Three Lessons

by Ari Slenker

Throughout this school year, I have learned many different life lessons. The most important life lesson was how to find my voice. What goes along with this is how to use my voice the right way. I never was good at standing up for myself in the past. This year has taught me that I don’t like to speak up for myself, but I want to be the voice for those who are scared to use their own voice. In a way, I feel that we all can be a voice for those around us. This has been such a heavy topic on my heart for so long. I never understood God’s plan for me, but I think I finally may have found it.

Another lesson I learned was in finding my purpose. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you; plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” I know that I am one of many that may struggle with finding the purpose for which I have been created. Throughout my junior year, I have struggled with the decision of whether I should go to college to pursue something bigger. At the beginning, I did not want to go to college but then I started to see glimpses of what my future could hold in store for me. What I mean by this is that I would almost have these “aha” moments of what God has in store for me. Let me tell you that when someone says that God has a plan in store for you, she is 100% right. I can say with confidence that God has led me to where He wants me and that His plans have and will always be greater than mine will ever be.

A last lesson I learned was about running from God. Recently, I had a moment where I was trying to run from God. I thought that because I had messed up so many times, God would never really love me like the Bible says He does. I tried to run from God, as if I could hide from Him. A really good friend said to me, “Have you talked to God about it?” My response to the question was, “Why would I do that if I am trying to run from Him?” But that very question sparked my interest. What if I was to talk to God about running rom Him? Just like in the Bible where the son runs from home but returns thinking that his father will no longer love him. His father is standing there with his arms open wide. That is exactly how God is; He is standing there with open arms, waiting for you to come running back. The question is, are you going to run back or keep running away? Psalm 103:10 NIV says, “He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.”

My prayer is that you able to hear God speak through this devotional. I pray that whatever the struggle may be in your life, that you run to God first, without hesitation. He is right there waiting for you to speak, so let Him listen. In Jesus’ name, Amen.



God’s Family

by Mark Mahserjian-Smith

 “Suddenly, while he was speaking to the crowds, his mother and his brothers came and stood outside, hoping for a chance to speak to him. ‘Look,’ someone said to him, ‘your mother and your brothers are standing outside wanting to speak to you.’ ‘Who is my mother?’ said Jesus to the person who had spoken to him. ‘Who are my brothers?’ Then he stretched out his hand towards his disciples. ‘Look!’ he said. ‘Here are my mother and my brothers. 50 Yes; anyone who does what my heavenly father wants is my brother, and my sister, and my mother.” (Matthew 12:46- 50 NTE)

On December 29th I joined a Mission Team from the First Baptist Church of Wellsboro serving in the Dominican Republic.  This was first time serving in San Pedro de Macorís at Colegio Moriah Ministries, founded in 1998 by Pastor Tanis and his wife Esther.  I know Christ American Baptist Church has a rich history of serving in the Dominican Republic.  Our Mission Team continued construction on a building that will be part of a medical clinic in San Pedro. Construction was challenging in the Dominican heat with significant manual labor including moving cinderblocks, hauling water, mixing cement, and carrying the cement to the masons building the walls of the structure. Each day, I would return to our compound, physically exhausted from the work but joyful having spent time working alongside our Dominican Republic / Haitian partners.

 Most evenings included a worship service at the church on the compound. Despite language barriers, the worship was rich, with inspiring music and time spent studying God’s Word. It was a joy being with the DR / Haitian construction workers for worship. While the congregation often sang songs unique to the culture, occasionally a praise and worship song was song our team would recognize.  The voices of the congregation would ring out in English, Spanish and Creole, all singing the same song in different languages.  In my mind, this was a foretaste of what heaven will be like, with all of God’s People from across the globe praising God together.       

On New Year’s Eve, the church held an extended service to ring in 2022. The sanctuary was electric with energetic praise and worship including a Conga line to ring in the New Year.  Earlier in the day, I had been concerned about being far from my wife and children on New Year’s Eve, but amid worship, that concern soon evaporated.  As I worshipped at the church, I realized I was with family, the family of God, and that was inspiring. It was easy to feel the Holy Spirit moving in the congregation, as we celebrated God’s abiding presence and love with the sunset of 2021 and the sunrise of 2022.  Our mission team was encouraging and supporting our DR / Haitian partners but our DR / Haitian brothers and sisters in Christ were encouraging and inspiring us. That ministry of presence was amazing and that experience I will NEVER forget.  When we become disciples of Jesus, we become members of an incredible family. A family that spans the globe and is energized by the love of Jesus through the Holy Spirit.



Deb Trojak
Romans 8:1-2

I struggle with consistency. Not only in the small things – like saying no to that second helping of pie. But in the big things – like allowing patience and gentleness to rule my day rather than the frustration and anger that easily rise to the surface. As an adult, I know the things I should be doing. Having been a Christian most of my life, I know the habits, practices, and choices that I should be living.  So why is establishing good habits and patterns so incredibly hard? Why is it easier to do the things that I shouldn’t? Being consistent in my spiritual life is a battle that I feel is vitally important, yet I am consistently inconsistent. I find myself agreeing with Paul in Romans 7:15, “For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.”

I genuinely want to follow Christ. I desire to live the life that He has called me too. I start my morning with hopefulness that today will be different, but I get to the end of the day and look back on all the ways that I completely failed. The times when I lost it with the kids rather than responding to their needs with patience. Or my attitude when something unexpected comes up and throws my idea of how the day should go completely off. This cycle of good intentions and miserable failures can become heavy and tiresome.

Why am I like this? The simple answer – because I’m human. Romans 7:24-25 explains my exact sentiments, “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.” Ever since the Fall, it has become inherent to my nature to choose what I want over what He wants. Battling my fleshly desires and sins is something I will have to deal with. Every. Single. Day. But how?

The simple answer – grace. Looking at the next chapter in Romans it says, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.” (Romans 8:1-2 NASB) Sometimes my kids give me glimpses into how God views us. Recently one of the Littles came running into the kitchen crying. After asking what was wrong, she confessed that she had been jumping from couch to couch and had fallen and gotten a bit banged up. “Are you supposed to jump on the couches?” I asked. She cried harder with a penitent look and shook her head no, and then I kissed her arm and leg and gave her a hug.

I come to God many times knowing I’ve screwed up. I don’t know why it still surprises me that He offers me grace rather than condemnation. As a parent, I love my kids even when they do the thing-I-have-asked-them-a-million-times-not-to-do. God is a much better parent than I am, and He loves me no matter what. Christ already knows how incapable I am. (Thank goodness for that.) In 1 John 1:9 it says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” He is always there ready to pick me up, dust me off, kiss my scrapes, and help me move forward.

There is no way that I, on my own, will ever get it right. He is not asking me to do this alone and then condemning me when I fail.  None of this is by my own power. It is His power (and His alone) that gives me the strength to continue trying after I’ve failed yet again. His forgiveness is the only reason that I can continue to fall and yet continue to rise slowly.  To rise, dare I say, consistently?


Un Encanto en la Casita de Dios

by Brooke Arney

If you translate the title of this devotional directly, it means a charm in the house of God, or, if you’re a huge Disney nerd like me, all you saw was “Encanto” and immediately started singing “We Don’t Talk About Bruno”. Either way, there is a reason I picked that title. (Side note: movie spoilers are ahead!)

In the movie “Encanto”, the whole family puts a lot of emphasis on their encanto, or magical gifts…to the extent that the family is slowly being torn apart. But no one wants to admit that he or she is struggling or has feelings that need to be discussed. Everything is pushed aside for el encanto.

Sometimes in our own lives, whether family is involved or not, we have un encanto that we pride ourselves on, yet we don’t see the damage it is doing. Just like in the movie, at some point this will cause our casita (house) to fall apart to nothing but rubble. When that happens, most of the time our first reaction is to find the first person to blame for causing this to happen. In the movie, the family’s magical gifts are taken, and they have to rebuild their home piece by piece…but they build each other up in the process! They learn that each is equally important, even without a magical gift.

Sometimes I feel God tries to show us that same thing. In His familia we aren’t meant to have one special gift that we pride ourselves on. That gift is not what is meant to define who we are as a person in the world, in our families, or in God’s eyes. No, our gifts are meant to bring us together! To help each other hand in hand, through the good and the bad! We all can have our own encanto but the minute it takes your eyes away from God, and how it can serve His kingdom, you have just put another crack in your casita.

1 Corinthians 12:7 sums it up nicely: “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.”


God Before Google

by Laura Courtney

I don’t think I’m alone in saying that when I don’t know the answer to something, I will often immediately Google it. I can remember doing it quite often when my daughter was first born. As a new mom, I realized how little I knew and how little prepared I felt to take care of this tiny, fragile life. So, what did I do? I Googled. Everything.

I don’t think I need to tell you that the internet has a lot of opinions. Blogs, forums, research statistics, social media… everybody is an expert on the internet it seems. And the topic of babies is no exception. I think I drove my husband a little crazy for those first few months as I would tell him of a new method for baby caring almost daily.

Now as mentioned, I was (and still consider myself to be) a new mom who felt ill prepared to say the least and inadequate most days. But in all my struggle and worry I started to forget to turn to the One source that I could truly count on for accurate and true data and info. (Hint: the answer is Jesus!)

Proverbs 3:5-6 NKJV says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”

I realized, way too late if I may add, that I was skipping past God and going straight to Google for all my problems, worries, and questions. After all, isn’t that the benefit of having access to seemingly endless data literally right at our fingertips? We can ask any question we want and get plenty of answers instantly. But I know again that I don’t need to tell you that all that data and all those answers are easily manipulated, swayed, changed, and just straight up made up. While I might find some good ideas or resources online, it can be hard to trust a lot of the sources we find on the internet.

But the fact is we do have access to the most reliable and trustworthy resource we could ever need! (Hint: answer again is Jesus!) We should count ourselves fortunate and blessed to have easy and seemingly unlimited access to God’s Word – from bookstores to the app store, the Bible is available to us almost anywhere we go. Not to mention that God is always ready to listen. He doesn’t have office hours, PTO, or limited-service connection. God is just waiting for us to talk to Him every minute of every day.

So, I’d love to say this devo has a perfect and happy ending and once I realized my error, I went to God for everything and don’t worry about a thing with parenting anymore. But much like the internet, that’s not quite true. However, I did finally have that realization that I was going to Google more than God. I have been working on making sure I seek His guidance, wisdom, and words first before I ask anyone else. I don’t always do it in the right order, but I know that those moments when I pause to seek His word and will for my life give me more peace and direction than anything I can find online. Yes, I can still get stressed out at each new phase of parenthood. But I also can continually go to the One who is the only one able to guide me through it all with trustworthy advice.


Scripture Reading: March 26 & 27

A Blind Beggar Receives His Sight

As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” He called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” “Lord, I want to see,” he replied.

Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God. (Luke 18:35-43 NIV)


Jesus Forgives and Heals a Paralyzed Man

A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!” (Mark 2:1-12 NIV)