Saturday, July 28, 2007

Sunday devotional - One Stormy Night

Luke 11:42 "Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone. NIV

Many years ago, when I was a preacher in Scotland, two young women appeared at the manse door on a stormy winter's night. Both were slightly inebriated and had come to make a special request. One of them was a single mum, who doted on her five-year-old daughter. She wanted her only child baptized and was wondering if I would do it. Suddenly she burst into tears and couldn't say another word.

Her friend then continued the conversation. "Minister," she said, "she came here five years ago when the baby was born, but the last minister wouldn't christen her daughter. He told her the church didn't baptize that kind of child here."

I was shocked, but not surprised. My predecessor had a stern reputation for upholding church law and neglecting compassion. I told them I would be delighted to baptize the wee girl and asked if her mum would come to church on Sundays. The young mother stopped weeping, and her whole face brightened. For the first time in years, she felt accepted.

She came to church with her daughter the following Sunday. She soon became a member of the congregation and her daughter was baptized. She became a Sunday School teacher and brought her child up as a Christian. Her whole life changed because she was no longer burdened with shame. Before I left to minister in the United States, she thanked me for helping her and for accepting her daughter.

We have good rules, well thought out regulations, important teachings and holy traditions in our churches, but when we use them to oppress individuals and neglect to show compassion, we're no better than the Pharisees whom Jesus condemned. Justice and love of God are key elements of our faith. We should never forget to practice those things first, instead of hiding behind doctrine and dogma.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, guide us today when we come across other people who need help. Enable us to listen to their requests and empower us with enough love and compassion, mercy and grace to fully support and care for them. In doing so, may we bring them closer to You, their Savior and Lord. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.
Stushie is the writer of weekday devotionals on the Heaven's Highway site.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Sunday devotional - God's Truth

Romans 1:25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator-who is forever praised. Amen. (NIV)

Driving home late the other night, I was listening to a radio host ranting and raving against evangelical Christians. He declared that they had no right whatsoever to say that people of other faiths weren't going to get into heaven just because they didn't believe, serve or worship Jesus.As far as the talk show host was concerned, nobody was excluded and that the God he believed in was non-judgmental. Each time a Christian tried to call in and refute his beliefs, he quickly terminated the call. He was in no mood to be confronted; he wasn't interested giving evangelicals a fair say. After all, it was his radio show and, at that moment in time, he was god of the airwaves

That's the trouble with modern beliefs; everyone has their own individual god. We pick and choose what we want to believe as if God comes pre-packed, vacuum-sealed and perfectly sized from a spiritual supermarket shelf. If we want our perfect God to suit our modern lives, let's just select our own. After all, we are the center of our own universe, so why shouldn't God conform to our personal wee world?

The same old things were happening in Paul's time, too. The apostle, however, was bold enough to confront those beliefs and those kinds of people. "They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator." Paul wasn't ready to compromise the truth or let go of God. His way of faith meant he had to battle with his culture, people and trends everyday. If he had simply given in to society or dumbed-down his belief in Christ, we might never have read any of his letters, nor ever have heard the Gospel.

The truth of God challenges every one of us each day. It confronts our decisions. It meddles in our lives. It changes our opinions. God, who truly revealed Himself to us through Jesus, cannot be ignored or re-shaped into something we want to make our lives easier. The whole point about faith is to lead us to something bigger, better and eternal. None of it is a given. We need to meet God on His terms, not on our own. Our only choice is whether we will do it on this side of eternity or not. After death, we don't get to make any more choices. Game over. Christ wins.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, keep us free from making up our own images and worshipping our own ideas about who You are and what God does. Deliver us from pride, conceit and self-deceit, for those temptations have the potential to turn Your truth into a lie. Help us to read Your Holy Word, so that Your sacred ways may be revealed in our hearts and minds. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Montreat 2007

One of the best places to go for a Youth Conference - Montreat, North Carolina

Montreat 2007

Monday, July 16, 2007

UFO over Knoxville, TN

I was taking a sunset photo tonight - captured a UFO that looks like a Star Trek shuttle over Knoxville, Tennessee.


It begs a question: if life exists in other planets in the universe, what does that do to the uniqueness of Christianity?

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Candid Camera

Romans 1: 7a To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: (NIV)

I’ve written several times about St. Jude, the Roman Catholic patron saint of lost items and hopeless causes. My mother taught me to pray to him if I needed to find my keys. Over the years, despite being a Presbyterian pastor, when I get exasperated looking for something I’ve lost, I hear my mother’s words and say a silent prayer to St. Jude. Within a short period of time, I’ve always found what I’ve lost.

Well, at least that was the case until last weekend. My eldest daughter Lynsey was moving to Blacksburg, Virginia to begin her graduate course at Virginia Tech. The town is beautiful and the college buildings are exceptional. It all looks Ivy League to me.

I wanted to take some photos of the town, so I took my digital camera with me (if you want to see some of my past photographs, check out my photos, cartoons and drawings at ). So, I drove the U-Haul truck to Blacksburg on Saturday morning with all of Lynsey’s furniture.

Evelyn, Lauren, Lynsey and I unpacked the furniture and set up Lynsey’s new apartment. In the middle of the afternoon, we were finished and so we decided to visit downtown Blacksburg. It was then that I sadly discovered my digital camera was missing. We hunted all over the apartment, in cupboards, boxes, purses and even the garbage bags.

I drove back to U-haul and asked if they found a camera in the truck. They hadn’t. I looked over the grounds outside of Lynsey’s apartment and even the parking lot, but the camera was nowhere to be seen or found. That’s when I started to pray to good old St. Jude, but this time it didn’t seem to work.

Glum would describe my mood for the rest of the weekend. Blacksburg was beautiful, but I was carrying my own shadow around with me. Even during worship at Northside church on Sunday morning, I couldn’t stop thinking about the camera, so when it came to the offering, I said a prayer inside of myself like this: “Lord, I give my camera to whoever has found it. May he or she enjoy using it just as much as I have done. Amen.”

St. Jude had obviously missed an opportunity to make a Presbyterian pastor happy, so I just put it down to good old Presbyterian predestination. St. Jude had greatly disappointed me, so the Calvinist within me took over. Praying to the saints is not something that Presbyterians, especially pastors, should be doing. In my mind’s eye, I could see John Knox sternly rebuking me for asking St. Jude to intercede. I felt ashamed.

And then on Wednesday morning, the U-Haul guy in Blacksburg called me to say that he had found the camera hanging under the seat of the truck. Good, old St. Jude had come through! Maybe I’m a Calvinistic Catholic after all!

All together now!...“Oh, when the saints, go marching in…”

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for the saints of old and for their past ministries. We know that You alone intercede on our behalf for our salvation. Thank You for saving lost souls and for the work of the saints in Your earthly church that goes on throughout the world today. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.

Stushie writes the devotional blog "Heaven's Highway."

Friday, July 13, 2007

Friday Review. . . . A Tour Around the Blogosphere

Frequently on Friday, our member blog, Heaven's Highway, (whom you should recognize as the author of the devotions featured in this spot on Sundays) has been doing a Blogachute. Ok, so what is a Blogachute? It is simply a brief introduction/discussion of a bunch of different blogs -- who they are, what they are posting -- that kind of thing.

This week the Blogachute covers the Progressive Sphere. Now, these blogs aren't ring members, they aren't necessarily Presbyterian; but if you would like a quick look through a number of different progressive blogs, then this week's Blogachute is a good place to start.

Sometimes there is a theme like Progressive blogs or atheist/New Age spirituality blogs. Sometimes there isn't except that so far they have all been religious or spiritual blogs in some ways. Well, assuming you can call atheist blogs religious or spiritual -- but you get the idea.

Check it out. It is a fast and easy way to take a short tour around the Blogosphere


Sunday, July 08, 2007

Accepting the Unacceptable

Acts 15:8 God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. NIV

When I was at High school, I worked in a store that sold both work clothes and fashion items. It was owned by a Jewish family, the Freedmans, who had been in the business for a very long time. Mrs. Freedman, who was widowed, and her eldest son, Joe, ran the store. My job was to initially look after the stock, wash the floors, and lift the heavy wire grates from off the windows first thing in the morning. At the end of the day, I had to re-mop the floors, tidy the stock, and put the grates back on the windows.

Eventually, I also got to sell items to customers and discovered that I had a knack for making sales. The Freedmans were good people to work for; they believed in an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay. Mrs. Freedman taught me a lot about dealing with people, especially difficult or fussy customers. Much of what she impressed upon me has helped me throughout my years of ministry.

She also taught me about Judaism and engendered a great love of things Jewish within me. When I went to university to become a minister, she was delighted. And when I let her know that I was studying Hebrew, she was ecstatic. It was almost as if I was the son who became a Rabbi that she never had. Her acceptance of me as a teenager and her respect for me as a minister were two gifts that I will always cherish.

Our denominational church is deeply troubled and divided right now. There seems to be an atmosphere of antagonism and intolerance on both sides of the ordination debate. Each side claims to be right. Each oppose the other vehemently. Acceptance is unacceptable. Toleration is intolerable.

It seems to me that Peter faced the same kind of issues way back in the past. Some of the Jewish Christians wanted the Gentile Christians to follow their own traditions. But Peter spoke out against intolerance and expressed a great truth that we seem to have forgotten: God, who knows the heart, may be more accepting of others than we are.

It is my fervent prayer that God grant our church the gift of discernment, that is the ability to know, understand, and accept these things according to His ways, and not our own.

Prayer: Lord God, the church has always struggled with itself, but throughout the ages You have given guidance about who or what is acceptable to You. During these restless days, grant us Peter’s courage to declare that where there is evidence of Your Spirit, there is acceptance by You. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.

Stushie writes the daily blog "Heaven's Highway" which is listed at the right hand of this page.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Sunday devotional - a day late

No Mean City

Audio version here

Psalm 13:4 “my enemy will say, "I have overcome him,” and my foes will rejoice when I fall.”

I was devastated to hear about the terrorist attack at Glasgow airport in Scotland at the weekend. Glasgow is my hometown, a city with a rich diverse culture. Glaswegians are known for their hospitality and friendship. They even have one of the largest Islamic communities in Europe residing there.

I was angry, too, for the bombers knew that lots of innocent families would have been queuing up at the airport. Hundreds of children were waiting in line with their parents to fly out on their annual summer vacations. If the burning jeep had managed to penetrate the main doors, I dread to think how many children’s corpses would have been pulled out later.

And then this morning, I was shocked to read that two of the perpetrators were doctors! I thought that they took an oath to do no harm. What kind of inhumane, insane fanatics are being raised? How long will it take before these people come to their senses?

These terrorists are not religious people. They honor no one, nor do they respect the Quran. They are simply enemies of humanity whose wickedness has reached satanic proportions that they are willing to murder innocent men, women, and children in order to express their vile message of violence and cruelty.

They seek to overcome our way of life through fear, intimidation, and violence. They are barbaric bullies, contemptuous cowards, and pathetic parasites who malign the teachings of Mohammed, the peace of Christ, and the benign rule of God. They have sold their souls to the brazen god of fear, fanaticism, and vengeance. They have no honor, no glory, and no shame.

Glasgow is a diverse city that was built upon hardship, gumption, and true grit. The Nazis tried to bomb it out of existence in World War 2 and they failed to subdue the heart of the city. These terrorists will soon discover that the city of Glasgow flourishes in the midst of adversity and that the people will band together to overcome this evil. Wickedness will not prevail. Good will triumph over evil.

Prayer: Lord God, there are wicked people in the world who use religion to disguise their disgust for humanity. We pray that their efforts to destroy our way of life, hope, and faith will not be accomplished. Help us to confront this evil and join together with the majority of humanity to defend ourselves and overcome this wickedness. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.