Ray McDonald's Blog

Thoughts and Reflections

Christmas Praises 3

Romans 15:13

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

christmas-3During the month of December I have asked some members and friends of our church to write a paragraph or so describing some of the things that bring them joy this Christmas season in their relationship with Jesus and First Church? They were asked where they see Jesus in their church family? They were asked what draws them to First Church. The reason for this is to stir up some joy and excitement this Christmas Season. I told them I would share their thoughts anonymously – but I am keeping their e-mails for sure. I will try to post a comment a day for December so obviously I need 31 comments. The posts will go up around noon each day.

Tinsel and lights, sparkle and shine, we celebrate his birth. It is Christmas Time.

Christmas has always been a magical time of year for me. Of course when I was younger the prospect of catching Santa delivering gifts or the time off of school was a huge deal but as an adult looking back I realize that two things ring true about Christmas for me and always have. The first is happiness and the second is love. What is it that marries these two together at Christmas?

When I was a child, back in my hometown there was a display downtown depicting Santa Clauses from around the world. I loved how each country represented had a different costume for Santa and different customs. Standing in the atrium of a glass building looking at all the different Santas, I felt this wonderful feeling of belonging. I was one with the world. Our Santas were not the same but the spirit behind them was.

What brings me joy this season is once again a feeling of belonging. At First United we are family. We are brothers and sisters under the grace of God, united in our faith and blessed with a relationship with Jesus. To me, for this season especially, the Christmas season is about having that bond. Worshipping together and gathering for social events fills us with happiness. It is what holds us together as a family and allows us to be a church that helps others and represent Jesus’ love. Just like the Santas in the glass hall, we are diverse and yet all united in the same spirit. Doing for others makes us happy. Lifting up others helps to lift us up as well, both as individuals and as a church family. The care and concern we have not only for each other but for our community and the world is a manifestation of love. Praying for others and providing encouraging words. That is love in action. Our various ministries provide support for all kinds of different people in different circumstances. And at the root of all of this is Jesus. It is his birth that provides the happiness and love that we are blessed to experience at First United.

The marriage of those two things, happiness and love is what Christmas is all about after all. It is the incomparable JOY, (the happiness we have in our hearts) as we feel the incredible love of the Lord that shines through. The overwhelming and freely given love that God showed us by giving us his own son.

I praise the Lord for the testimony. I hope that it brings those who read it great joy. Merry Christmas to one and all.

December 3, 2016 Posted by | Build, Christmas, Church, Community, Encouragement, Faith Journey, Family, Personal | , , , , | Leave a comment

Christmas Praises 2

Psalm 47:1

Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy.

christmas-2

During the month of December I have asked some members and friends of our church to write a paragraph or so describing some of the things that bring them joy this Christmas season in their relationship with Jesus and First Church? They were asked where they see Jesus in their church family? They were asked what draws them to First Church. The reason for this is to stir up some joy and excitement this Christmas Season. I told them I would share their thoughts anonymously – but I am keeping their e-mails for sure. I will try to post a comment a day for December so obviously I need 31 comments. The posts will go up around noon each day.

Rev. Ray, As I think on this, the first thing that comes to mind, is the giving spirit of First Church. My first thought is the Angel Tree, this provides children with something “under the tree” that might not have had anything to open Christmas morning. It also provides their parents with a sigh of relief that their children will not be disappointed in “Santa” not visiting their home. I am emotional typing this because I am blessed above and beyond what I deserve and I have always been able to provide a wonderful Christmas of presents, family, food and fun for my children. 

Second I think of the Food Drive. The boxes in the Narthex have been overflowing with food, so much so that Judy and Scott have been storing donations in the Choir room or the Narthex would appear to be a Super Market. Again the generosity of First Church overwhelms me!

I am also excited to participate in my first ever Advent Event. This is especially important as it is teaching our children to give rather then only receive this season, to remember those less fortunate. From wrapping Angel Tree gifts to making homeless blessing bags, gifts for home-bound members and Kairos Christmas artwork. Again how generous is our Church? 

I praise the Lord for the testimony. I hope that it brings those who read it great joy. Merry Christmas to one and all.

December 2, 2016 Posted by | Build, Christmas, Community, Encouragement, Faith Journey, Family, From the Pastor, Personal, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Throwing Off Our Sinful Nature

Ephesians 4:22

Throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. NLT

RayMcDWe’re approaching a new year. New Year’s Day is usually the time folks make resolutions. Rather than wait till January 1st – how about we agree today to throw off our old sinful nature and our former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception? Make a resolution today to follow Jesus and strive to shed sin in our lives. Seek His face and desire His grace.

Sin is nothing new – yet it does seem to be stacking up pretty high – even in folks that profess Christ as Lord and Savior. Sin comes in many forms. We can sin through thought – word – and/or deed. We can sin by what we do and we can sin by what we do not do. As Christians we should be striving to remove all sin from our lives. We should be striving to follow the example set by Jesus!

Our sin nature is part of our struggle as children of God. Here are a few Scriptures that speak to sin and our sin nature.

Romans 8:3 – For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering.  And so he condemned sin in the flesh, Continue reading

December 2, 2016 Posted by | Advent Thought, Build, Church, Community, Daily Devotion, Discipleship, Encouragement, Evangelism, Faith Journey, From the Pastor, Leadership, Outreach, Personal, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Christmas Praises 1

Psalm 28:7

The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.

christmas-1

During the month of December I have asked some members and friends of our church to write a paragraph or so describing some of the things that bring them joy this Christmas season in their relationship with Jesus and First Church? They were asked where they see Jesus in their church family? They were asked what draws them to First Church. The reason for this is to stir up some joy and excitement this Christmas Season. I told them I would share their thoughts anonymously – but I am keeping their e-mails for sure. I will try to post a comment a day for December so obviously I need 31 comments. The posts will go up around noon each day.

Rev. Ray, I know Jesus is happy for me that I found First Church.  I feel him there with me every Sunday the same way I feel him at home or out and about in my daily life.  I believe Jesus is always present at church because I feel him in the people in the music and in your prayers and sermons.  The reason I know Jesus is happy for me is because years ago I turned away from organized religion because I didn’t feel a connection to the people, the pastor, or the service.  You might say I didn’t feel connected to the Lord in church which made me very sad.  I never lost my faith in the Lord despite the fact that I have lived for over 25 years with a tortured mind and body.  It is my faith in Jesus and my love for my family that has kept me alive all these years.  It is not unusual for thoughts of suicide to cross my mind.  However, I have always had the strength to reject these thoughts because of my faith and great love for the Lord and my family.

This Christmas I will celebrate Jesus with renewed faith in the Lords house and an extremely grateful heart for having found First Church.  First Church brings me great joy and a sense of renewal each time I attend.  What a gift.  It is like Christmas every Sunday.  It is as if Joy and Peace are my reward for attending and I am so grateful.  My husband and I are always deeply moved by the Service at First Church.  What a blessing.  God bless you Reverend Ray for the ability to touch the hearts and minds of the First Church family of which I am so thankful to be a part of.

I praise the Lord for the testimony. I hope that it brings those who read it great joy. Merry Christmas to one and all.

December 1, 2016 Posted by | Build, Church, Community, Discipleship, Encouragement, Faith Journey, Family, From the Pastor, Outreach | , , , , | Leave a comment

Advent and Christmas Intertwinned

Isaiah 7:14

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. 

RayMcDI was reviewing some of my past posts for Advent and I came across one discussing Advent and Christmas. I had been reading some on Facebook and came across a post in a United Methodist Clergy group that implied the liturgical calendar should be followed during Advent. They suggested that Christmas shouldn’t begin until December 24th. The poster in that group was complaining about United Methodist Churches that sing Christmas hymns in early December. Oh my! Will Jesus even bless such blasphemy?

At the church I serve and most of them for sure that I have served over the years – we usually sing traditional Advent and Christmas hymns throughout the month of December. A human designed liturgical calendar doesn’t control how we celebrate the birth of Christ anymore than it controls when we preach on the Resurrection (should that only be on Easter?). Continue reading

December 1, 2016 Posted by | Advent Thought, Build, Christmas, Church, Community, Daily Devotion, Denomination, Discipleship, Encouragement, Evangelism, Faith Journey, Family, From the Pastor, Leadership, Outreach, Personal, Sermons, Theology | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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