Our congregation, pastors, and staff write devotionals to help us experience the seasons of Lent (before Easter) and Advent (before Christmas) more fully. They are posted below with the most recent on top and do not post until the season begins.

April 21 | Easter Sunday & Resurrection Week

Easter Sunday & Resurrection Week
April 21
Read Luke 24:1–8

Prepared by Charlie Shahnaian
The women in the tomb have come looking for Jesus, but He’s gone. He didn’t simply disappear without a trace, though. They’re reminded that He has already told them where He can be found: raised from the dead, among the living.

As I sat with this passage for a bit, I began to wonder, “How have I looked for Jesus among the dead? And how have I ignored His directives, telling me where He’ll be?”

I spent the first ten years of my Christian life as a single man with no children; this afforded me plenty of freedom in how I could spend time with Jesus. And during those years, I inadvertently created habits of how I would connect with Him: I sought Him during times of quiet and solitude, including long walks and hikes; I met Him alongside good friends in my Thursday night small group; and I was able to deepen my connection with Him through extra-Biblical edification, like podcast sermons, books, and the visiting of churches beyond Bel Air, for a little “extra Jesus.” The routine of my spiritual life became very comfortable.

But then my life changed in the most wonderful way: I married the love of my life and we had a daughter (and are expecting a son in the spring). Life became amazingly full. And with this fullness came the danger of life becoming spiritually empty – because the old ways of finding Jesus were gone. The quiet time I once had in abundance became very limited; the small group I met with disbanded; the time for podcasts and books and additional church visits evaporated. And to tell the truth, even when I was able to squeeze in my old ways of meeting Jesus, I found that the connection I’d previously felt was missing, or at best, weakened.

What happened?

I had gone to the tomb of my past looking for Him, not remembering that He had promised me new life. Jesus is found among the living, not the dead – and He can meet me in my everyday life if I look for Him there.

I began to find Him during the nightly bottle feeding with my daughter, during the meals my wife and I prepared as part of a hospitality ministry, and at the new small group I joined (meeting at a more Dad-friendly time of Thursdays at 6am). It’s taken some adjustment, and even in these new ways of connecting with Jesus, the habitual comfort that I seek comes and goes. My daughter and I get into a rhythm that gives me time to pray, and then she changes her feeding routine. I find community in a new small group, and it moves locations and members leave town. The community meals that my wife and I enjoy preparing have to be put aside for a season as we get ready for baby #2.

But the lesson I hope to remember is that Jesus will continue to provide new ways for me to meet him. I can’t return to the ways of the past, but because He’s promised that He will never leave me or forsake me, I know that if I look for Him, He can be found in my life, no matter how it shifts and changes.

How have you looked for Jesus “among the dead”? Are there old ways of connecting with Jesus that are now gone from your life? Think about them, name them. What are the core elements of those ways of connecting that perhaps you can incorporate in a new way of connection?

In the tomb, the two mysterious men remind the women of what Jesus has told them about himself. What reminders do you need about Jesus? Who are the people in your life that can help you remember the promises Jesus has made?

Where is Jesus calling you to meet Him today? Are there changes in your life, or new areas that can be opened up to Him? (For example, do you have a new commute to work? Can this path open you up to new people or places to pray for?)

If Jesus is calling you out of the tomb and into life, who are the people with whom you feel His presence? Is it only possible to find Jesus with other believers, or can you seek Him with those who don’t know Him yet?

Is there a danger in holding onto the old ways of meeting Jesus? Is there danger in constantly seeking new ways to encounter Him? What does that balance look like for you?

April 15 | Week 6

Week 6
Jesus Raises Lazarus
Monday, April 15

Prepared by Gabrielle Dion-Kindem

READ John 11:17–36
In preparing this devotion, I used a practice I was introduced to years ago through Pastor Care. It is a Benedictine practice of scriptural reading, meditation and prayer called Lectio Divina that has been very meaningful to me. I have enjoyed this practice in small groups and also in solitude. It is a way that I have experienced God’s Word as the Living Word as it helps me to place myself in the story, and it is another way for me to have a conversation with God.

Taking a section of scripture, the practice involves:
Reading (Lectio) – When reading aloud or hearing it read aloud the idea is to listen, not to analyze the scripture, but listening instead for a word or phrase that stands out to you right where you are.
Meditating (Meditatio) – taking time in silence to reflect and meditate on that word or phrase.
Responding (Oratio) – respond by writing and sharing your thoughts with God. In a group setting, you may choose to share your thoughts with others and hear what others experienced.
Contemplation (Contemplatio) – spending time contemplating, soaking in what God revealed to you.

The first phrase that stood out to me from this passage was, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
It made me think of how often I come to God in my disappointment with what has, or hasn’t happened, with an attitude of: “IF You would have answered my prayer (the way I wanted), THEN things would have worked out, THEN I would be happy, THEN_____________.” When I focus so hard on what I wanted, I limit my perspective because it is fixed on me and my assumptions. It becomes so much harder to see another view. I end up putting my trust in my own understanding and in my desires, and I can be left with an image of a God who is more removed and who doesn’t seem to care about my heart’s desire.

I am reminded through this that I want to recognize and release my grip on my way and instead ask God to open my heart to the way to which He is calling me. I want to be open to the perspective that God invites me to experience and grow through. I want to place my trust in Him in all circumstances.

The second phrase that stood out to me was “Jesus began to weep.” It was a powerful reminder to me that Jesus is with us always. He doesn’t watch over us and view our pain from a safe distance, offering platitudes. He enters our pain and embraces us in the midst of it. Five and a half years ago, I was in the middle of a meeting at church with my discipleship group that has been meeting since 2004. There were several who could not attend that morning, so we were a particularly small group. I knew my mother’s health was failing. She lived in Colorado, and I had been going back and forth to be with her. I received a phone call in the middle of our meeting from my sister. I stepped outside to speak with her and received the news that, although somewhat expected, still came as a shock – my mother had just died. I walked back into the room and burst into tears as I shared this news. Each one of them got up immediately and encircled me, arm in arm, and sobbed with me. As it turned out each one of the women who were there that morning had already walked through this pain with their own mother. They knew my pain on a different level. They entered my pain, and the depth of comfort I felt is difficult to put in words. It has left me with a picture of how Jesus entered my pain and encircled me through them and with them. He is always with me. He is always with you.

Do you have questions for God about prayers that have not been answered in the way you hoped? Can you talk openly with Him now about any questions or thoughts you may have?
Take some time today to reflect on a particular situation or relationship in your life that you have been thinking about or struggling with and ask if God is inviting you to a new perspective.

Take a few minutes to sit in silence. Close your eyes and imagine yourself pouring out your loss or your sorrow to Jesus. Imagine Him holding you and weeping with you. What do you want to say to Him? How are you affected by this image?

Is there something, maybe a dream or desire, in your life that you would like Jesus to resurrect?
Talk to God about this remembering that He cares deeply for you.

Use the passage for this week to practice Lectio Divina and see what word or phrase speaks to you. Sometimes it is helpful to read it in another translation like “The Message” to see if you connect with it differently or if something else stands out to you.