A Congregation of Conservative Evangelical Christians

In Pursuit of Jesus Easter Daily Bread Devotions

“Day 1 Devotional

Grief Overturned
According to Jim and Jamie Dutcher, filmmakers known for their knowledge of wolves, when happy, wolves wag their tails and romp about. But after the death of a pack member, they grieve for weeks. They visit the place where the pack member died, showing grief by their drooping tails and mournful howls.

Grief is a powerful emotion we’ve all experienced, particularly at the death of a loved one or of a treasured hope. Mary Magdalene experienced it. She’d traveled with and helped support Jesus and His disciples (Luke 8:1–3). But His cruel death on a cross separated them. The only thing left for Mary to do for Jesus was to finish anointing His body for burial—a task the Sabbath had interrupted. But imagine how Mary felt when she found not a lifeless, broken body but a living Savior! Though she hadn’t at first recognized the man standing before her, when He spoke her name, she knew who He was—Jesus! Instantly, grief turned to joy. Mary now had joyful news to share: “I have seen the Lord!” (John 20:18).
Jesus entered our dark world to bring freedom and life. His resurrection celebrates that He accomplished what He set out to do. We too can celebrate His resurrection and share the good news: He’s alive! —Linda Washington

When have you experienced a time when your sadness turned to joy? How will you share the news of Christ’s resurrection this week?

Jesus, I celebrate Your resurrection and the new life I can experience in You.

NLT Bible John 20:1-18

Early on Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. 2 She ran and found Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved. She said, “They have taken the Lord’s body out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”3 Peter and the other disciple started out for the tomb. 4 They were both running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He stooped and looked in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he didn’t go in. 6 Then Simon Peter arrived and went inside. He also noticed the linen wrappings lying there, 7while the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head was folded up and lying apart from the other wrappings. 8 Then the disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in, and he saw and believed—9 for until then they still hadn’t understood the Scriptures that said Jesus must rise from the dead. 10 Then they went home.Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene 11 Mary was standing outside the tomb crying, and as she wept, she stooped and looked in. 12 She saw two white-robed angels, one sitting at the head and the other at the foot of the place where the body of Jesus had been lying. 13“Dear woman, why are you crying?” the angels asked her.“Because they have taken away my Lord,” she replied, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”14 She turned to leave and saw someone standing there. It was Jesus, but she didn’t recognize him. 15“Dear woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who are you looking for?”She thought he was the gardener. “Sir,” she said, “if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.”16“Mary!” Jesus said.She turned to him and cried out, “Rabboni!” (which is Hebrew for “Teacher”).17“Don’t cling to me,” Jesus said, “for I haven’t yet ascended to the Father. But go find my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”18 Mary Magdalene found the disciples and told them, “I have seen the Lord!” Then she gave them his message.

“Day 2 Devotional

A Good Man

“Jerry was a good man,” the pastor said at Jerald Stevens’ memorial service. “He loved his family. He was faithful to his wife. He served his country in the armed services. He was an excellent dad and grandfather. He was a great friend.”
But then the pastor went on to tell the friends and family gathered that Jerry’s good life and good deeds were not enough to assure him a place in heaven. And that Jerry himself would have been the first to tell them that!
Jerry believed these words from the Bible: “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard” (Romans 3:23) and “the wages of sin is death” (6:23). Jerry’s final and eternal destination in life’s journey wasn’t determined by whether he lived a really good life but entirely by Jesus – the perfect Son of God – dying in his place to pay sin’s penalty. He believed that each of us must personally accept the free gift of God, which is “eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord” (v. 23).
Jerry was a good man, but he could never be “good enough”. See the link below to view Rasool Berry’s “In Pursuit of Jesus” story. He, like us, had to learn that salvation and righteousness aren’t the results of human effort. They’re gifts by God’s grace ( Ephesians 2:8).
“Thank God for this gift too wonderful for words!” (2 Corinthians 9:15). ” Cindy Hess Kasper

How is it freeing to know you’ll never be good enough” to get into heaven? How will you approach someone who believes their good works will earn a place for them there?

Dear God, thank You for Your freely given gift of eternal life to all who have faith in You. I’m so thankful I don’t need to earn my way into heaven.”
go.odb.org/thegoodman

Ephesians 2:8 New Living Translation (NLT)

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.

Romans 3:10-18 New Living Translation (NLT)

10 As the Scriptures say,

“No one is righteous—
    not even one. 11 No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God. 12 All have turned away; all have become useless. No one does good, not a single one.”
13 “Their talk is foul, like the stench from an open grave.  Their tongues are filled with lies.” “Snake venom drips from their lips.”14 “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”15 “They rush to commit murder.16  Destruction and misery always follow them. 17 They don’t know where to find peace.“18     “They have no fear of God at all.

“Day 3 Devotional

How to Get a New Heart

“A friend who’s a heart transplant cardiologist has an appreciation of Ezekiel 36:26 that not many of us can understand. Mike manages the pre-operation and post-operation care for heart-transplant patients. He’s often in the operating room as surgeons remove diseased, discolored hearts and replace them with vibrant, pink “new” donor hearts.
Mike explains that the process for selecting who gets a “new” physical heart is similar to who can get a “new heart” from God (Ezekiel 36:26). In both cases, need alone is the criterion.
Ezekiel’s mention of the people of Israel someday getting a “new heart” is a foreshadowing of the change that takes place at salvation. Ephesians 4:24 and 2 Corinthians 5:17 refer to it as “new nature” and “new person”. For the Israelites of Ezekiel’s day and for those of us living today, only one criterion must be met for us to acquire a “transplant”. We must need it. It matters not whether we’re rich or poor, respected or scorned. Citizenship, social status, and ethnicity are inconsequential. If we need a new heart from God, we can have one through faith in Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection.
What indicates that need? As sinners, all of us need a new heart. Have you had a spiritual heart transplant?” Dave Branon

How is it comforting to know that the only requirement for a new heart is need alone? If you’ve received your new heart, how’s it working?

Thank You, God for giving a new heart to all who ask. Help our new hearts to beat in time with Yours.

Ezekiel 36:26-31 New Living Translation (NLT)
26 And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations. 28 “And you will live in Israel, the land I gave your ancestors long ago. You will be my people, and I will be your God. 29 I will cleanse you of your filthy behavior. I will give you good crops of grain, and I will send no more famines on the land. 30 I will give you great harvests from your fruit trees and fields, and never again will the surrounding nations be able to scoff at your land for its famines. 31 Then you will remember your past sins and despise yourselves for all the detestable things you did.

“Day 4 Devotional

A New Calling

Teenage Casey led his gang to break into homes and cars, rob convenience stores, and fight other gangs. Eventually, Casey was arrested. In prison, he became a “shot caller,” someone who handed out homemade knives during riots.
Sometime later, he was placed in solitary confinement. While daydreaming in his cell, Casey experienced a “movie” of sorts replaying key events in his life- and of Jesus, being led to and nailed to the cross and telling him, “I’m doing this for you.” Casey fell to the floor weeping and confessed his sins. Later, he shared his experience of God’s grace with a chaplain, who explained more about Jesus and gave him a Bible. “That was the start of my journey of faith,” Casey said. Eventually, he was released into the mainline prison population, where he was mistreated for his faith but felt at peace, because he’d “found a new calling: telling other inmates about Jesus.”
In his letter to Timothy, the apostle Paul talks about the power of Christ to change lives: God calls us from lives of wrongdoing to follow and serve Jesus (2 Timothy 1:9). See the story of Bernice Lee and Tan Soo-Inn in the link below. Like Casey, they experienced God’s grace, and now the Holy Spirit empowers them to be living witnesses of Christ’s love. Through the Holy Spirit’s enabling, we too have a new calling to share the good news (v.8).”

When have you shared the gospel with someone? What was the result? Did it ever lead to suffering? What happened?

Dear God, thank You for offering us a new calling through Your Son. And thank You for giving us the Spirit to live inside us to guide and empower us to serve You.

go.odb.org/thespiritualleader

2 Timothy 1:6-14 New Living Translation (NLT)
6 This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you. 7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. 8 So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord. And don’t be ashamed of me, either, even though I’m in prison for him. With the strength God gives you, be ready to suffer with me for the sake of the Good News. 9 For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus. 10 And now he has made all of this plain to us by the appearing of Christ Jesus, our Savior. He broke the power of death and illuminated the way to life and immortality through the Good News. 11 And God chose me to be a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of this Good News. 12 That is why I am suffering here in prison. But I am not ashamed of it, for I know the one in whom I trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him[a] until the day of his return. 13 Hold on to the pattern of wholesome teaching you learned from me—a pattern shaped by the faith and love that you have in Christ Jesus. 14 Through the power of the Holy Spirit who lives within us, carefully guard the precious truth that has been entrusted to you.

“Day 5 Devotional

Absolutely Everything

A high school basketball team faced a challenge because of the religious convictions of its star player. The accomplished athlete played every game, usually leading his team to victory – except on Friday nights. A devout Jew, the young man stayed at home because Friday evening is the beginning of Sabbath. And his team would typically lose. “His absence on the Sabbath”, one teammate wrote, “was a witness that something else had hold of his time, something even more important than basketball. He was different. He had…a calling, a commitment.”
As believers in Jesus, we have a calling that should impact every decision of our lives. Our decisions communicate what we value. There’s no portion of our life, however small, that we should hold back from God. We surrender everything, absolutely everything to Jesus. “Whatever you do or say, ” Paul says, “do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus” (Colossians 3:17). In whatever we do – in every relationship, every business decision, every choice about our future, every passion – we do it all in Jesus’ name, surrendering each and every piece of us to Christ’s authority. It’s through these everyday details that we “set [our] sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits” (v.1).
Devotion to Jesus will require us to make some hard sacrifices. Let’s not hold back. Let’s give Him everything!” Winn Collier

What part of my life have I thought too small for God to care about? How does it change my perspective to think that He wants even the small bits?

God, I’ve thought I could keep parts of my life to myself. But You want absolutely everything. Help me give it to You. All of me.

Colossians 3:1-4 New Living Translation (NLT)
Living the New Life
3 Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. 2 Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. 3 For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory. 17 And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.

“Day 6 Devotion

Innocence Found

“I’m not who I once was. I’m a new person.”
Those simple words from my son, spoken to students at a school assembly, describes the change God made in his life. Once addicted to heroin, Geoffrey previously saw himself through his sins and mistakes. Now he sees himself as a child of God.
The Bible proclaims: “Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! (2 Corinthians 5:17). No matter our past, when we trust Jesus for our salvation and receive the forgiveness offered through His cross, we become someone new. Since the garden of Eden, the guilt of sins separated us from God, but He has now “brought us back to himself through Christ…no longer counting [our] sins against [us]” (vv.18-19). We are His dearly loved children (1 John 3:1-2), made new in His Son’s likeness.
Jesus is innocence found. He liberates us from sin and its dominating power and restores us to a new relationship with God – where we are free to no longer live for ourselves but “for Christ, who died and was raised for [us]” (2 Corinthians 5:15). See link below to view Fernando Sosa’s “In Pursuit of Jesus” story. As with Geoffrey, Christ’s transforming love gave him a new identity and purpose to point others to the Savior. And He does the same for us!” James Banks

What does it mean to you to know that a new beginning is possible with God? How can you live as as His new creation today?

Abba, Father, thank You for sending Your Son to save me so that I could be Your child. Please send me to someone who needs to come home to You today!

http://go.odb.org/theliberator

2 Corinthians 5:14-21 New Living Translation (NLT)
14 Either way, Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. 15 He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them. 16 So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! 17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 18 And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. 19 For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. 20 So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” 21 For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.

“Day 7 Devotional

From Mess to Message

Darryl was a baseball legend who nearly destroyed his life with drugs. But Jesus set him free, and he’s been clean for years. Today he helps others struggling with addiction and points them to faith. Looking back, he affirms that God turned his mess into a message.
Nothing is too hard for God. When Jesus came ashore near a cemetery after a stormy night on the Sea of Galilee with His disciples, a man oppressed by darkness immediately approached Him. Jesus spoke to the demons inside him, drove them away, and set him free (Mark 5:1-13).
When Jesus left, the man begged to go along. But Jesus didn’t allow it, because He had work for him to do: “Go home to your family, and tell them everything the Lord has done for you” (v.19).
We never see the man again, but Scripture shows us something intriguing. The people of that region had fearfully pleaded with Jesus to leave (v.17), but the next time He returned there, a large crowd gathered (8:1). Could the crowd have resulted from Jesus sending the man? Could it be that he, once dominated by darkness, became one of the first missionaries, effectively communicating Jesus’ power to save?
We’ll never know this side of heaven, but this much is clear. When God sets us free to serve Him, He can turn even a messy past into a message of hope and love.

What has Jesus set you free from? How can you share what He has done with others today?

Beautiful Savior, I praise You for Your amazing power! No darkness can stand against You! Help me to walk in Your Light today.

Mark 5:1-20 New Living Translation (NLT)
Jesus Heals a Demon-Possessed Man
5 So they arrived at the other side of the lake, in the region of the Gerasenes. 2 When Jesus climbed out of the boat, a man possessed by an evil spirit came out from the tombs to meet him. 3 This man lived in the burial caves and could no longer be restrained, even with a chain. 4 Whenever he was put into chains and shackles—as he often was—he snapped the chains from his wrists and smashed the shackles. No one was strong enough to subdue him. 5 Day and night he wandered among the burial caves and in the hills, howling and cutting himself with sharp stones. 6 When Jesus was still some distance away, the man saw him, ran to meet him, and bowed low before him. 7 With a shriek, he screamed, “Why are you interfering with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In the name of God, I beg you, don’t torture me!” 8 For Jesus had already said to the spirit, “Come out of the man, you evil spirit.” 9 Then Jesus demanded, “What is your name?” And he replied, “My name is Legion, because there are many of us inside this man.” 10 Then the evil spirits begged him again and again not to send them to some distant place. 11 There happened to be a large herd of pigs feeding on the hillside nearby. 12 “Send us into those pigs,” the spirits begged. “Let us enter them.” 13 So Jesus gave them permission. The evil spirits came out of the man and entered the pigs, and the entire herd of about 2,000 pigs plunged down the steep hillside into the lake and drowned in the water. 14 The herdsmen fled to the nearby town and the surrounding countryside, spreading the news as they ran. People rushed out to see what had happened. 15 A crowd soon gathered around Jesus, and they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons. He was sitting there fully clothed and perfectly sane, and they were all afraid. 16 Then those who had seen what happened told the others about the demon-possessed man and the pigs. 17 And the crowd began pleading with Jesus to go away and leave them alone. 18 As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon possessed begged to go with him. 19 But Jesus said, “No, go home to your family, and tell them everything the Lord has done for you and how merciful he has been.” 20 So the man started off to visit the Ten Towns of that region and began to proclaim the great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed at what he told them.

“Day 8 Devotional

Surrendering All

Two men remembered for serving others for Jesus left careers in the arts to commit themselves to go where they believed God had called them. James O. Fraser (1886-1938) decided not to pursue being a concert pianist in England to serve the Lisu people in China, while the American Judson Van DeVenter (1885-1939) chose to become an evangelist instead of pursing a career in art. He later wrote the hymn, “I Surrender All”.
While having a vocation in the arts is the perfect calling for many, these men believed God called them to relinquish one career for another. Perhaps they found inspiration from Jesus counseling the rich, young ruler to give up his possessions to follow Him (Mark 10:17-25). Witnessing the exchange, Peter exclaimed, “We’ve given up everything to follow you” (v.28). Jesus assured him that God would give those who follow Him “a hundred times” as much now and “in the world to come…eternal life” (v.30).
No matter where God has placed us, we’re called to daily surrender our lives to Christ, obeying His gentle call to serve Him with our talents and resources – whether in the home, office, community, or far from home. See the link below to view Annahita Parsan’s “In Pursuit of Jesus” story. She surrendered to God’s call to share the gospel in Sweden. As we submit to His call, He’ll also inspire us to serve others.” Amy Boucher Pye

Who comes to mind when you think of someone who’s sacrificed for Christ? How is God calling you to surrender?

Father in heaven, I surrender all to You. Help me to love and trust You and to serve others.

http://go.odb.org/theradical

Mark 10:26-31 New Living Translation (NLT)
26 The disciples were astounded. “Then who in the world can be saved?” they asked. 27 Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But not with God. Everything is possible with God.” 28 Then Peter began to speak up. “We’ve given up everything to follow you,” he said. 29 “Yes,” Jesus replied, “and I assure you that everyone who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or property, for my sake and for the Good News, 30 will receive now in return a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and property—along with persecution. And in the world to come that person will have eternal life. 31 But many who are the greatest now will be least important then, and those who seem least important now will be the greatest then.”

“Day 9 Devotional

Giving Our All

When Bobby, who was raised in a poor Scottish family, attended a missions meeting at the local village church, he made a decision to receive Jesus as his Savior. When the offering plate reached him, he asked the usher to place it on the floor. Stepping into it with his bare feet, he said, “I don’t have any money to give to God, but I give myself!”
Bobby was Robert Moffat, who later became a missionary in South Africa. He worked tirelessly to share God’s love, including translating all of the Bible into a local language. Moffat and his wife gave themselves to serving God.
His story of wholehearted giving brings to mind the story in Mark’s gospel of a poor widow giving what appeared to be a small offering at the temple. Jesus, observing and knowing she gave “everything she had to live on”, told His disciples that she gave “more than all the others…making contributions” (Mark 12:43-44). While the others gave from their wealth, she gave from her heart.
Giving our all might mean serving people in another country as Robert Moffat did, but it could mean serving God with passion right where we are. We can give of our time, our financial resources, our prayers of intercession, and so much more.
Just as Jesus recognized the widow’s offering as a gift, God will see our heart and receive our offering with love.” Amy Boucher Pye

How do you think those in the temple hearing Jesus speak reacted? If you had been there, how might you have responded?

Father God, all we have comes from You. Help me to give generously and with a glad heart, for You are the source of all things.

Mark 12:41-44 New Living Translation (NLT)

The Widow’s Offering

41 Jesus sat down near the collection box in the Temple and watched as the crowds dropped in their money. Many rich people put in large amounts. 42 Then a poor widow came and dropped in two small coins. 43 Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has given more than all the others who are making contributions. 44 For they gave a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she had to live on.”

“Day 10 Devotion

The Miracle of Forgiveness

In 1994, when South Africa made the transition from government by apartheid (imposed racial segregation) to a democracy, it faced the difficult question of how to address the crimes committed under apartheid. The country’s leaders couldn’t ignore the past, but merely imposing harsh punishments on the guilty risked deepening the country’s wounds. As Desmond Tutu explained in his book No Future Without Forgiveness, “We could very well have had justice, retributive justice, and had a South Africa lying in ashes.”
Through establishing the Truth and Reconciliation Committee, the new democracy chose the difficult path of pursuing truth, justice, and mercy. Those guilty of crimes were offered a path to restoration – if they were willing to confess their crimes and seek to make restitution. By facing the truth, South Africa began to find healing.
In a way, South Africa’s dilemma mirrors the struggle we all face. We’re called to pursue both justice and mercy (Micah 6:8), but mercy is often misunderstood to be a lack of accountability, while pursuing justice can become distorted into pursuing revenge.
Our only path forward is a love that not only hates what’s evil (Romans 12:9) but also longs for the transformation and good of our “neighbor” (13:10). See the link below to view Grant Stevenson’s “In Pursuit of Jesus” account of the end of apartheid. Through the power of Christ’s saving grace, we can all experience the miracle of forgiveness and overcome evil with good (12:21).

Have you witnessed times when the goal of mercy and grace seemed distorted to enable justice? When have you seen both justice and mercy at work harmoniously?

Loving God, when the pain and injustice around us breaks our hearts, help us to still believe in Your love and power to transform and heal. Help us to point with our lives to Your justice, mercy and love.

http://go.odb.org/thesavior

Romans 12:9-21 New Living Translation (NLT)

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. 10 Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. 11 Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. 12 Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. 13 When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. 15 Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! 17 Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. 18 Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. 19 Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the Lord. 20 Instead, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them.  If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.” 21 Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.

“Day 11 Devotional

Washed Clean

I couldn’t believe it. A blue gel pen had hidden itself in the folds of my white towels and survived the washing machine, only to explode in the dryer. Ugly blue stains were everywhere. My white towels were ruined. No amount of bleach would be able to remove the dark stains.
As I reluctantly consigned the towels to the rag pile, I was reminded of the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah’s lament describing the damaging effects of sin. By rejecting God and turning to idols (Jeremiah 2:13), Jeremiah declared that the people of Israel had caused a permanent stain in their relationship with God: “No amount of soap or lye can make you clean. I still see the stain of your guilt. I, Sovereign Lord, have spoken!” (v.22). They were powerless to undo the damage they’d done.
On our own, it is impossible to remove the stain of sin. But Jesus has done what we could not. Through the power of His death and resurrection, He “cleanses [believers] from all sin” (1 John 1:7).
Even when it’s hard to believe, cling to this beautiful truth: there’s no damage from sin that Jesus can’t totally remove. God is willing and ready to wash away the effects of sin for anyone willing to return to Him (v.9). Through Christ, we can live each day in freedom and hope.” Lisa Samra

Where do you go with your guilt? How might you live differently today knowing that Jesus’ death has the power to completely remove the guilt and “stain” of your sin?

Loving Father, thank You for removing the stain of my sin through the saving work of Your Son! Help me to move forward in freedom.

Jeremiah 2:13 New Living Translation (NLT)

13 “For my people have done two evil things:
They have abandoned me—
    the fountain of living water.
And they have dug for themselves cracked cisterns
    that can hold no water at all!

Jeremiah 2:20-22 New Living Translation (NLT)

20 “Long ago I broke the yoke that oppressed you
    and tore away the chains of your slavery,
but still you said,
    ‘I will not serve you.’
On every hill and under every green tree,
    you have prostituted yourselves by bowing down to idols.
21 But I was the one who planted you,
    choosing a vine of the purest stock—the very best.
    How did you grow into this corrupt wild vine?
22 No amount of soap or lye can make you clean.
    I still see the stain of your guilt.
    I, the Sovereign Lord, have spoken!

“Day 12 Devotional

Alive Again

Henry Ossawa Tanner burst onto the art scene in 1896 with his masterpiece The Resurrection of Lazarus. The painting earned a medal at the Paris Salon, making Tanner a phenomenon. The most stunning feature of Lazarus is the many evocative expressions painted on the faces of those gathered around Jesus and Lazarus. Tanner explained his desire to illuminate the biblical narrative while also adding the human touch “which makes the whole world kin”.
Tanner knew that whatever our differences, we’re all bound together by the inevitability of death. And we all together find our hope in Jesus who is victorious over death. In John, it was “a man names Lazarus [who] was sick”, but the truth is we’re all sick (11:1). We’re all, in one way or another, doomed to the grave. Though Mary and Martha asked for Christ’s help, Lazarus died before Jesus arrived. Surely then, this was the end of the story. Everyone knew death owned the final word.
Jesus disagreed. Standing before the dead man’s tomb and the astonished crowd, He thundered, “Lazarus, come out!” (v.43). And Lazarus walked out of his crypt.
All of us know the weight and fear of death. The death of our bodies and our relationships and our hopes. Jesus has the final word. His transforming ways continue to bring light and life to our world. See the link below to view Nizar and Moti’s “In Pursuit of Jesus” conversation and how God brings transforming life through Christ.” Winn Collier

How have you experienced the bitter effects of death? Where do you sense God speaking life into you and your experience?

Jesus, there’s death everywhere. Would You bring me Your life? Would You speak the final word?

http://go.odb.org/thedivine

John 11:1-14 New Living Translation (NLT)
The Raising of Lazarus
11 A man named Lazarus was sick. He lived in Bethany with his sisters, Mary and Martha. 2 This is the Mary who later poured the expensive perfume on the Lord’s feet and wiped them with her hair. Her brother, Lazarus, was sick. 3 So the two sisters sent a message to Jesus telling him, “Lord, your dear friend is very sick.” 4 But when Jesus heard about it he said, “Lazarus’s sickness will not end in death. No, it happened for the glory of God so that the Son of God will receive glory from this.” 5 So although Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, 6 he stayed where he was for the next two days. 7 Finally, he said to his disciples, “Let’s go back to Judea.” 8 But his disciples objected. “Rabbi,” they said, “only a few days ago the people in Judea were trying to stone you. Are you going there again?” 9 Jesus replied, “There are twelve hours of daylight every day. During the day people can walk safely. They can see because they have the light of this world. 10 But at night there is danger of stumbling because they have no light.” 11 Then he said, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but now I will go and wake him up.” 12 The disciples said, “Lord, if he is sleeping, he will soon get better!” 13 They thought Jesus meant Lazarus was simply sleeping, but Jesus meant Lazarus had died. 14 So he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead.

John 11:40-44 New Living Translation (NLT)
40 Jesus responded, “Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?” 41 So they rolled the stone aside. Then Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, thank you for hearing me. 42 You always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here, so that they will believe you sent me.” 43 Then Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound in graveclothes, his face wrapped in a headcloth. Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him go!”

“Day 13 Devotional

Impossible to Hold

Swimming with friends in the Gulf of Mexico, Caitlyn encountered a shark, which grabbed her legs and pulled at her body. To counter the attack, Caitlyn punched the shark in the nose. The predator unclenched its jaws and swam away in defeat. Although its bite caused multiple wounds, which required over 100 stitches, the shark was unable to keep Caitlyn in its grasp.
This story reminds me of the fact that Jesus delivered a blow to death, ending its power to intimidate and defeat His followers. According to Peter, “Death could not keep [Jesus] in its grip” (Acts 2:24).
Peter said these words to a crowd in Jerusalem. Perhaps many of them had been the ones yelling out, “Crucify him!” to condemn Jesus (Matthew 27:22). As a result, Roman soldiers fastened Him to a cross where He hung until they confirmed He was dead. Christ’s body was carried to a tomb where it stayed for three days until God resurrected Him. After His resurrection, Peter and others spoke and ate with Him, and after forty days they watched Him ascend into heaven (Acts 1:9).
Jesus’ life on earth ended amidst physical suffering and mental anguish, yet God’s power defeated the grave. Because of this, death – or any other struggle-lacks the ability to keep us in its grip forever. One day all believers will experience everlasting life and wholeness in God’s presence. Focusing on this future can help us find freedom today.” Jennifer Benson Schuldt

How does it bring hope to know that one day all our suffering will be no more? Who needs to hear those freeing words today?

Dear Jesus, Your victory over death gives me hope! I praise You as the resurrected One who died so that I could have eternal life.

Acts 2:22-36 New Living Translation (NLT)
22 “People of Israel, listen! God publicly endorsed Jesus the Nazarene by doing powerful miracles, wonders, and signs through him, as you well know. 23 But God knew what would happen, and his prearranged plan was carried out when Jesus was betrayed. With the help of lawless Gentiles, you nailed him to a cross and killed him. 24 But God released him from the horrors of death and raised him back to life, for death could not keep him in its grip. 25 King David said this about him: ‘I see that the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me. 26 No wonder my heart is glad, and my tongue shouts his praises! My body rests in hope.
27 For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your Holy One to rot in the grave. 28 You have shown me the way of life, and you will fill me with the joy of your presence.’ 29 “Dear brothers, think about this! You can be sure that the patriarch David wasn’t referring to himself, for he died and was buried, and his tomb is still here among us. 30 But he was a prophet, and he knew God had promised with an oath that one of David’s own descendants would sit on his throne. 31 David was looking into the future and speaking of the Messiah’s resurrection. He was saying that God would not leave him among the dead or allow his body to rot in the grave. 32 “God raised Jesus from the dead, and we are all witnesses of this. 33 Now he is exalted to the place of highest honor in heaven, at God’s right hand. And the Father, as he had promised, gave him the Holy Spirit to pour out upon us, just as you see and hear today. 34 For David himself never ascended into heaven, yet he said, ‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit in the place of honor at my right hand 35 until I humble your enemies, making them a footstool under your feet.”’ 36 “So let everyone in Israel know for certain that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, to be both Lord and Messiah!”

“Day 14 Devotional

Feed My Sheep

In a lecture in 1911, Oswald Chambers reflected on being a young shepherd in the highlands of Scotland: “When you have to carry across your shoulders a dirty old [goat] and bring it down the mountain-side, you will soon know whether shepherding is poetry or not.” He didn’t want to romanticize this form of labor as “poetry” but rather called it “the most taxing, the most exhausting, and the most exasperating work.” This hard work of shepherding people is what Jesus entrusted to Peter, for Peter would face many challenges in caring for His flock.
Chambers reflected, “To whom did He say, ‘Feed My Lambs?’ To Peter. Who was Peter? A very wayward sheep.” Even though Peter had denied knowing Jesus (See John 18:15-27), Jesus met him on the beach and lovingly restored him in front of the other disciples (21:15-19). Peter’s bitter experience taught him to be tender and watchful over the Lord’s sheep. Having received the Holy Spirit, he was ready for the toil and joys of being a shepherd.
Like Peter, we may have failed Jesus through denials, wrongdoing, selfishness or pride. But He seeks out and forgives us, just as He did Peter. See the link below to view Meno, Daniel, and Debby’s “In Pursuit of Jesus” discussion and learn more about God’s forgiveness and restoration. He restores us and gives us a new commission. As we follow Jesus, we share our love for Him with others.” Amy Boucher Pye

How do you think Peter felt while eating the bread and fish Jesus prepared for him? How do you react when you’re extended love and forgiveness?

Jesus, You said we’d face trials in life. Give us strength to keep trusting You in the hard times.

http://go.odb.org/themission

John 21:15-19 New Living Translation (NLT)
15 After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.” “Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him. 16 Jesus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love me?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.” “Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said. 17 A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep. 18 “I tell you the truth, when you were young, you were able to do as you liked; you dressed yourself and went wherever you wanted to go. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and others will dress you and take you where you don’t want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to let him know by what kind of death he would glorify God. Then Jesus told him, “Follow me.”

“Day 15 Devotional

A Clean Slate

After being released from prison, Michael was eager for a fresh start. As he ventured back into the world, he wanted to have the gang-related tattoos that covered his body removed. The tattoos were reminders of the way he’d lived before serving fifteen years in prison; removing them helped him move forward into a new life.
When we go to God for forgiveness, we begin a new life too. He performs an inward cleansing on our hearts – one that removes the “tattoos” of our wrongdoings. The psalmist, King David, describes his inward cleaning from sin in Psalm 51. He writes with pained awareness of the ways he’s wrong God, knowing he has “done what is evil in [His] sight” (v.4). David trustingly asks God to wash away those stains: “Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow” (v.7).
We can’t see the physical evidence of God’s inward cleansing of us. Yet when we trust in the sacrifice Jesus made to purchase that forgiveness, we can be assured that we’ve been washed clean. Even though the consequences of our actions may remain – the son born of David’s adultery died – our hearts are free from the “tattoos” of our past. Lord, we too have done evil in Your sight. Please wash us clean!” Kirsten Holmberg

What “tattoo” would you like to remove? How have you been inwardly cleansed?

God, we love You! Help us to come to You for cleansing and forgiveness.

Psalm 51 New Living Translation (NLT)
Psalm 51
For the choir director: A psalm of David, regarding the time Nathan the prophet came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.
1 Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love. Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins. 2 Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin. 3 For I recognize my rebellion; it haunts me day and night. 4 Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight. You will be proved right in what you say, and your judgment against me is just. 5 For I was born a sinner— yes, from the moment my mother conceived me. But you desire honesty from the womb, teaching me wisdom even there. 7 Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. 8 Oh, give me back my joy again; you have broken me—now let me rejoice. 9 Don’t keep looking at my sins. Remove the stain of my guilt. 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me. 11 Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you. 13 Then I will teach your ways to rebels, and they will return to you. 14 Forgive me for shedding blood, O God who saves; then I will joyfully sing of your forgiveness. 15 Unseal my lips, O Lord, that my mouth may praise you. 16 You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering. 17 The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God. 18 Look with favor on Zion and help her; rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. 19 Then you will be pleased with sacrifices offered in the right spirit— with burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings. Then bulls will again be sacrificed on your altar.