Alone Time

by Terry Hess
Matthew 6:6
“When you pray go into your room close the door and pray to your Father, who can’t be seen. He will reward you. Your Father sees what is done secretly.”

This was our KidzLife lesson on January 25, 2023. When we talked about this in our group the answers were not a surprise. No one had the time to do it and the excuses were all very similar. They did not have the time, the did not want to put their phone down, they did not want to put away any of their devices, turn off their TV, or put down their computer. When you ask children a question you get the truth. They just did not see the need to take the time for alone time prayer.

I feel we as adults use the same excuses when it comes to our devices such as phones, computers, TVs and other
distractions. I have also found that children learn from us adults doing these things so they feel it is okay for them. As parents and grandparents, we need to set the example for them.

Luke 5:16 tell us Jesus often prayed alone. He prayed so He could stay in touch with His Heavenly Father. We need to do the same. We need to be the example for our children/grandchildren. Find a place, put away your distractions, empty your thoughts and talk to Jesus. You will be amazed at the results.

Prayer: Lord, let me set time to be alone with you and to listen to you. Amen.


Do You Know Me?

by Joe Becker

We watched from a window as an unfamiliar vehicle pulled up our driveway. Then there came a faint knock at the back door. “Come in!” I hollered, from a choice center of repose. “Come in!” I yelled from my favorite couch – from just off the kitchen. Soon a perfect stranger was standing in our doorway. He whispered, “Don’t you know me?”

Although his face was totally unfamiliar, he insisted he knew me, and rather well at that. But I noticed when the older gentleman cautioned our rug, that he could hardly raise his voice at all. Suddenly I was saddened by a speech impediment. I struggled deeply to recognize him. Deeper still, I wanted to know him. Then the stranger, as troubled as he was, again turned to my wife and whispered: “He doesn’t know me.”

Now we were all three affected by such an uncomfortable greeting. Yet I studied his face and adjusted to some more of his whispers. As I focused on the subtle nuances of his voice and manner, I noted how much we may actually “know” a person, not only by one’s face, but by their voice as well. Presently, I remembered him from meager accounts with mutual friends, some of them from fifty years ago…

Someone has said: “We may know some things that we haven’t remembered yet”. But I still could neither recognize nor identify this man without his voice. This started an hour-long conversation which revealed that he had experienced Cardiac Arrest a year or two earlier. We discussed how he was saved by the Providence of God, his Grand-daughter’s actions as a nurse, and her CPR training as well. We were all quick to be thankful for friends and family.

After he had gone, we considered his visit, and commented on his calm spirit. Then we looked up terms like ‘Intubation’ and the “Mitral Valve” etc., to better understand various CA heart conditions, – particularly, terms associated with the larynx and vocal chords.

Initially, it was easy to connect the day’s events with John 10:27: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”

In further review, I think about the vast greatness and wisdom of our God, to create us in His image, with an ability to speak and hear and commune with not only each other, but with God through Christ, remembering Him who ever lives to intercede for us.


Preliminary Questions

by Anonymous
It seems much of how our minds process data is based off of first impressions. We see something, make a snap judgement of it, and based off that our mind categorizes what just happened. We process data based upon these schemas; they are what allow us to function in life without using up all our mental capacity on menial or rapidly occurring happenings. This is why first impressions matter so much. Every decision afterwards that pertains to the same person or a similarscenario will always be impacted by the parameters defined by that first encounter, even if we don’t consciously realize it.
Because of that, I often wonder why Luke chose to introduce us to Jesus as he did. In the Gospel of Luke, the first time Jesus speaks he says, “Why were you searching for me?” Why did Luke choose that as the first recorded words of Jesus in his Gospel? I know contextually it is because a 12-year-old Jesus was just missing for three days, and He is asking his parents this question. However, what if Luke was using that question as a challenge to us as the readers? I’m assuming that is not the case, but if it is, what would your answer be? If that question is pointed dead at you and no one else, how do you answer? Why were you searching for Jesus? Each one of us needs to know the answer to that question, and use that answer to direct us even more towards Christ. The reason we searched for Christ doesn’t end once we find Him.
Then in the Gospel of John, again the first recorded instance of Jesus speaking is a very candid question, “What do you want?” If Jesus, with all the intensity of the Lord Almighty, is staring you alone in the eyes, into your very soul, how do you answer Him? What do we want from Christ?
Each one of us is responsible for our own answers to these questions. These answers help us define and focus our faith. Why were we searching for Him and what do we want from Him?


Scripture Reading: Matthew 3:1-17

John the Baptist Prepares the Way
In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’” John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.
But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.
“I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
The Baptism of Jesus
Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”
Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.
As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”


Tradition of Giving Up

by Michael Freeman
As a kid, I vaguely remember celebrating the Lenten season. Now, don’t get me wrong, I loved Easter. Easter was hidden eggs, Easter baskets, Easter candy, a giant ham at my grandparent’s house, hanging out with cousins, brand new fancy clothes, and celebratory hymns. “Up from the grave He arose!” But, the Lenten season was bizarre as a kid. I remember going to school with the smudge of ashes on my forehead (embarrassing). I remember lots of extra evenings spent in church services (boring). I remember that, all of a sudden, school seemed to serve fish every Friday (gross, I hate fish). I also remember giving up something for Lent (weird). Typically, when I was young, the kinds of promises you made for Lent were “no chocolate until after Lent” or “no candy until after Lent” or “no video games until after Lent.” I’m sure if cell phones would have been around when I was a kid, there would have been a Lenten season without texting or social media as well. But, once Easter came, let the gluttony party begin. Between Cadbury Cream Eggs and chocolate bunnies the size of your own head, unhealthy eating was back with a vengeance and all the weird activities of Lent were over… until next year.

Giving up something for Lent always meant giving up something fun… but I don’t ever really remember having coherent conversation about why we were doing that. It seemed like the Christian version of a New Year’s resolution. (And just as effective! Or rather, ineffective.) Lent was just a strange season of doing without. One year, I had the perfect solution. I told everyone that I was giving up Lent for Lent and it is the only Lenten promise I have ever successfully kept. In fact, I have now successfully kept that promise for over 30 years.

Now, I know giving up things for Lent isn’t something we actively pursue at CABC, but every year I think about it as we approach Easter. So, I would like to take a little time to reflect on the practice through adult eyes and see if we can learn anything from this tradition. Traditionally, this 40-day period provides us with an opportunity to reflect on the life of Christ and specifically on the events that proceeded His death and resurrection. It is also a period when we are encouraged to examine our own lives. What has God been teaching us this year? What is the status of my relationship with Jesus? Are there areas of my life that I need to bring under control as I think about my struggle with sin, my response to Christ’s saving work on the cross, and my witness to others? Much like the time of intentional prayer and reflection we take before observing communion each month, Lent is also a time to reflect, repent, and ask for forgiveness to prepare our hearts and minds to confront the weight and glory of the cross.
So, what’s with the tradition of giving things up? Some traditions relate it to to the 40 days that Christ spent in the wilderness being tempted by the devil before He began His ministry. Some, Christians observe this tradition as a way to share in the sacrifice of Christ or to test their self-discipline. However, there are certainly biblical roots for this practice as well. As Jesus taught His disciples in Matthew 16, verses 24-26, “Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves to take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?’”
A version of this teaching is recorded in three of the gospel accounts. So, it must have been quite a memorable lesson to Christ’s disciples. But, what does it mean to deny ourselves? If you guess that it means more than just spending 40 days without chocolate, you’d be right. When we honestly examine the state of our lives and the impact that sin has on breaking our relationship with our righteous and Holy God, we recognize just how much we need a savior. Denying ourselves means dying to ourselves. It means to exercise self-control in submitting our will and desires to the will and plan of God. It is our opportunity to repeat after Christ and call out to God, “not my will, but yours be done!” This exercise of self-denial is one more reminder that we are not in control… that our lives are not ours to live as we see fit. We have been bought by the precious blood of Christ and, as Christians, God has a purpose and a plan for our lives. We need to stop fighting to tell the story we want to tell with our lives and submit to the story he is trying to tell through us. So, yes, the Lenten season may look weird. The Christian life looks weird inasmuch as we are to look different from the world around us. We are not to just pursue what the world calls good or satisfy our every desires. God’s plans are bigger and more eternally focused than my narrow, self-centered plans.
What does this weird living look like in the life of a believer? As Peter reminds the faithful in 2 Peter 1:5-9, “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.” So, this Lenten season, take some time to reflect on your life and on what God has done for you through the sacrifice of His one and only Son. Don’t forget that we have been redeemed by Christ from our sins. Because of your faith, practice goodness. Pursue knowledge of Him through prayer and the reading of the Word. Exercise self-control and perseverance. Reflect godliness by treating others with mutual affection, which leads to love. That way, we will be effective and productive in the work of following Christ. And just maybe, eat a little less chocolate… because Easter is Coming!


Act of Worship

by Norman Humber
Dear Christ American Baptist Church,
My name is Norman Humber and I have the honor to serve as the CEO of LifePath Christian Ministries. I was asked if I’d be willing to provide a Lenten devotion for a compilation booklet. Here is what came to mind:
“Yet even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.” Return to the Lord your God for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster. (Joel 2:12-13)
Christians around the world are celebrating Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent. Lent takes place over the forty days before Easter and is traditionally a time of repentance and preparation for the celebration of Easter.
The goal of the Lenten season is to draw closer to God. There are many traditions surrounding this season, but whatever you do, it is great to start by reflecting on your life, and the parts of your life where you feel disconnected from God and his people. For example, you may have heard about people giving something up for Lent—often things that bring pleasure, like sweets, alcohol or tv.
If you plan to give up something, I encourage you to take a different approach. If you are giving something up, do it as an intentional act of worship and sacrifice to God. This year, I am going to try to put away my phone when I get up in the morning and take that time for intentional prayer.
Giving something up is just one way to observe Lent. Maybe, like me, you hope to add something into your life—a time of prayer, or Bible reading. Some believers take these forty days to read through one of the gospels. Another way of observing Lent is through giving—time, money, or talents.
Again, your goal should be to see this an act of worship and sacrifice, not just as a good thing to do.