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.



by Pastor Josh Trojak
This lent season is surely a new one for my family. About one month prior to the beginning of lent in 2023, we officially welcomed 3 new members to the Trojak clan. They have been a part of our family and our church family for the past 2.5 years, but it became official through adoption this year. It is one thing to wait and hope for something, and it is a whole other thing to finally see it come to completion. It has been a great, emotional journey that I am not sure I have even fully processed.
One of the pieces I have spent time with is what it means to choose someone to join your family. Even though I had some choice in bringing our three biological kids into the world, there is something different about being asked by a judge if I would commit to raising other children as my own. Our lawyer asked if I understood that I was taking responsibility for their future. He even asked if I understood that these children would be included not only in my life, but also in my inheritance when I am no longer here. It is more than just a name, we were welcoming them into our everything.
God did the same for us. We were created by God, but we screwed up the relationship with Him. We didn’t earn or deserve His favor, but in the end are given this gift of being adopted into His family.
John 1:12-13
Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
Romans 8:17
Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his
sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
Take some time to sit with this truth. If you have chosen to believe in Jesus Christ, you are one of His children who has access to all of the inheritance that comes with being in the family of God. That should cause us to live differently, but at its core we become one of His because of the choice and love of God. That is a truth worth holding onto.


Scripture Reading: April 16 &17

Jesus Has Risen

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” Then they remembered his words.

When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.


On the Road to Emmaus

Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him.

He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”

“What things?” he asked. “About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”

He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.

When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.


Jesus Appears to the Disciples

While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”

When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence.

He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”


The Ascension of Jesus

When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God. (Luke 24:1-53 NIV)