Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Presbyterian Cartoons: Peace Talks

Sometimes I get really frustrated with the hypocrisy of international politics...

Peace Talks

President Bush believes he can broker Middle East Peace, but at what cost to Human Rights?

Stushie writes the daily devotional Heaven's Highway, but also illustrates current political cartoons at Pushing the Envelope

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Sunday Devotional: Boxer

Audio version here

2 Corinthians 4:7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.

A couple of years ago, the WWJD movement swept Christian circles. I can remember seeing many young people wearing bracelets with those initials on them. It all had to do with the much loved book, “In His Steps” written by Charles M. Sheldon. The book was all about a church being transformed by an event that caused the congregation to ask themselves “What Would Jesus Do?” in every situation.

Like most movements, this one has had its day, and people have moved on to something else. Sheldon’s book can still be purchased online, but how many people are reading and applying it?

Sheldon wrote a much better book called “Broken Earthenware,” which is sadly out of print. It tells the story of a fierce thief called Boxer, who is dramatically converted one night during a burglary. Instead of remaining a thief, Boxer becomes an itinerant preacher, who is slain by the Spirit and washed in the blood of Jesus. Instead of bullying the people in his community like some sort of Bill Sykes, he changes the thieves and vagabonds, drunks and prostitutes in his part of London. He gets them to build a church and the book tells of his struggles with faith. In the end, his young son becomes a pastor and continues the work of Christ.

It’s a great book based on a true story. I owe my ministry, marriage, and children to Boxer’s conversion. Why? Well, you see Boxer’s son was known as Pastor Howard and when he was in his late eighties, he came to the 428 Gospel club in Glasgow, Scotland and preached a message about his father, which reduced everyone to tears, including my own wife Evelyn, who gave her heart to Christ when Pastor Howard gave the call. Boxer’s legacy of faith continues in the love of the Lord that both our children have in their hearts. God does indeed work in mysterious ways.

It is my fervent hope and prayer that you have also given your heart to Jesus in a personal way. All it takes is surrendering yourself to God’s love, looking for His forgiveness, and receiving His blessing through Jesus Christ, God’s Holy Son.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for the people in the past whose lives and faith have touched our own. Thank You for the Spirit of conversion that transforms even the wickedest of people into becoming Your most devoted servants. Give us the courage to surrender our hearts to You today, and help us to place our lives into Your hands, both now and forever. Amen.

Stushie writes the daily devotional Heaven's Highway, which is now podcast on Stushie's Stuff and listed on ITunes.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Sunday Devotional: Monkey Puzzle

Audio Version here

Have you ever seen a monkey puzzle tree? They are also known as Chilean Pines and come from the Andes regions in South America. They prefer a cold, wet climate so you see a lot of them in Scotland. I guess some intrepid Victorian explorer brought the seeds back home with him and they started to flourish in Scottish gardens.

I think that they are beautiful trees and love seeing them around the world. I know that there are some in Virginia, but I’ve not come across any in Tennessee. They make beautiful ornamental trees when they are young, but as they grow older they reach massive heights. The leaves on the tree are packed tightly together and look like cacti. I suspect that they were called monkey puzzles because South American capuchin monkeys would have a hard time getting to the top to eat the tree nuts.

Some verses from the Bible are like that. Take today’s for instance:-Luke 18:8 I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?

It’s from a parable about prayer and justice, which seems to conclude when Christ teaches His listeners that God hears those who persevere in prayer. But then Jesus tags on something completely different. He challenges the people by asking ‘will faith be found on earth when He returns?’

What does Jesus mean by this? You would think that people who persistently pray have faith and those who uphold justice would be godly. Why is Christ not expecting much faith on the earth when He returns? This is one of those verses that I wish Jesus hadn’t uttered. It just makes my head go round and round in circles.

And then a light goes on: it’s a lesson for all of us not to get too preoccupied with our needs or to be overwhelmed by the woes of the world. If we are too focused on the here and now, we will disregard what’s to come and forget that, as well as having earthly experiences, we also can have an eternal life with Christ. So I guess instead of trying to make everything perfect in the world, we should be willing to wait for that perfection when Christ eventually arrives. If we concentrate too much on what happens here, we end up having faith in ourselves; but if we hold on to that sacred hope that when Christ returns peace and justice, blessings and happiness will be ours, then we will be constantly looking forward to that precious time. And if we do that, then Christ will indeed find faith on earth when He at last returns.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, we constantly talk to You about our needs and seek justice throughout the world. Help us to do whatever we can to make this world a better place, but also remind us that perfection and peace, justice and true enjoyment will only come to all the earth when You arrive. Be with us and bless us as we wait to serve You forever. Amen.

Stushie writes weekday devotionals at Heaven's Highway and illustrates current political cartoons at Pushing the Envelope.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Mentioned in Dispatches

Presbyterian Outlook has just published a special issue on some Presbyterian bloggers, which may be of interest to you.

Go to their home page and check under reports and resources.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Sunday Devotional for Veteran's Day

Romans 8:36 - As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. (KJV)

Many years ago, a paramedic in Scotland showed me a soldier's knapsack Bible. It belonged to his uncle, who had been killed in World War I. The Bible, along with his other possessions, had been returned to his grieving family. As they looked through the Bible, they discovered these words from Romans were underlined in pencil: "For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter." They seemed to describe the young man's horrifying experiences of trench warfare.

Alec, the paramedic, felt as though his young uncle was speaking to him beyond the grave, letting him know that his death at the Somme was a sacrifice for the freedom of the people back home. But his message didn't end there. Verses 38 to 39 were double underlined, revealing the young soldier's faith, which death could not diminish nor destroy.

Romans 8:38-39 - For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (KJV)

In the midst of all our carefree leisure, happy pursuits, and personal freedom, does our faith match up to that of the young soldier?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, nothing can ever separate us from You, but sometimes we take that for granted. Remind us of Your sacrifice, Your loss, Your passion that has given us this wonderful opportunity to live beyond death, to hope above adversity, to have faith in the face of danger and trouble. In Your holy name we pray. Amen.

Stushie writes the daily devotional Heaven's Highway

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Sunday Devotional - Beware the Golden Compass

Audio version here

There’s a new movie coming out just before Christmas called “The Golden Compass.” It’s a fantasy movie based on a best selling trilogy by the author, Philip Pullman. It’s the usual good vs. bad story, with the heroes winning the day. The only trouble with the book is this: the Church is perceived as being bad, whilst being a free spirit - without being encumbered by God – is the ultimate good.

In the first book, the clergy are portrayed as being kidnappers of children, who want to enslave their spirits to serve the Authority, which is God. The whole series is about rebelling against the Church and ultimately killing the Authority, in order to achieve true freedom. There’s a subtle message of atheism being glorified and religion being diminished in the book. Philip Pullman is aiming the series at children because he wants to mess up their relationship with God and lead them into the lonely wilderness of atheism and chaos.

You may decide to take your kids to the movie or read the books for yourselves. That is your own free choice. But don’t do it without evaluating your relationship with God and Christ’s Church first. If your faith is ambivalent and your notion of the Church is flimsy, you may put your beliefs on the line and end up disregarding God’s sovereignty. You may also be putting your kids in harm’s way and leaving them with more doubts about God, Christ, and the Church.

Whatever you decide, remember that Pullman has his own agenda, which certainly isn’t God’s. He wants God dead in the hearts and minds of people, so that we can live in a free-spirited world where anything goes. We had that once before, in the centuries preceding Christ. Human sacrifices, paganism, and dark forces ruled the hearts and minds of men during those times: are we sure that we want to regress back into those days, or do we instead choose to remember that God rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of Christ?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, grant us the rare gift of discernment in our lives, so that we will make better choices. Help us to know what to do about this movie and these books. Keep us from being persuaded by the hidden messages that we may encounter. Help us to deepen our faith in You by remembering that the seasons of Thanksgiving and Christmas are times when we honor and glorify You. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.

Stushie writes the daily devotional "Heaven's Highway," as well as illustrating the political cartoon site "Pushing the Envelope."

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Special Devotional: Nov 1 - Every Christian is a Saint today

Acts 26:17, 18 I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.' (NIV)

Today is All Saints’ Day in the Christian Calendar. We don’t usually celebrate it as Presbyterians, but Roman Catholics are required to go to mass today, for this is what’s called a Feast of Obligation. To them, it’s one of the holiest days in the year.

There are more than 365 saints in the Roman Catholic Church, so a special day was set aside to commemorate and celebrate all the saints who ever lived on earth. It’s a day to give thanks to God for the past witnesses of church leaders and holy people. It’s also a day to make special prayers to your favorite saint from the past, in the hope that he or she will intercede on your behalf.

But Presbyterians don’t celebrate this day because we don’t believe in the veneration of saints. Instead, we believe in the sanctifying (making of saints) of the people of God through the conversion of our souls and the forgiveness of our sins. That’s the process that the apostle Paul is expressing here. He’s talking about the saintliness of ordinary people through the extraordinary holiness of Jesus Christ.

Therefore, for Presbyterians to celebrate All Saints Day, we should remember the people who have made a positive impact in our lives with regard to the faith that we carry in our hearts and minds. We should give thanks to God for the Sunday School teachers and pulpit preachers who have helped us to become Christians. We should honor those who work hard for our local congregations in our ministry and mission programs. We should remember those who work in foreign lands bringing the Gospel to millions of people throughout the earth. And we should also remember our own service to the Lord in our congregations and communities.

So, let this day be sanctified in all of our hearts. Let it be an occasion to be grateful for the saints in each of our lives who bring us closer to the Lord. And let’s also look for positive opportunities to be Christ’s sanctified servants to all whom we meet and encounter today.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for this special day and for all the saints who are working for Your Kingdom here on earth. Thank You for their focus and faith, their devotion and dedication, their example and encouragement. Bless and sanctify all of us, so that we may faithfully and effectively carry on Your ministry and mission to our community and world. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.

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