My study is full of books
And scanned a few chapters.
And sought some illustrations,
You can have too many books
And not enough time to read them.
My mind is full of events
That I will never revisit.
And shattered a few dreams.
And fought some conflagrations,
Despite what people think,
You can have too many thoughts
And not enough time to review them.
My heart is full of debts
And regretted more than a few.
And wrestled with temptations,
Despite what people believe,
You can’t have too many sins
And not enough of Christ to forgive them.
Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things, there is no law. (NIV) When I read about the fruits of the Holy Spirit, I quickly realize how shallow I am and that despite my best intentions, I can never display all of these blessings on any given day. I recognize my sinful shortcomings and become fully aware that I am usually to blame for the scarcity of these beautiful fruits in my life. I resolve to try harder to bear these gifts and share them with others, but then something or someone annoys me and I end up withering the fruits of Spirit by smothering them with my own pride and selfish ways. When Paul was writing to the Galatian Christians, he knew that they were also suffering from this spiritual deficit. They were undergoing an internal conflict which had the potential of disrupting the whole congregation. Paul’s letter was sent to remind them of the gifts of the Spirit that had initially been experienced among them. He was hoping to encourage the Galatians to rediscover common ministries, missions, and purposes among them which would unite them again and make their witness to the wider community effective. They could not do this by themselves or with their own strength; they had to get back to relying on God and depending on the presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives, as well as their congregation. In these days of spiritual turmoil in our churches and denominational divisions, Paul’s message about the fruits of the Spirit is as relevant now as it was way back then. When we sincerely seek the presence of the Holy Spirit among us then we are given an authentic calling to go out into the wider community in order to show and share those beautiful gifts -love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control - to a broken world which needs those fruits to be healed of all the fear and fragmentation which is dividing our people and desolating our planet. Which fruit of the Spirit could be most effective in my life at this time? Am I willing to ask and wait for the Spirit to work this gift into my life? Prayer: Lord Jesus, You promised to send Your Holy Spirit to us to build up our faith and our churches. Help us to seek the sacred fruits which the Spirit can offer, so we may support one another and reach out to the wider community. 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 John an email to Traqair@aol.com. Today’s image is one of John’s Pentecost drawings called “Celtic Flame.” If you would like to view a larger version, click this link: Flame.
Jeremiah 8:11 They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious.
“Peace, peace,” they say, when there is no peace. (NIV)
Across the United States today, thousands of High Schoolers are walking out of their classes to collectively express their anger and distress over the recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida. For seventeen minutes, these young people will gather together at flagpoles, outdoor recess areas, and beyond the school gates to display their solidarity against the violence that is sadly too often experienced all over our beautiful nation. Like the Boston Tea Party members before the War of Independence, they are protesting about the current legislation which most people agree needs to be changed but is never truly altered. They are expressing their weariness of politicians at all levels who promise to make much-needed amendments after each mass shooting event, but who never get around to fulfilling their words. The protests, then, are our young peoples’ way of putting our representatives on notice that when their turn comes to be given the right to vote, they will remember this day and recall who actually listened to their voices. Today’s passage from Jeremiah deals with a similar time in the life of God’s people. The prophet bewails the fact that injustice and wickedness, corruption and violence are breaking apart the whole community and diminishing the faith of the nation. Fear and greed, dishonesty and coercion have contaminated the courage and strength of God’s people. They are drifting apart from one another and distancing themselves from God. Sadly, they are also being deceived by the authorities who declare that all is well. In response, God speaks through Jeremiah with words that cut through the hypocrisy and hyperbole: ‘They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. “Peace, peace,” they say, when there is no peace.’ I don’t know what the outcome of today’s protests will be, but I am proud of what our young people are doing and it makes feel better about the future. In my opinion, they are displaying one of the great freedoms that our nation gives to our people: the right to freely assemble and protest. May God bless all of their endeavors. How supportive am I of our young people? How am I seeking to give them a better future? Prayer: Lord God, there were times and moments in our history when Your Spirit moved an entire generation of folks to seek life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. They showed their solidarity and worked for the good of our people. In the midst of these current days, anoint our young people with common ideals and personal commitment that will alter our insufficient ways and change our nation, for the betterment of our society and the rest of 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 give some feedback about today’s message, please send him an email to Traqair@aol.com. Today’s image is one of John’s drawings called ‘Peacemakers.’ If you would like to view a larger version, please click this link: Peace.
Jeremiah 1:7 But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you.” (NRSV) Ever since the tragic Parkland massacre, High School students in the United States have been at the forefront of our daily news. Our young people are gravely concerned about the violence in our nation and want to make changes. Their voice is raw with intense feeling and their statements are unfettered by any cultural niceties or social courtesy. They feel insecure and outraged; they express a strong desire to make a difference, so that their generation can live in a more peaceable world and a less intolerant one. They are determined not to let this moment pass away, so they are showing a high amount of solidarity which may eventually define this upcoming generation. Sadly, some people are dismissing their views because they are young and inexperienced in the ways of the world. There is a pushback against any proposed changes to our current laws and some folks are even disparaging the sincerity of the young people, accusing them of being political foils for clandestine groups. I find this difficult to accept because I’ve watched and listened to these young people on all sorts of different occasions, but I guess those who falsely promoted the Sandy Hook conspiracy theories are jumping on the same cynical bandwagon once more. When God chose Jeremiah to be a prophet to his generation, Jeremiah pushed back against God’s choice because he thought he was too young. He couldn’t see himself as being effective because of his age and inexperience, so he tried to get God to change His mind and pick someone else. But, as always, God knew what He was doing. He needed someone to be the voice of prophecy for an entire generation, someone who had decades of life ahead of him. God was enlisting Jeremiah’s youthful zeal to a prophetic call that would constantly challenge God’s people for many years. In other words, God knew what He was doing when He appointed Jeremiah to the role of prophecy. No matter how young he was initially, God would use Jeremiah’s voice for justice and mercy, truth and change; perhaps He is still doing this with our own High Schoolers today. What kind of world do I want young people to live in? Am I willing to help them accomplish this? Prayer: Lord Jesus, when You were a teenager, You asked many questions in the Temple which amazed the elders and priests who heard You. Your life challenged traditional values and contemporary customs. You came to both save and change the world. Allow us to continue Your ministry in our communities, so that we may make this planet a more peaceable and less fearful place. 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 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 drawings of a Celtic Peace Cross with the Liturgical colors surrounding it. If you would like to view a larger version, please click this link: Peace.
Peace is possible when people Embrace each other with respect And set aside their agendas, Creating a culture of conversation, Ending fear by simply sharing love. Hope is experienced when people Open their hearts and broaden their minds, Putting away old prejudices by Emptying themselves of pride. Love triumphs when people Openly accept one another, Valuing the gifts and experiences Everyone brings to this table called Life
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