Part of John 15 says, "Every branch in me that does not bear fruit He takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you."
A branch can't bear fruit on its own ... it needs the vine. God is the vine and we are the branches: Both work together for good. Without one, the other cannot grow.
In John 15:16, the Lord says He chose you. You did not choose Him. You have been appointed to bear fruit. Our lives as Christians are His doing, and we are blessed to be chosen. This is a big choice as those who are called are to serve in His name and bring others to Christ. While you choose to accept Christ into your heart, He called you by name.
John 15: 5-8
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”
Ash Wednesday is set for March 6. That marks the beginning of Lent: A time of repentance and fasting. These actions are in preparation for Easter and allow us to go through some self-examination and reflection.
"In the early church, Lent was a time to prepare new converts for baptism. Today, Christians focus their relationships on God, often choosing to give up something or to volunteer and give of themselves to others," Pastor Dan Clemens writes in the Courier, a newsletter of First Baptist Church Hamilton.
Throughout Lenten, Sunday morning worship service sermons will focus on "God's Plan for the Family." On March 3, the lesson is called "Modern Family: How the Cross Reshapes the Home." It will be followed by:
March 10: 1st Lent: Family is not First
March 17: 2nd Lent: Man and Woman at the Cross
March 24: 3rd Lent: Reclaiming Sexuality
March 31: 4th Lent: The Road to and from Divorce
April 7: 5th Lent: Parenting with the End in View
April 14: Palm Sunday: Family Tensions and Traumas
April 21: Easter: Free to Be Family
Pastor Dan writes: "May we commit this time to prepare for Easter, may our fast be to selfishness and giving more of ourselves to our primary relationships."
Read February's full "Daniel's Den" article here.
It's an idea put forth by Rachel Hollis, writer of "Girl, Wash Your Face": Pick your boulder. She recently spoke about this to a large group of Christians who are passionate business dreamers, saying:
The boulder is the ONE THING you should focus on for a season. The ideas is this: We all do multiple things good, but if we put our energy into just one thing, it would be great. Picture yourself throwing a handful of pebbles into a stream. It makes very little impact. But picture throwing a boulder into that stream. There's a ripple effect, and the landscape may even be impacted. It makes much larger movement.
Hollis suggests you take one thing you want to do and push all the others aside for one season. Focus only on getting that done. Back up even more and map out how you want to get there: Are you wanting to write a book? Have you been stuck in research phase and never actually started typing? Maybe you are wanting to open a store but don't know where to start. So you just keep the germ of the idea in your head but never move forward. Put aside the other things in your life (learn to say no, even when it's difficult), and focus on the boulder. Make the waves.
What's your boulder? What is the biggest project you want to start but because of the other little things in your life, you have not? Maybe you want to go back to school but don't have proper childcare. is it possible to get a better job, that leads to better hours, that leads to easier childcare? How far back in the process do you need to go to set yourself up for throwing that boulder?
Write things down. Turn off the devices, get the kids out of the house, put on only music without lyrics and start thinking. Focus. Don't drift: Write it down.
Next season, are you able to leave that boulder, and move a new one? Try not to revert to being a pebble thrower unless all the boulders are in the water.
The No. 1 song on Billboard's Hot Christian Songs chart for the week of Feb. 9, 2019 is "Who You Say I am" by Hillsong Worship. It's a song we've sang together several times while praising in the worship service at First Baptist Church Hamilton.
Why has the song exploded in popularity? Perhaps it's the reminder of a promise of freedom, and our place in Heaven as a reward for being devoted to the Lord while on Earth.
Here is a sample of some of the song's lyrics:
Who am I that the highest King would welcome me?
I was lost but He brought me in | Oh His love for me
Who the Son sets free, oh is free indeed
I’m a child of God, yes I am
Free at last, He has ransomed me | His grace runs deep
While I was a slave to sin Jesus died for me
Yes He died for me
Who the Son sets free, oh is free indeed
I’m a child of God, yes I am
In my Father’s house | There’s a place for me
I’m a child of God, yes I am
I am chosen — not forsaken, I am who You say I am
You are for me — not against me, I am who You say I am
Hillsong Worship has shared the heart behind the song.
It comes from John 8, which states that we will know the truth and the truth will set us free. It was Jesus Christ who said, "Who the Son sets free, is free indeed."
Hillsong said it's a real declaration of identity and talks about how a salve has no place in the family. Once we're in God's family we all have an identity of freedom.
It's beginning to look a lot like ... February. And there's a lot of activity happening at First Baptist Church Hamilton. There is a Tuesday morning Bible study for MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) from 9:45-11 a.m. Feb. 12 in Room 203 at the church. Childcare is provided. MOPS and MOMSNext have a monthly meeting coming up — 9:45-11:45 a.m. Feb. 19 in Room 200. Childcare is provided then, too.
Wednesdays are a big deal at FBCH:
• Dinner at 5:30 p.m. (for everyone)
• Kids — Awana, 6-7:30 p.m.
• Youth — First Student Ministries, 6-7:30 p.m.
• Adults — Bible study in Room 200, MOPS in Room 203 and Small Men's Group in the board room, 6:30-7:30 p.m.
Also happening in February is a luncheon for our childcare workers. That's slated for Feb. 24 and we need folks to sign up here.
We also have a class for new folks called "belonging." That's on Feb. 10. Get info and sign up here.
Need more information? Surf this website or call the church: (513) 868-1412. There's also info on the church's Facebook page.
They were having church! That's what Pastor Dan Clemens said about a video he showed in Sunday's Modern Worship service. The video featured a performer from the popular musical movie, "The Greatest Showman." In it, Keala Settle, who plays a shy bearded lady who gains confidence when she joins the circus, is shy as a performer rehearsing with the cast and orchestra ahead of filming. While she is singing, "This is Me," Settle begins to walk about the room and really gain confidence in the rehearsal. She and her director talk about this experience at the beginning of the video (watch it here). It gets exciting in a way that praise and worship also gets exciting in church — the energy and connection of the people in the video was very real.
We are all created in God's image. Everyone. Genesis 1:26-27 says, "Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of heaven and over the cattle and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth."
And in Romans 5:12, the Bible reads: "Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin,and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned."
James 3:9: "With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness."
Who are you?
Anyone who has seen the children's film "Finding Nemo" has heard the phrase by Dory, "Just keep swimming." It's been turned into countless memes and said many times since the film's release.
Life is tough. We all have demands. We all have internal struggles such as anxiety, depression, fear, loneliness, boredom, and more. Maybe you have a job that's brought you down, but you can't leave it for money reasons. Or you have a family that makes you crazy. Or your body issues are overwhelming you with self-loathing. Maybe you have a life-altering illness or struggle with addictions.
Dory says it best: We're all swimming and we just have to keep on doing it. We all might be on different paths, but we're in the same stream.
God says that with Him, all things are possible. (Matthew 19:26)
His word is a light to our paths. (Psalm 119:105)
If we acknowledge Him in all our ways, He will keep our paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
There are so many references in the Holy Bible about not fearing anything, walking in the right direction, and staying focused on Him. This will lighten our loads and make life more bearable. Christians have protection.
Getting this reminder that God has your back is a top reason for following a daily devotional plan, like what's available (for free!) on the YouVersion app. And starting your day with it will help you be reminded that God will make lemonade out of lemons.
Think of Him whispering, "Just keep swimming ... just keep swimming."
Spoiler alert: If you watch "The Masked Singer" on Fox and haven't seen the episode that aired Wednesday, Jan. 16, stop reading. You have been warned!
"The Masked Singer" is an interesting competition. Famous people get dressed in elaborate costumes and sing on stage in front of a handful of other famous people who are judges. Each week, the singer with the least votes leaves the show — but he or she must first reveal their identity. Throughout the show, there are clues to help judges and the audience figure out who they are.
On Wednesday's episode, a singer who appears to be female and is dressed as a sparkly white unicorn says she likes singing behind the mask because it has given her freedom to try something new and not fear the rejection. Her voice is not as strong as the other competitors, which has led the panelists to believe she is a model or actor. Still, they have flowered her with compliments on her bravery, her decent voice and her strength.
Are we all hiding behind masks? What forces us to stay in our shells and not do things we want to do? Have you ever thought about being a performer, a writer, a preacher, a teacher, or someone who must speak or perform to crowds? What held you back?
We conform to what we think society requires of us. Those with true bravery are leaders: They aren't afraid to try it, to be judged, to stand in front of the rest.
Is this a year to conquer a fear? Is time moving quickly for you?
"Be strong and of good courage," Deuteronomy 31:6 reads. "Do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you.
"He will not leave you, nor forsake you."
Six weeks ago, I moved in with two other people. We're in a tiny 3-bedroom home with no basement and a storage shed out back. (Read: We have very limited space.) I am climbing over unpacked boxes and Rubbermaid bins every night when I get home from work because I haven't committed to fully unpacking. It's overwhelming!
If I can live six weeks without opening those boxes and bins and remembering really what's in them, do I need any of it? What should I do with it if I don't?
Recently I watched "Tidy Up" on Netflix in which an organization specialist from Japan came to various homes in the United States and helped folks declutter. I watched a few episodes and got insipired to at least get rid of clothes.
On the show, Marie Kondo has the clients unload EVERY item of clothing they have from all of their closets, the laundry room, boxes, anywhere they have clothing — and pile them onto a bed. One family had a pile that touched the ceiling. Another had to use two beds.
As they went through their belongings, Kondo had them think about the article of clothing individually from the rest. When did you purchase it, or when was it given to you? Who was the giver? Does it mean anything to you? Is it something you love and wear regularly? If it isn't, put it in a pile to donate. But before you do that, say "thank you" to the item. Show appreciation for what it did for you.
I have not thanked my clothing. That part is a little weird to me. But I did think about each item and it helped me get everything down to one operational closet. What I mean by operational is I can sift through the closet without forcing clothes to be pushed to slide on the bar, and I can see all of my shoes. I don't miss the things I pulled off hangers and gently folded and placed in a bag to give to a woman at church whom I know will appreciate getting them. That's the other thing Kondo asks her clients to do — don't just throw the items in a pile, fold and place them and show care. It will be easier for the person or donation place receiving the items to unpack or consider.
I am a believer in minimizing, for sure, and that part of me is really faith-based. I know that God wants us not to be materialistic and to be givers. So as I sort through the tonnage, I think about His plan for me, and the saying that some folks use: "You can't take it with you."
Just yesterday, my mom stopped by with a bag of stuff she had cleared from her home. I said, don't leave it here! We just have too much. She still left it (she won't ever listen to me, LOL!), and I am sure at least some of it will make it to my donation pile.
Organization is spurring me to focus on other things and have a clearer mind. How about you? Do you need to declutter?
Luke 12:33-34 (ESV):
Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
Blog post author: Mandy Gambrell
Those who are following the YouVersion plan for reading the Bible in 365 days may have read about the three Ps: Praising, proclaiming, and praying. The author of the devotional focused on these "cries" to the Lord.
Praising: Psalm 9:11 says to sing praise to the Lord.
Proclaiming: Psalm 9:11 also says to proclaim among the nations what He has done.
Praying: Psalm 9:12 says the Lord does not ignore the cry of the afflicted.
The author of the devotional points out that God is called a "sovereign Lord" many times in the Bible and that we are to trust in Him. We may never know why bad things happen in life but we should know there is purpose behind it. Don't panic. Pray. TRUST. Follow.
Trust. ... Pray. ... Praise. ... Proclaim.
Bible reading: Psalm 9:7-12