By Pastor Dan Clemens
I wish I had a crystal ball to see what was in the future. If we had looked into a crystal ball in January 2020 we wouldn’t believe what we were seeing.
I have come to appreciate the words of Jesus on a deeper level… “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life… But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:25, 33-34)
In the same vein James says, Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them. (James 4:13-17)
The news this morning (July 23) reported surges in cases of the virus, mask orders, and Dr. Anthony Fauci said that we may not even be at the half way point of the pandemic. I know, you , like me, are tired of hearing and thinking about it. But how I feel doesn’t change anything. This is where we are.
So, what do I see in my crystal ball going forward?
1. God is still God and He will not leave us or forsake us! The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are still active in the church and our personal lives. The Bible is still God’s Word and His truths are still standing. We need not fear.
2. COVID protocols are with us to stay. Social distancing (6 feet means 6 feet), mask wearing, handwashing, small groups are all going to be with us for the next six months or more.
3. Social media and virtual gatherings are a fixture of the new society. Even after the pandemic is over, virtual ministry will have a prominent role for the church.
4. We must envision new ways to come together safely. I encourage us to find ways to gather in small groups in a healthy way. That means following all of the COVID protocols every time we gather no matter the group. That means focusing on virtual or smaller group gatherings, not the large gatherings we often push for. That means when our building renovation is completed, we design smaller groups per room and spread out more. Outreach, discipleship, missions, fellowship, stewardship are all part of the walk of Christ and we must find ways to continue to live our faith daily.
These adaptations will take making choices to do a new thing, effort, focus, intentionality, and vigilance.
I believe it is a matter of our faith. We must find ways to be a witness for Christ and a community for discipleship during these difficult times. The writer of Hebrews, through the Holy Spirit, urges us Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:23-25)
I am reminded that these words were written to a church who felt like giving up because of persecution and threat of life. Our situation in not as dire. It is our time to step up, muster our resolve, and find a way to be the Church of Jesus Christ to nurture our faith and the faith of our children and families, and to share the gospel with our neighbors and community.
That’s what I see in my crystal ball about our future for the next six months and more. We can do this together with God being our help.
There will be two services on Sunday, May 17, 2020: Blended Worship at 9:30 a.m. and Modern Worship at 11 a.m. Both will be streamed live on Facebook and YouTube for those who do not wish to attend in person. Those considered "at-risk" are asked to continue worshiping from home.
• Everyone who enters the building is asked to wear a face mask and keep it on. Folks singing or speaking on stage may remove theirs only while on stage.
• Offering plates, pre-packaged communion cups, and bulletins will be available in the lobby for folks to pick up on their way into the sanctuary.
• Tape will be used to mark distance and assist people with knowing where to sit safely.
• An intentional time for children will be in the middle of each of the services as we expect some children will be with their parents/guardians in service.
• There will be handouts to help the children follow along with the sermon.
• People will be asked to wear face masks while in the building. We have 100 available for those who do not have one.
• Hand sanitizer and cleaning spray or wipes will be available in the sanctuary lobby.
By Christopher Ellis Osterbrock
How many books and articles have been written on the topic of prayer? Such time and teaching echoes a sense in Christian hearts: “I should be better at this.” One verse channels this sentiment into proper action, “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving” (Colossians 4:2). Three principles greet us: steadfastness in prayer, watchfulness over prayer, and thankfulness for prayer. Surely a glance at these principles, and a nod from Puritan Thomas Brooks (1608–1678), will edify our private prayer.
Steadfastness in Prayer
During the plague outbreak of 1665, Brooks wrote on the necessity of private prayer: The Privy Key of Heaven. He gives arguments to bolster prayer practice, while relating why Christians don’t pray as they ought. Our negligence is summed up simply enough: laziness––Christians do not take seriously the unsearchable riches gained from time in private prayer. Brooks writes, “There is not a greater hindrance to closet prayer than sloth and idleness. Certainly such as had rather go sleeping to hell, than sweating to heaven, will never care much for closet-prayer.” Two areas deserve attention: our slothfulness in discipline and in maintaining a proper doctrine.
Steadfast against Sloth
Growth in prayer is not like a magic spell. Spiritual health is progressive; it’s meant to take a lifetime or it wouldn’t be worth the fight. Results are not immediate as we are led to believe by shelves of mystic encounters and beatific visions. Healthy, invigorating closet prayer grows by habit and regular Bible reading. Note the importance of Paul’s language, steadfastness. Our sloth isn’t going away anytime soon; therefore, we attack it, understanding the mercies of the Spirit aren’t going away either. “The word dwells most richly in their hearts who are most pouring out their hearts before God in their closets.” When we recognize our inadequacy in prayer, then we are prepared to engage anew: “I can be better at this, by God’s grace.”
Steadfast for Doctrine
Brooks argues that the secret to healthy prayer practice is to “have one eye upon a divine precept and another upon a gracious promise.” If the Bible is not our guide in how to pray, then we are not praying as Christians. Be steadfast in praying God’s words back to him. The healthiest way to be steadfast in prayer is by utilizing Scripture, not worldly inventions. As we grow in our saving knowledge of the triune God, we will likewise grow in our intimacy during prayer. Knowing the right things of God provides us with more to share and less confusion as to “what do I say next?” Be steadfast; beasts are seeking to undo the greatest asset to spiritual growth and intimacy––biblical doctrine. Break free from idleness, break open your Bible.
Watchfulness over Prayer
Private prayer is the healthiest way to pick a fight with the world. Why does Satan, the prince of this world, hate private prayer? Brooks writes: first, it spoils all of his snares; second, it delights and gives glory to God; third, prayer is the means to our greatest intimacy with Christ; and fourth, prayer is the greatest means of attacking our pride. We must strive in making greater enemies with the enemy of our Lord.
Watch over Your Method
Are you mindful of how you pray? Peter urges we prepare our minds for action, action that would include the spiritual discipline of prayer (1 Peter 1:13). By taking God’s word and synthesizing it in our spiritual practice, we break from the chains of this world. See what happens when you approach the spiritual battle through biblical methods of prayer.
There is no service wherein Christians have such a near, familiar, and friendly intercourse with God as in this of private prayer; neither is there any service wherein God doth more delight to make known his truth and faithfulness, his grace and goodness, his mercy and bounty, his beauty and glory to poor souls, than this of private prayer.
Our private prayers become anemic when we veer from biblical methods. Let’s watch for adding worldly conventions to our prayer, and draw nearer to biblical models of prayer.
Watch out for Mercy
Prayer is a gift of mercy. Our preservation does not depend on the health of our prayer life, but prayer is a gifted means to experience our preservation, to continue and strive after the object of our faith. Consider the intimacy experienced even as you struggle with what to say. The Holy Spirit is with us in our groaning, interpreting our inexpressible thoughts (Romans 8:26–27). Do not neglect prayer because your experience isn’t as mystical as you desire. Maybe it is far more “mystical” than you can imagine! Seek to comprehend the merciful wonder of prayer.
Thankfulness for Prayer
We are not only thankful in our prayers, but thankful for the ability to pray. We can pray because Jesus Christ has loved us and given us his name (John 17:26), that we may experience the assurance of our union with him. God desires to have your time and your intimacy. Be thankful that we can pray at all!
Thankfulness that We Can Pray
Prayer is the privilege of those indwelled by the Holy Spirit. If you are his, then Jesus specifically prayed for you, that you be able to pray above and beyond your abilities and imaginings. Brooks shares, “Christ gives you a commission to put his name upon all of your requests; and whatsoever prayer come up with this name upon it, he will procure it an answer.” Be thankful you can pray in his name; not only is he with you, but his Spirit invigorates whatever time you spend in prayer––whether or not you feel it!
There is plenty of writing on prayer, this glance at Colossians 4:2 is little different, but we’re quick to forget the
importance of the closet. If you are struggling in your private prayer life, take time to pray over these principles, it may strengthen your practice. Too often we must be reminded of the sweetness of time spent with the “privy key of heaven.” So I urge you, in Jesus’ name, grow more steadfast in private prayer, more watchful of the temptations that lead you from private prayer, and ever more thankful of the gracious gift of communion with your Savior.
 Thomas Brooks, The Privy Key of Heaven, in The Works of Thomas Brooks, vol. 2, ed. Alexander B. Grosart (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1980), 279.
 Brooks, Privy Key of Heaven, 176.
 Brooks, Privy Key of Heaven, 277.
 Brooks, Privy Key of Heaven, 295.
 Brooks, Privy Key of Heaven, 176.
 Brooks, Privy Key of Heaven, 274.
First Baptist has been closed for many weeks in accordance with the government's guidelines regarding the COVID-19 quarantine. The file below is a letter from our senior minister and the chairs of our trustees and deacons boards. PLEASE NOTE: This plan is subject to change, and the website will be updated to keep you informed.
By Pastor Dan Clemens
It was June 8, 1968.
“He was 36, and he had lost two brothers to assassins: first President John F. Kennedy, then presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy. Inside St Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, before 2,100 people wearing black, the last surviving Kennedy brother, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, began his unannounced eulogy for Bobby.”
“It had been three days since Bobby Kennedy was shot at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, just moments after celebrating his win in the California Democratic presidential primary. The nation was in shock, still reeling from the assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., two months earlier and the riots that followed. RFK’s presidential bid had inspired hope that turned to despair.
“At the end of the eulogy, Ted Kennedy’s voice quavered over the words with which he left the crowd.
“My brother need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life; to be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it,” he said. “Those of us who loved him and who take him to his rest today, pray that what he was to us and what he wished for others will some day come to pass for all the world. As he said many times, in many parts of this nation, to those he touched and who sought to touch him.
“He paused, regaining his composure to quote Bobby a final time: “Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not.” Source
1968: The culture of our country was torn and divided. The First Baptist Church of Hamilton was making plans to build a new building on top of “Mount Baptist”. They wanted to be a “light on the hill” to reach people for Christ. Hopes and dreams were ripe and faithful people, our spiritual forbearers, pushed into uncharted waters as they faced a new decade with faith and courage.
Here we are 52 years later. Poised to grasp a new decade of ministry, 2020, we are looking into a misty future in a nation who is tried of malice and hatred. What is to come? Is there hope for a better tomorrow? Dare we “dream things that never were and say why not”? I think we must. First Baptist Hamilton must look to our Savior Jesus Christ and see a decade and beyond of ministry and mission which is pointing the way to hope, peace, love, faith and an eternal relationship to God our Father.
Look at our heritage as a congregation.
“The Hamilton-Rossville Baptist Church was organized in 1829…” We are connected to those 191 years ago as the first Baptist witness in this Miami valley. “In 1841 the church officially organized as the First Baptist Church of Hamilton, Ohio. Little did that small band of believers, gathered in the home of Dr. Loami Rigdon, dream what great things God had in store for First Baptist Church. For through her doors would enter children, youth, and adults who would, in time, confess Christ as Savior, follow Him in the waters of baptism, and under the teaching and preaching of faithful ministers, prepare themselves for daily living. And out of her doors would come pastors, teachers, missionaries, directors of Christian Education, and dedicated laymen, who would go forth and witness to Christ’s saving grace and keeping power.” (Source: firstbaptisthamilton.org/history.html)
We are the heirs of the challenge to “go forth and witness to Christ’s saving grace and keeping power.” What shall 2020 hold? What can we know? What do we hope for and dream of?
I pray to have 2020 Vision as we look into this new year, and ahead to this critical decade, with eyes fixed on Christ. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)
1 Corinthians 13:12-13 cautions us regarding vision, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
In 2020 we must emphasis outreach as we seek to share the gospel and invite children, youth, men and women of all ages to know Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord of their lives.
We must make it our reason to exist to serve others and not ourselves. How will you reach out to those you know who need hope, love, and Jesus? Relationship, prayer, a verbal witness and invitation are the keys to reaching people for Christ. We will provide opportunities for you to share and invite people to, but let me be clear, outreach is about sharing the love of Jesus not just about having events and programs. We will develop new and reinforce existing groups to both draw people and give people community. New community groups, Alpha, Griefshare, Financial Peace University, Married People, MOPS/MOMS, Fight Club (men’s discipleship), First Students Ministry, First Kids Ministry, sports teams, and other groups will be continuing/beginning in 2020. We will serve in ministry and mission to reach our community and world.
2020 will be a year of construction as we renew this wonderful facility with which we have been entrusted. The lower level is presently in full construction. Carpets and ceiling tiles are removed. The walls of the future children’s worship center are being prepared to be removed and to enlarge the space. Doors have been cut in the walls of the locker-rooms to build a future children’s ministry work room and storage. Floors and plumbing are prepared for the installation of children’s restrooms near the entrance to the children’s wing. Colors for paint, hard-surface flooring, and carpet have been selected and be installed in the next few months. The goal is to be ready for our largest children and family outreach, Vacation Bible School on July 6-10, 2020.
Also, lighting plans are being finalized and we will begin replacement of LED high efficiency lights throughout the entire building by Easter, April 12, 2020. In July, the project will move to the upper level and will include new ceilings, hard-surface flooring, paint to the Family Center halls and rooms, and moving the main office. Then sanctuary updates to the platform and canopy will be completed.
2020 will be about leadership development. I am proud and excited about the leadership team we have in our ministry staff. We are blessed with anointed and gifted men and women who will lead us to new places of witness and growth. I am also pleased with our lay leaders who take responsibility for serving our congregation and community. I will intentionally mentor, disciple, and serve with our leadership as we follow Christ in mission and ministry. (And, to allay any hope or fear, I do not plan to retire in 2020.)
We enter our sixth year of the intentional revitalization of our congregation to reach the next generation while caring for the present generation. We have made much progress. We have a long way to go. As we seek to be the followers of Jesus in this time in history, I meditate on that challenging query, “Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not.” We must dare to do all things necessary to reach this generation even if they have never been done before. We must “lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely [to this generation], and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith…”
These are exciting times! This will be the greatest decade of ministry for First Baptist Church Hamilton if we are faithful to follow Jesus. I look forward with great anticipation to serving Jesus with you this year, 2020! To God be the glory! Great things He is DOING!
Be the Light!
We've posted our cantata to YouTube. Please click here to watch it.
Editor's note: This article first published in the December 2019 edition of "The Courier," a newsletter of First Baptist Church Hamilton.
By Pastor Dan Clemens
I’ll be honest. I’ve had trouble writing this article for the Christmas Season. I want to be positive about Christmas, but there is so much negative. “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” I cringe at what Christmas has become. Let’s take Christmas back!
I came across this article about a “Random Acts of Kindness Calendar,” and it helped me focus:
It’s easy to get wrapped up in the commercialism of the Christmas season – you know, the gifts, the shopping, the parties…. And while it’s certainly OK to let yourself indulge in some of those things, it’s also good to take a step back and celebrate the meaning of the season. One way you can embrace this is using a Random Acts of Christmas Kindness Advent Calendar!
The idea is to create your own Christmas advent/preparation calendar. (I’ve edited the list a bit and added a few ideas of my own.) Pick 24 items from the lists below and fill in your own calendar to help you “Remember the Reason for the Season!” Here are some suggestions that were made:
Random Acts of Christmas Kindness ideas for kids
Here are some sample acts of kindness for kids and families that would be great on your kindness advent calendar. Some might be able to be completed by the child alone, and others will need to be done together with mom or dad.
• Make a card for a soldier (we have used Operation Christmas Cards for Troops Overseas in the past – read the pinned Facebook post for exactly how to do it, and note that this needs to be sent out by December 1st!)
• Bake a treat for a neighbor, policeman, or fireman.
• Choose one toy to donate.
• Write your teacher a note about how they help you.
• Do a chore for someone.
• Let someone go ahead of you in line.
• Help a neighbor with a chore or errand.
• Clean up litter outside (with gloves and with a grownup!).
• Visit a long-term care center (with mom or dad) and have dinner with one of the elderly residents.
• Hold the door open for someone.
• Write a note to your friend.
• Make Christmas cards for your neighbor.
• Give someone a nice compliment.
• Call Grandma or Grandpa and say hi.
• Tell jokes to someone who needs a laugh.
• Tape packages of popcorn to a RedBox machine.
• Hand out candy canes to people (with mom or dad) in the grocery store parking lot.
• Help put all the carts back in the cart corral in the grocery store parking lot.
• Make a present for a friend (anything from a beaded bracelet to an ornament to a drawing!)
• Donate a few books to the library.
• Set aside food to donate to the food bank (with mom or dad’s help).
• Cook (or help cook, depending on age) dinner for the family.
Random Acts of Christmas Kindness ideas for adults
If you’re an adult looking to do some of these random acts of Christmas kindness on your own, here are a few more ideas:
• Donate food (or money) to a food bank.
• Leave an extra big tip at a restaurant or coffee shop.
• Knit a scarf for someone who is homeless or in a shelter.
• Do a major purge and donate all the items that are in good shape (avoid donating ripped/stained/broken things – you’d be surprised how much time people in donation centers spend sorting through unusable things).
• Adopt a child to buy gifts for at Christmas.
• Volunteer to read stories at the library, in your child’s classroom, or at a family shelter.
• Create a candy wreath so your neighbors can snip a snack whenever they walk by.
• Pay for the person behind you at the coffee shop.
• Buy a hot chocolate or coffee for the Salvation Army bell ringers who stand outside all day.
• On Christmas Eve, head over to an all night drugstore like CVS or Walgreens and bring the cashier a little surprise (like a box of chocolates). It’s no fun working on the holidays, and it’ll brighten their night!
• Set a box outside the house with drinks and pre-packaged snacks for the mailman, UPS guy, and FedEx guy. With all the packages they deliver throughout December, they’ll appreciate the small token of gratitude.
• Leave extra coupons at the grocery store right next to the item to unexpectedly help other shoppers.
• Donate blood.
• Do you have small businesses that you frequently visit? Leave them a great review on Facebook or Yelp.
• Tape candy canes and happy notes in random places.
• Send a surprise present in the mail to someone who wasn’t expecting it.
• Make a freezer meal dinner for a new mom or a stressed out friend.
• Babysit a friend’s kids for free to help her/him out.
• Ask to speak to a manager at a restaurant or store – and give a giant compliment about the store and/or one of the employees. So often people only speak to a manager to complain, so going out of your way to compliment the store or employees is unexpected and awesome.
Acts to keep Christ in Christmas
• Have a nativity/creche as the center piece of your home Christmas decorations.
• Read daily Bible passages from the lectionary (Source: https://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu/daily.php?year=A#id1)
• Use Christian-themed ornaments on your tree
• Go Christmas-caroling to shut-ins or at a nursing home
• Start Dec. 1 reading a chapter in Luke every day until Christmas … you will finish the whole story of Jesus on Christmas Eve.
• Commit to be in worship every Sunday in December.
• Give a “Christmas gift for Jesus” through the Christmas Offering.
• Attend the Christmas Eve Eve (12/23), or Christmas Candlelight Eve (12/24) service with your family and bring a friend.
• Find out who Santa Clause (Saint Nickolas) really was. (youtube.com/watch?v=BgpFPSMYCm4)
You can make your Christmas more Christ-centered and kind this year by committing yourself to act like Christmas!
Be the Light,
All members of FBC Hamilton are invited to have their photo taken and be included in a new church directory that will be available in print and online. Professional photos will be taken Nov. 5-9 and Nov. 27. You must schedule an appointment time online or find a sign-up sheet at the table in the connector near the Family Center after Traditional Worship and before Modern Worship each Sunday in October. Everyone gets one complimentary 8x10 and a directory. You will have the option to purchase bigger photo packages. Internet signups are at www.ucdir.com. Click "photography appointment" and use church code Oh2247 and the password is "photos".
First Baptist Church Hamilton has a lot planned for this month as we transition from the massive heat wave that hit our region at the end of September and beginning of October. The leaves are beginning to fall and the cooler air is moving in. What a great time of year!
At FBCH, we begin the month with "brinner" — breakfast for dinner — as a fellowship opportunity that begins at 5:45 p.m. today, Oct. 2. It's also "crazy hair" night for First Kids. Starting Sunday, Oct. 13, Thomas Ellison will lead a Financial Peace University class that is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. each Sunday for 9 weeks. Information on joining the class is available on our website here. You'll need to sign up.
Later in the month, on Wednesday, Oct. 30, we'll have our annual Harvest Party, which takes place at the same time as the meal this year. You are invited to make soup/chili and compete for a prize. We'll have plenty of places to set out your crockpots and bowls. We'll also have a dessert bake/cook-off. We're offering prizes for the best individual child and family costumes as well!
If you are part of a group within FBC or as an individual would like to host a table for the trick-or-treating during the Harvest Party, we could always use more! Talk to Katie Simpson and let her know your class or group will host one. You will be responsible for decorating it as well as purchasing the candy or fall-themed item you will hand out. Please plan on 250-300 kids.
To see this month's Sunday worship sermon titles and get more information on events happening at and through FBC, check out this month's Courier. It's available in print at church or a digital copy is on our website.
It's here! Beginning in early October, the children's ministry wing of the first floor of First Baptist Church Hamilton will be under renovations. We've spent some time moving things out of the rooms, and beginning next Sunday, they will be unusable. The other half of the first floor will still be in use during construction. The following classes will move: Three-year-olds, (Room 106), pre-school and kindergarten (Room 115), 1st and 2nd grades (Room 111), and 3rd-6th grade (Room 110). Parents and guardians will receive instruction on where to take their children. when they sign in at the security computers on the second floor. Questions? See Katie Simpson or Claire Metzger.