Ray McDonald's Blog

Thoughts and Reflections

The Week After Easter

Psalm 119:147

I rise before dawn and cry for help; I hope in your words.

Life ChangeEaster 2019 has come and gone. Lent was a powerful time this year for me. Holy Week was amazing. I loved the Seder meal and the Good Friday service. Easter Sunrise service is always special for me – I’ve only missed one in my adult life that I can remember. I loved sharing that time with my father when possible. I loved the hill behind Mt. Zion with the benches and three crosses and the sun rising over the hill – the pavilion at Mt. Oak (with the cross in the field) – and the prayer garden at First Church – just to name the last three churches I’ve served. Each holds many special memories.

On Easter morning I usually arise around 4 am. Sunrise this year was at 6:20 am so we started our service at 6 am. I know that some of our men and women – some of my friends – wake that early or earlier on a regular basis. One of my son-in-laws gets up that early most every day to go to work. It is not my usual time to rise though. As a matter of fact – there have been nights I haven’t gone to sleep until that time! My normal time to rise is 6:00 am or thereabouts. By that time we were starting worship on Easter morning. It was a powerful morning – we had a great time worshiping God. We invited other churches and the community to join us. The sun rising will remind us that the Son rose. Continue reading

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April 24, 2019 Posted by | Build, Church, Community, Daily Devotion, Daily Prayer, Discipleship, Encouragement, Evangelism, Faith Journey, Family, From the Pastor, Leadership, Outreach, Personal, Prayer, Sermons, Theology, Worship | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Easter Is Everyday!

Romans 8:1

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,

Life ChangeEaster has come and gone for another year. Churches were packed Sunday from sunrise services through regular and extra worship services. Some of my colleagues had to hold Easter services off-sight for a variety of reasons. Some wanted to reach the unchurched and thought off-site might be the best way to do this.  Some would have had to hold so many services in their current facilities that it made sense to go off-site to a larger facility. Some for both reasons and maybe some others as well. I imagine that some saw larger crowds than they will see all year until Easter next year – April 12th.

If their attendance was anything like I have experienced over the years – although there were some visitors – like family visiting for the long holiday weekend – folks looking for a church or simply the C&E folks (Christmas and Easter) – mostly the higher attendance is a product of the regular folks all attending on the same Sunday. Sadly – studies show that regular for some means once or twice a month – something less than most every Sunday. When attendance on a regular Sunday is say 75 and on Easter it blossoms to 125 with only 10 visitors – that suggests that if your regulars were more regular – your normal attendance might be closer to 115 than 75. Continue reading

April 23, 2019 Posted by | Build, Church, Community, Daily Devotion, Daily Prayer, Denomination, Discipleship, Encouragement, Evangelism, Faith Journey, Family, From the Pastor, Leadership, Marriage, Outreach, Personal, Prayer, Theology, Worship | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Do You Think About Easter?

Matthew 28:5–6

5 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.

Life ChangeIn reading an article on Barna.org titled Most Americans Consider Easter a Religious Holiday, But Fewer Correctly Identify its Meaning a few years ago I came across some interesting findings.  Below is some quoted material from that article.

Who Celebrates Easter as Religious Holiday?

The types of Americans who were most likely to express some type of theistic religious connection with Easter were evangelicals (93%), attenders of large churches (86% among those whose congregation has 500-plus adult attenders), born again Christians (81%), and weekly churchgoers (77%).

Republicans (77%) and Democrats (71%) were more likely than were independents (59%) and non-registered citizens (51%) to say Easter has religious meaning for them.

In terms of age, members of the Boomer generation (73%, ages 45 to 63) were among the most likely to describe Easter as a religious holiday for them, compared with two-thirds of Elders (66% of those ages 64-plus) and Busters (66%, ages 26 to 44). The youngest adult generation, the Mosaics (ages 18 to 25), were the least likely age segment to say Easter is a religious holiday (58%), reflecting the increasingly secular mindset of young adults. Continue reading

April 22, 2019 Posted by | Build, Church, Community, Daily Devotion, Denomination, Discipleship, Encouragement, Evangelism, Faith Journey, From the Pastor, Leadership, Missions, Outreach, Personal, Prayer, Sermons, Theology, Worship | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Deny Self and Follow Christ

Matthew 26:35

Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” And all the disciples said the same.

Life ChangeLent is almost over for 2019. We have a special Seder meal tomorrow night. I hope you signed up. Hope to see you there. We have our Good Friday service Friday at 7 pm. We will continue our walk toward the cross with John’s gospel. Lent – according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary – is defined as – a period of 40 days before Easter during which many Christians do not eat certain foods or do certain pleasurable activities as a way of remembering the suffering of Jesus Christ. 

Today’s passage is about Peter and the disciples saying they would not deny Christ – that they would actually die with Jesus if need be. Here is today’s passage in partial context. Matthew 26:30-39 – 30 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. 31 Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ 32 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” 33 Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” 34 Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” 35 Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” And all the disciples said the same. 36 Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” 37 And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” 39 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” Continue reading

April 18, 2019 Posted by | Build, Church, Community, Daily Devotion, Daily Prayer, Discipleship, Encouragement, Evangelism, Faith Journey, From the Pastor, Leadership, Lenten Thought, Outreach, Personal, Prayer, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Grass Grows and Withers

Isaiah 40:6

A voice says, “Cry out.” And I said, “What shall I cry?” “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field.”

Life ChangeA number of summers ago I lost my front yard. A combination of lack of water – excess sunshine – and a weak root system did it in. I treated the ground – aerated – seeded with good seed – fertilized with starter fertilizer and winter fertilizer later in the season and that following spring I fertilized it again. It came up strong and full. I fully realize that if I can’t figure out a way to water the yard in the summer – it will not be as full later in the year. That year I got an estimate for a sprinkler system – and that was way out of my price range. I purchased some extra hose and have tried – during the dry periods – to water the front yard. It did OK.

Even with all of that work that fall – just a few weeks into March even – my yard was like most yards – dormant (to a degree). It did remain green through the winter that year – thanks to fertilizers and a mild winter – but it was in a dormant state. With the warmer than normal March that spring – with lots of sunshine and some rain – my yard was ahead of schedule that spring. It had time that spring to deepen the roots and thicken before the summer months. I cut my grass at the highest setting my lawn tractor with a mulching kit would allow. I cut the grass twice a week during the peak-growing season so I don’t leave behind piles or clumps of dead grass. I love a green lawn throughout the year!

Continue reading

April 16, 2019 Posted by | Build, Church, Community, Daily Devotion, Daily Prayer, Discipleship, Encouragement, Evangelism, Faith Journey, From the Pastor, Leadership, Lenten Thought, Outreach, Personal, Prayer, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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