All posts by jimesch

December 5 – “Then an angel of the Lord appeared to Zechariah,

“Then an angel of the Lord appeared to Zechariah, standing at the right side of the altar of incense.”

5 Read: Luke 1:5-22

It was not by accident that God spoke to Zechariah when he was in the temple praying. Time and Place are always important. God made His will known to Zechariah as he fulfilled his priestly responsibilities. Right in the middle of worship and prayer God moved the plan of salvation one step closer to fulfillment. He brought this old, faithful priest into his confidence. He answered his prayer. God’s will and Zechariah’s plea intersected only to take off in a direction Zechariah never dreamed of.

It is in the thoughtful routine of worship and in the practice of spiritual disciplines that the meaning of Christmas becomes clearer. It is as we pray and sing and wait in quietness that God often speaks. Worship frees us from all the hassles and the clutter and points us in the direction of the Savior.

Like Zechariah we often find God taking us in directions we never expected. The world and the forces of evil are pulling on us as well. Will we listen and obey God?

Prayer: Father help us to quiet ourselves and discipline our restlessness. We need to hear Your Word and rejoice in Your promises. If we cannot center on You we will be pulled in every direction. Teach us to know You, quietly sovereign, Lord of our life. Amen.

December 4 – . . . But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren.”

“Both of them were upright in the sight of God . . . But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren.”

Read: Luke 1:5-17

From a human perspective the timing looked all wrong. “In the time of Herod king of Judea” was about the worst time we could imagine. But from God’s perspective it was the fullness of time. God does not operate on worldly standard time. Nor does he use the people we might expect. There is no perfect time. There are no perfect people, but that didn’t stop God!

Life often does not turn out the way we expect it should. It certainly didn’t for Elizabeth. She had no children. If we read between the lines we sense a lot of suffering in Elizabeth’s life even though she was good and obedient. The danger faithful people face, especially older Christians, is believing that life is nothing more than a mixed bag of good and evil. We need to learn what Elizabeth did; that in one way or another God does overcome the barrenness of life when we trust Him and are faithful to Him.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, teach us to trust you in the middle of our disappointments. Sometimes we are frustrated that You do not work the way we expect you should. We keep looking for a blessing that doesn’t come. Lord enable us to accept both the strain and the promise of faithfulness. We are Your children and we look forward to Your inheritance Amen.

December 3 – “Joseph, the husband of Mary,

“Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.”

Read: Matthew 1:1-17

As we read through the family history of Jesus we recognize some well known Bible characters: Abraham, Ruth, David, and Solomon. There are also quite a few names we can’t pronounce let alone remember. There are heroes of the faith listed side by side with evil characters who cared nothing for God’s plan of salvation. It’s a miracle that the line of faith and promise extends to Joseph and Mary.

Through it all God’s redemptive history prevails. If we are believers our names are added to the list. We are part of Jesus’ family. As we look at our family history we can thank God that His Salvation reaches us. God brings us through the confusion, the immoralities, the deaths and births, the sorrows and blessings, to Himself.

Prayer: We worship You, Lord God, the Author and Perfecter of our faith. We know that all things do work together for good for those who love You and are called according to your purpose. We praise you for your faithfulness and patience. Help us to persevere and stick to your purposes. Amen

December 2 – “But you, Bethlehem … out of you will come a Ruler”

Read: Micah 5:2

Time and Place are important to God and man. God’s prophecy seeks fulfillment in the territory of space and time. The Bible is not an ingenious literary invention created to give shape to the human imagination. The Bible is biographical, historical, and descriptive. It is inspired commentary on God’s interaction with mankind.

Bethlehem is just as real as Kansas City or Chicago or Des Moines. The birth of Christ took place in a relatively small and insignificant village. But it happened. It’s not a fairy tale staged in never, never land. In the fullness of time God entered our world and His creation. The Incarnate One was born in a little Palestinian village. The Savior of the world did not need the world’s power or publicity to make an impact. The angelic host was real, not ornamental. They praised God with real music heard by ordinary shepherds. The characters from Mary to Herod are not actors in a performance but people like you and me living in the real world.

Prayer: Father God, help us to appreciate what is real and what is important. We know you didn’t come to impress but to save. We accept your rule in our lives right where we live. We acknowledge that you are King of kings and Lord of lords in the place where you have put us. May the reality of Christ’s presence be felt in our community, in our homes, as it was in Bethlehem. Amen.

December 1 – “When the time had fully come God sent his Son”

Read: Galatians 3:26-4:7

History is much more than a collection of random facts and a chain reaction of events. History is shaped by God. Who we are depends on a relationship with a real life historical person, Christ Jesus. Because of the salvation Christ offers, we are no longer slaves to sin. The Lord of history has made a way for our salvation. God, in Christ, entered into human life fully so that we might fully know our Heavenly Father.

Our thoughtful, Biblical celebration of Christmas helps us understand the substance of personal life. As we consider the grand scale of history we find our attention on a single subject, Jesus Christ. Apart from Christ, our ordinary lives lack purpose. If we don’t see ourselves as image-bearers of God, what defines our self worth? Without the Lord of history the confusion, frustration, and burdens of life penetrate and shape our self-understanding. Christmas is a reminder of what counts in life. It is a time of spiritual renewal when we re-examine the meaning and the practice of our faith in Christ.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for sending your Son to make us your children. Thank you for freeing us from sin and slavery and bringing us into your family. With the Spirit of your Son in our hearts we call you our Father, Amen.

Doug Webster is my friend and mentor and in the late 1980’s I had the privilege of serving as Administrative Pastor at Evangelical Community Church (ECC) in Bloomington, Indiana during his tenure as Senior Pastor. These devotionals were originally prepared for ECC and Doug has graciously allowed me to revise and post them. Doug is now Professor of Pastoral Theology and Preaching at Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Alabama.


Many people are posting on social media today and listing all the things for which they are thankful. It is, after all, Thanksgiving Day.

As I look over the lists that include family, freedom, finances, football, and food, there’s something missing. Some lists include God the Father and Jesus and even the Holy Spirit, but I soon began to search for a list that included the one thing I am most grateful for; the one thing that gives meaning and purpose to life; the one thing that gives us hope.

The Resurrection!

Jesus conquered death.

He was crucified – the most torturous punishment of its time – even though he was innocent of any wrongdoing. The Roman soldiers put spikes through his wrists and feet and watched as he began to suffocate, finally thrusting a spear into his side to make sure he was really dead. They buried him.

But death could not defeat Jesus. He did exactly what he said he would do: He came back to life – a miracle witnessed by his closest friends and 400 of his followers.

Jesus’ resurrection is the number one thing for which I am most grateful. There is no number two or three or four. Only the empty grave.

Without Jesus’ victory over death there would be no hope and certainly nothing to celebrate on Thanksgiving.

Stop. Please, Please, Stop.

Stop. Please, Please Stop!

Before you post anything or say anything at the ballgame or theater or grocery store . . . please read this:

As a church family – a household of Faith – we believe and practice that human life is created by God and is good. Since we are uniquely created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27) and formed by God (Genesis 2:7; Job 33:4; Psalm 139:13–16), we hold to the sanctity of all human life (Genesis 9:6; Matthew 6:26). As best as we understand, human life begins at conception (Psalm 139:13–16; Jeremiah 1:4–5). It also lasts beyond death into eternity (John 5:28–29; 1 Corinthians 15:51–52; 2 Corinthians 5:8–10). God gives life and breath to everyone (Acts 17:25), calling us to value equally the dignity of every individual life in its entirety, which compels us to love and have compassion for all peoples of the world (2 Corinthians 5:14–15).

EVERYONE matters to God. EVERYONE matters to us.

That includes people on BOTH SIDES of the debates now raging about the ruling on abortion rights from the Supreme Court this morning.

God loves the abortionist and the LGBTQ+ people and the ultra-conservatives and the moderates. And He loves the justices who voted against overturning Roe vs Wade just as much as he loves those who were in the majority. He loves the women who have had abortions and those who are contemplating the decision; those who’ve experienced abuse, trauma, and rape.

As followers of Jesus, we should be slow, very slow to speak. (James 1:19) Let’s be very careful not to alienate anyone who feels like they “lost” today by claiming a “win.”

By every human measure, Jesus lost. On purpose. With a purpose. Let’s humbly join Him by caring deeply for the people who are hurt, disillusioned, and angry.

Let’s avoid gloating, prideful claims of victory, and any words – spoken or written – which might damage the ears and hearts and minds of people who need to see and experience the love of Jesus.

Texas Tragedy

How do we respond? How do we answer the questions from young kids, teenagers, young adults, and especially those who are far from Jesus?

A school shooting in Uvalde, Texas on Tuesday, May 24, left dead 19 children and two adults plus the shooter. And there are many wounded.

The “breaking news” is that the world is broken. Evil is alive and well. But our hope is in God who is our fortress and protector in times of trouble. We take refuge in Him. (See Psalm 37)

Bad things happen to good people. Horrific, unspeakable crimes are perpetrated against helpless, defenseless children.

Is God powerful enough to stop tragedies like a teenager slaughtering children in an elementary school? Yes, absolutely! Why doesn’t God stop all these bad things from happening?

I don’t know . . .

But I DO KNOW that God did not abandon those students, teachers or first responders. He was right there with them in those terrifying moments. God is always present – never absent. He joins us in our suffering.

Even as I write this, God is in the surgical suites, hospital rooms, and funeral director’s offices. He is present in the homes where grief threatens to overwhelm because someone is now absent. God steps into our suffering. He does not leave us alone but enters into the pain, confusion, and anguish with us.

Don’t reject God because He doesn’t measure up to your standard. God is trustworthy because He is all-powerful, always present, and knows everything. Even when everything seems to be going wrong, God is still good.

Sissy Goff offers some great words for parents, grandparents – for all of us:

Also check out this article on “Talking to Children About Violence.” Note: We don’t endorse everything found on the NASP website!

Camp Tri State 2018 Discussion and Devo Questions

NOTE: Stephen Grant, a Camp Alumnus and intern working with me this summer, is the main author of the following material. I provided direction and editing.

Day 1- Riches & Poverty: Ephesians 5:8-10 & Luke 15:11-32

Main Idea: When we wake up to the light of Christ our priorities are altered.

Introduction: Luke 15:11-32 is one of the most well-known parables of Jesus, The Parable of the Lost Son. In this parable, the lost son wants his share of the estate and receives that share. He has all this money from his father’s estate and decides to waste that money on wild living and soon becomes poor and ends up living with pigs. At some point, the son decides to go back home to his father and older brother. The father is filled with compassion when he sees his lost son and decides to make a huge celebration, because what was once lost is now found. The lost son went from riches to poverty and back to riches.

  1. What is the one thing that you value the most?
  2. What would your reaction be if you lost it? If you found it?
  3. If someone gave you 1 million dollars what would you do with it?
  4. Who’s the main character in the parable: the prodigal son, the older brother, or the father?
  5. Why are the reactions of the father and the older brother quite different?
  6. Why are we told nothing about what happened to the older brother?
  7. Why do you think Jesus finished this parable without telling us the end?
  8. What is the point that Jesus is making in telling this parable?
  9. How would you react if your father or mother showed compassion towards you after you turned your back against them?
  10. How is the story of the Prodigal an illustration of moving from darkness into the light of the Lord? (Ephesians 5:8)


Day 2- Bondage & Freedom: Ephesians 5:11-12 & Acts 16:16-40

Main Idea: Becoming children of the Light means we leave behind the “deeds of darkness” by exposing them to light.

Introduction: In Acts 16:16-40 Paul and Silas are sent to prison for their faith. While in prison, both Paul and Silas prayed and sang hymns to God. An earthquake took place that destroyed the doors and the chains of the prison, but all of the prisoners stayed. The account ends with Paul and Silas being released from prison; Paul and Silas went from bondage to freedom.

Morning Questions

  1. What’s the worst place you’ve visited or have been to?
  2. What made that place so terrible?
  3. What did you do while at that place?
  4. What would you do if you were thrown into prison?
  5. How were Paul and Silas able to leave from prison?
  6. Why is this story important?
  7. What actions, words, and attitudes do you need to expose to light?

Evening Questions

Read Ephesians 5:11-13

  1. What comes to your mind when you hear or see the word prison?
  2. If you had to pick one city in America to never visit, what would the city be?
  3. Why were Paul and Silas sent to prison?
  4. Why did none of the prisoners, including Paul and Silas, escape when the earthquake destroyed the prison doors and chains?
  5. What’s the significance of Paul informing the jailer that none of the prisoners escaped?
  6. What did they do in prison and why is it significant?
  7. How is what we do in the dark different from what we do in the light?


Day 3- Wisdom & Foolishness: Ephesians 5: 15-16 & Proverbs 10:1-12

Main Idea: Wisdom and foolishness are both powerful forces in our lives. We need to learn to walk in wisdom.

Introduction: In Proverbs 10:1-12, we see Solomon giving advice to his son. He’s encouraging his son not to make the foolish choices that he made in his life. One of the foolish things Solomon did in his life was having 700 wives and 300 concubines, while he served as king of Israel. In this passage, you’ll discover the contrast between wisdom and foolishness as Solomon is sharing wisdom with his son.

Morning Questions

  1. What’s the smartest thing you ever did?
  2. What’s the dumbest thing you ever did?
  3. What’s the smartest thing you’ve seen someone do?
  4. Why is it so significant about Solomon sharing wisdom with his son?
  5. What’s your definition of wisdom?
  6. What steps will you take in your everyday life to live a life filled with wisdom?

Evening Questions

Read Ephesians 5:15-17

  1. What’s the dumbest thing you’ve seen someone do?
  2. What annoys you the most about people who are foolish or make bad decisions?
  3. What’s your definition of foolishness?
  4. What do you like most about people who are wise?
  5. Why is it that sometimes we do smart things and other times we do dumb things?
  6. What steps will you take in your everyday life to live a life filled with wisdom?


Day 4- Death & Life: Ephesians 5:18-20 & John 11:17-44

Main Idea: The contrast between trying to live a good life without the power of the Holy Spirit is like the difference between death and life.

Introduction: In John 11:17-44, Jesus is going to Judea to wake up his friend, Lazarus who’s been dead for 4 days. Martha and Mary confront Jesus about being absent when Lazarus dies and Jesus’ response is that He’s the resurrection and the life. Before, he raises up Lazarus, Jesus wept. Jesus calls Lazarus to come out of the tomb and he came out. Lazarus went from death to life.

Morning Questions

  1. If you would see someone being raised from the dead, how would you respond?
  2. Are you surprised by Jesus’ response of crying?
  3. What’s the significance of Jesus’ weeping?
  4. What does it mean that Jesus is the resurrection and the life?
  5. Did this event help people believe that God sent Jesus to earth? Why or why not?

Evening Questions

Read Ephesians 5:15-20

  1. What terrifies you most about death?
  2. Describe a time in your life when you lost a loved one.
  3. Who’s the closest friend you’ve ever had? Describe that relationship.
  4. Why do you think the disciples misunderstood Jesus when He said that He’ll wake Lazarus up?
  5. Thinking about Lazarus’ perspective, what was the best thing about him coming back to life? What was the worst thing?
  6. What steps do you need to take to practice daily being filled with the Holy Spirit?

Not Surprised . . . But Very Sad

A school shooting.

On Valentine’s Day.

Seventeen fatalities; 15 wounded.

Students walked past the bodies of classmates as they evacuated the building.

Scores of families devastated.

Hundreds of lives changed forever.

Evil is alive and well. Since Genesis 4 humans have killed humans in anger. As much as we would like to think we are advancing the human race not much has changed. Hatred and animus still produce unspeakable violence.

But we should not be surprised.

Satan’s job description is to “steal and kill and destroy.” (John 10:10) Until hearts turn away from individualism and selfishness we will continue to witness terrible atrocities. People will die senseless deaths.

As Followers of Jesus we are once again presented with an opportunity to respond with grace and love. We are called to love one another. We are called to love like God loves.

Let’s avoid the “pat answers” and, instead, respond to the latest tragedy with thoughtful consideration. Let’s listen to the pain of others and be careful to empathize with their confusion. As Followers of Jesus, let’s avoid being judgmental and critical and focus on inviting people to join us on this journey of knowing God and being known by Him.

The “breaking news” is that the world is broken. But our hope is in God who is our fortress and protector in times of trouble. We take refuge in Him. (See Psalm 37)