Church devotion: Crossroads – Acts 22


“‘Who are you, Lord?’ I asked.

“‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied.” Acts 22:8 (NIV)

Before the Apostle Paul was dramatically converted on the road to Damascus, he was fanatically devoted to God. He zealously wanted to serve God fully by getting rid of any threats or imposters who were tarnishing his faith. This caused Paul, who was known as Saul at the time, to mercilessly hunt down men and women who professed to be Christians, in order to detain them in prison and make them pay for their crimes against God and His chosen people. Wherever he found dissent, Saul eradicated it quickly; whoever was known to be a disciple of Christ was brought before the authorities and cast into jail. The future apostle also gave his strident assent to the stoning and killing of Christian leaders. His zeal knew no compassion; his audacity knew no bounds; his fanatic faith was vehemently unleashed.

And then Jesus intervened, completely changing Saul’s life forever. On the road to Damascus, the Lord confronted Saul and rebuked him for persecuting Christ Himself. Whatever Saul thought he was doing faithfully for God, he was actually doing for himself and attacking Jesus personally. Saul’s self-righteousness rejected any self-awareness that he was wrong and his pride completely enveloped his sin. Instead of being on God’s side, Saul was actually separating himself from God by zealously attacking his enemies and expressing his faith in ferocious ways. Jesus showed him the truth and turned him away from the self-destructive path he was headed down. Saul’s salvation required him to surrender his pride; his deliverance needed him to turn away from his uncompromising and dangerous zeal.

As Christians, we all want to serve God faithfully and become true disciples of Christ. But we are human and flawed, so sometimes our strong opinions conflict with our Christian beliefs. We struggle with all that Christ expects of us and there are moments when we fail. During those times, Christ will confront us in order to set us back on the path He hopes we will choose to follow. It may not necessarily be a Damascus Road experience (perhaps more of an Emmaus Road one – Luke 24:13-35), but it will change our lives and reshape our faith forever.

Point to ponder

Am I guilty of being religiously zealous instead of being faithfully Christ-like? Have I allowed my pride to cloud my compassion? Am I following Christ’s path or my own?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, You know us as we truly are and see all that we do. Forgive us for being led astray by our strong opinions and zealous passion. Help us to filter our thoughts and decisions through Your truth, way, and life. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.

John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. Come and join us for worship on Sunday mornings at 11:00 AM. You will be made very welcome 😊

Today’s image is one of John’s Communion drawings called ‘Cup19.’ If you would like to view a larger version, click here: Cup19

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Daily-devotional:Canceling Debt – Colossians 2:13b-14

Colossians 2:13b-14   God forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; He has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 8598112375_02405db5b9_n

In the political world, the National Debt becomes an important issue at every general election. Candidates from all the parties usually talk about how they will reduce the financial burden that is placed upon every taxpayer in their countries. Whoever comes up with the best solution normally becomes the poll favorite to win the office of leadership. However, when they gain that position, they soon discover that dealing with the National Debt is not as easy as they hoped. Current policies and other politicians usually get in the way of solving the problem. The debt becomes greater and is often left to the next leader or generation to find the right answers. The sad fact of the matter is this: politicians all over the world are not very willing to sacrifice their popularity by imposing stringent economic solutions – the art of  national debt procrastination abounds all over the world.

We are all under a similar debt when it comes to dealing with our sins. Each time we sin, we rob God of His glory and owe Him an apology. Every day, our sinful debts keeps piling up so, at the end of our lives, we will be so indebted to God that we will never be able to face Him and pay back all of the divine glory that we have stolen and squandered. However, God has provided the solution to canceling our debt to Him. His Son Jesus has paid that sinful debt in full at the Cross of Calvary. We do not carry over our sinful debt into the next part of our lives when we accept Christ as our Savior-Redeemer. He has paid it all and, in doing so, has given us the opportunity to be fully and eternally restored to God.

In the midst of this important election with all of its complications, personalities, and issues, let’s also constantly remind ourselves of Who really is the Leader of our lives, the Canceller o
f our debts, and the Savior of our souls.

Questions for personal reflection

How do my sins alienate me from God and make me indebted to Him? Why do I need Jesus to save me from my sins by canceling my debt to God?

Prayer:            Lord Jesus, You were nailed to the Cross to cancel the debt due for the sins of humanity. Our sin
s are countless, so we owe everything to You. Remind us of the cost of our eternal restoration and freedom. 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 contact him, please send an email to

Today’s image is one of John’s Good Friday drawings called ‘Sin Bearer.’ If you would like to view a larger version, please click on this link: Sin Bearer.

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Mission Devotion: Global Gospel – Colossians 1:28

2554574595_18e55d4243_nColossians 1:28          Christ is the one we proclaim, cautioning and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ.

The Church exists to serve Christ and to let the world know about Him. We are meant to be servant-story tellers, who proclaim the words, works, and ways of Jesus through what we say and do. For almost two thousand years Christians have traveled all over the world to bring the Gospel to other people. Many wonderful miracles and effective missions have taken place over the centuries, causing billions of people to give their lives to Christ.

We live in amazing times because we now don’t have to send anyone anywhere. Our technology carries the Gospel to people in other places, lands, and cultures. It’s a fantastic way of communicating Christ’s love to other folks. For instance, I send this message via Facebook to other Christians across the globe who are connected to the World Council of Churches. Each week, I receive messages, comments, and emails from folks in Africa, Asia, and South America. It’s wonderful to be part of a worldwide community of faith; it’s beautiful to see how God’s word inspires other folks.

So the challenge for all of us today is this: how am I going to proclaim Christ to other people? How will I use the amazing technology at my disposal to spread the Gospel?

Prayer:            Lord Jesus, we live in wonderful times. We can communicate instantly with other people in other nations across this entire planet. We pray that You will give us opportunities to spread Your Gospel using our devices in effective, compassionate, and loving ways. In Your Holy Name, we serve and pray. Amen.

John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. Please feel free to share this message. You may also send John feedback via email to

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

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Morning Devotion: A New Day – Isaiah 45:6

Isaiah 45:6      From the rising of the sun to the place of its setting, people may know there is none besides me. I am the Lstoneord, and there is no other.

I’m usually awake before each sunrise, so I get to watch the sun’s red glow permeate slowly ac
ross the morning sky. It is a peaceful and sacred time which helps me get into the right frame of mind for my daily work. Soaking in a sunrise enables me to embrace the day ahead by allowing me some quiet time to collect my thoughts and plan out my working hours.

Today’s chosen verse also reminds me that each day comes as a gift from God as another opportunity to praise and serve Him in all that I seek to accomplish. My life belongs to God, so whatever I do should reflect both His goodness to me and my glory of Him. I don’t always get it right, but when I do, I draw nearer to God and deepen my relationship with His Son Jesus Christ. Then, when sunset occurs at the end of the day and I rest my head upon my pillow, I can smile as I pray and thank God for all that I’ve experienced and completed.

As we embrace this new day, let’s look for the opportunities that God gives us to share our faith with others through Christ’s compassion, care, and love. If we set out to do this, then the people around us may come to know of God as our Living Lord.

Prayer:            Lord God, thank You for the gift of another day. You know all that we seek to accomplish; You understand all that we need to do. Help and guide us to do whatever we can to accept, support, and encourage others, so that we may serve You effectively, positively, and lovingly. In Christ’s Holy Name, we pray. Amen.

John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. Please feel free to share this message. You can also contact him via email at

Today’s image is one of John’s Easter drawings called “Like a Rolling Stone.” If you would like to view a larger version, please click this link: Stone.

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Thought for Today: A Beautiful Faith

“I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have red15846938509_5484b860fc_neemed you.” – Isaiah 44:22

The beauty of our faith is that we worship and serve the God who forgives. God has the power to invade our lives and punish us for our sins; instead, He sends His Son Jesus into our world to offer mercy, forgiveness, and grace.

Perhaps you are carrying guilt from the past or still burdened with regrets. Maybe those mistakes depress you and cloud your life with shame. Re-read today’s verse and know this: God can disperse those clouds and open up your life to His brightness. Jesus can and will forgive us, especially of those things that we cannot forgive ourselves. Through Him, we can return to God for Christ is our Redeemer, the One who is willing to delete our guilt, reboot our lives, and reset us on a path which leads to God’s everlasting love and favor.

Prayer:            Lord Jesus, thank You for saving us from ourselves by forgiving us completely. Let this new day begin a fresh path for our lives. In Your Holy Name, we thankfully pray. Amen.

John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. Please feel free to share today’s message. God bless you.

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Healing devotion: Forgetting the Past

Isaiah 43:18     “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.”

Living in the past is a sure 26645650554_f2e3c3a9e1_nfire way to spoil the present and sabotage the future. As human beings, we are both blessed and cursed with powerful memories. Some of them are really good and cause us to be cheerfully nostalgic. Other remembrances are very painful and can sometimes be unhealthy.

Letting go of the past is something that God calls us to do. It’s not easy to accomplish, but neither is lumbering a lot of baggage which weighs us down emotionally, spiritually, and even physically.

God urges us to forget former things and not dwell on the past. His Son Jesus died painfully on the Cross, but God does not dwell on that terrible moment. Instead, He looks forward to the brightness of an eternal future where we will abide in His Kingdom and enjoy His everlasting love. This is why God wants us to let go of the past – so that we can look ahead to our future with Jesus.

Questions for reflection

What am I still carrying as a burden from the past? Am I willing to let it go and allow God to grant me a better present, as well as a brighter future?

Prayer:            Lord Jesus, You are our Savior; please save us from ourselves. Release us from the past and guide us to a hopeful future. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.

John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. Please feel free to share this email with family & friends.

Today’s image is one of John’s Creation drawings called “Let There be Light.” If you would like to view a larger version, please click on this link: Creation.

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Short Devotion: What is Church? Ephesians 3:10-11

Ephesians 3:10-11      His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpPentecost3ose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Some people these days question whether or not churches should exist. Rather than bring people together for worship, missions, or programs, would Christianity not be better served by individuals and small groups going out into the community at large, doing good deeds and showing compassion to those who are unloved, unwanted, and uncared for? After all, didn’t Jesus Himself go from place to place, offering His compassion and healing those who needed His help? Surely, it is argued, local congregations should do the same.

So why were churches established in the first place, and what purpose do they serve now?

I like what the Apostle Paul has to write about church, especially in this passage from Ephesians 3. He describes church as being the established vehicle through which the wisdom of God is made known. Churches are receptacles, gathering places, or domains where the rich teaching, history, and experiences of our knowledge of God are faithfully kept. They become storehouses for people who are hungry for God’s Word; they become wells where folks can quench their spiritual thirst with Christ’s teaching. In other words, churches equip people with faith to help them in their daily lives, current events, and personal circumsta

We are all seeking meaning for our lives, which comes to us through our relationship with God. His knowledge shows us the best ways and paths for our lives. Churches can help us find that wisdom by providing teaching and encouragement, studies and support, opportunities and missions which will bolster our faith and give us a worthwhile purpose throughout our days on Earth.

Questions for personal reflection

What wisdom and guidance has God given to me through the church? How have I shared those gifts with others in my life?

Prayer:            Lord Jesus, we sometimes forget that the Church is Your Bride, so You are always supporting, caring, and loving toward it. Bless our churches with Your Holy Spirit and grant them opportunities to share God’s wisdom in positive, cheerful, and effective ways. In Your Holy Name, we 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


Today’s image is another of John’s Pentecost drawings for 2016. If you would like to view a larger version, please click this link: Pentecost

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Christian devotion: Life’s Greatest Gift

Ephesians 2:8-9          For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves26580297445_25c4df8d4e_n, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.

If ever there was a Christian who did a lot of great works and fulfilled many mighty tasks for God, it was the Apostle Paul. After his conversion on the road to Damascus, he spent the rest of his life sharing the Gospel, planting new churches, and writing inspirational letters which have largely shaped our faith for over 1900 years. He was an exceptional servant of Christ and an amazing church leader, the likes of which we shall probably never see or experience again. If Heaven was only granted to us through what we do, then Paul could stand at the very beginning of the line of billions of people waiting to get in.

And yet, even with all of the great and important things he fulfilled, Paul understood that his salvation did not depend upon what he did, but it absolutely hinged on everything that Jesus accomplished.

The gift of Heaven comes to us through Christ’s grace. We are saved because He allows us to be forgiven and restored to God. Without Christ, we would end up being eternally separated from God; with Christ, we are uniquely given the promised opportunity of entering God’s everlasting and loving presence. Salvation is not awarded to us because of who we are or what we have done; salvation is given to us because of who Christ is and what He has fulfilled. His crucifixion has given us forgiveness; His painful death has granted us everlasting life.

Today, we should all feel blessed to be Christians and cheerfully share that blessing with others – our families, friends, neighbors, and colleagues – for in the end, isn’t this the gift that everyone is looking for at the end of their lives?

Questions for personal reflection

What do the words ‘salvation’ and ‘grace’ mean to me? How have I experienced them in my life?

Prayer:            Lord Jesus, thank You for the gift of grace and the opportunity of salvation. Remind us each day that these promised gifts are real blessings in our lives. Give us the courage to share these blessings with our loved ones and others. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.

John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. Today’s image is one of his latest Pentecost drawings. If you would like to view a larger version, please click on this link: Pentecost.

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Today’s devotion: Opening New Doors – 2 Corinthians 2:12

Guiding Light

2 Corinthians 2:12 Now when I went to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ and found that the Lord had opened a door for me.

Quite frequently, I get asked to say prayers for church members, families, and friends when they are considering changing jobs, careers, or homes. It’s very humbling to be asked because it means that the person making the request trusts me to pray for what’s best in their situation. Usually, I take time out that day to say a short prayer and then on the day of an interview or a house viewing, I pray as close as possible to the time of the event itself.

Sometimes the person comes back to me with good news, so I can say a quiet ‘thank you, God’ prayer later on. At other times, I hear nothing else, so I keep praying for God to give guidance and open up the right door for the person.

I guess that most of us do the same, especially for our loved ones and dearest of friends. As we pray, we hope that God will indeed open doors and grant new opportunities for the person concerned. Prayer becomes a vehicle of God’s goodness, as well strengthening the bonds of faith and friendship between the one who prays and the other who is prayed for. It’s a remarkably effective and personal way to both practice and apply our faith on behalf of other people.

Questions for personal reflection

Has someone asked me to pray for them? Is there someone that I can be praying for today?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, You taught us to pray and showed us the value of being a praying people of God. Help us to make time today to pray for others, especially those who are looking for new doors of opportunity to be opened for them. In Your Holy Name, we humbly and cheerfully pray. Amen.

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

Today’s image is one of John’s lighthouse drawings called “Guiding Light.” If you would like to view a larger version, please click on the following link:

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Today’s devotion: Get Real, People!

Pastor Youcef NadarkhaniLuke 12:11-12            “When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.”

We don’t really know what religious persecution actually is in Western Society. We tend to exaggerate the unpopularity of our Christian beliefs into something that isn’t true. We are not being physically attacked, imprisoned unjustly, or tortured for our allegiance to Christ. In fact, most of society totally ignores us; we’re no longer relevant and most people pay no attention to our whines and complaints.

Now this isn’t true in other places, nations, and societies around the world. Christian people are being beaten, imprisoned, oppressed, and killed for their beliefs. They are being persecuted; for instance, Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani in Iran has spent years in prison for refusing to teach his children the Islamic faith. He’s been sentenced to death, but when the rest of the world protested, his sentence was reviewed. He’s still in prison, on the equivalent of Iran’s Death Row. His lawyer is now also in prison and new charges of rape, insurrection, and high treason have been made against Pastor Youcef. He’s enduring real persecution, so when I read about Christians over here in the United States getting really upset about the banning of prayer in schools, displaying the Ten Commandments, or marketplace nativity scenes in malls, I really wonder what Pastor Youcef would have to say. He’d probably shake his head in disbelief and state something like “Get real, people. This is not persecution.”

If we as Christians want to become influential again in society, then we have to stop whining. After all, who would be attracted to a faith community that just wanted to get its own way all of the time? We seem to forget that the symbol of our faith is a wooden cross and not a silver spoon.

Question for personal reflection

 Are my ways Christ’s ways? Do I cheerfully express my faith to others, or do I forcefully impose it on others?

 Prayer:            Lord Jesus, teach us the difference between paranoia and persecution. Give us a passion to express our faith through works of compassion. Keep us from turning minor inconveniences into major upsets. Help us to win souls for Your Kingdom instead of selfishly whining about the world. 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 comment on today’s message, please send him an email to

Today’s image is a photo of Pastor Youcef. Please continue to pray for his release, as well as for the safety of his family and friends.

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