Prayer:            Lord Jesus, thank You for allowing us to believe in You. Deepen our faith, so that we may remain loyal to You, especially in times of hardship, suffering, and trial. In Your Holy Name, we humbly pray. Amen.

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


Today’s image is one of John’s bulletin covers, based on Psalm 30. If you would like to view a larger version, please click this link: Psalm 30.