Ray McDonald's Blog

Thoughts and Reflections

Christmas Praises 15

2 Corinthians 5:17

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

christmas-15During 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.

My father passed away many years ago a few weeks after Christmas.  I took his passing very hard.  Before then, Christmas was all about presents, parties and bright lights.  After Dad died, I realized how much I needed a church family, and joined First Church, as my former church was so far away that I didn’t go to it often.  It felt good to be welcomed into a church family when my own family was in so much pain.

For many years after Dad died, it was hard to celebrate Christmas without experiencing deep sorrow from missing him.  As I’ve gotten older, I have come to realize that Dad lives in me all the time and that he would want me to enjoy the spirit of Christmas again.  I still get sad, but I also try to make the holidays bright for everyone around me.  Between going to church services in several churches with friends, enjoying activities like the wonderful Cantata, cheerfully greeting everyone I encounter and donating my time and money to help others in need, I have once again found a way to celebrate the birth of Jesus.  Christmas really isn’t about the presents.  It’s about being present and being helpful.  It’s about loving everyone, and doing what Jesus would want us to do.  Merry Christmas.

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 15, 2016 Posted by | Build, Christmas, Church, Community, Discipleship, Encouragement, Faith Journey, Family, Outreach, Personal | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Real Transformation

2 Corinthians 5:17

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

RayMcDLast night in the Men’s Bible study we were talking about real transformation – the real change that comes over us when we receive Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. From time to time – shows appear on TV that seem to be popular. Shows like Extreme Makeover or Strong or Biggest Losers appeal to the general population because we like to believe – given the right circumstances – we can all become better than we are right now. We can lose the weight – we can reshape our appearance – we can have a better home and a better life. If nothing else – we can get lost in the fantasy of someone else’s transformation and wish it were really about our lives.

From time to time – most of us – looking back on the life choices that have led us to where we find ourselves – most of us would make a few changes. We often hear people say – if I had it all to do over again I wouldn’t change a thing – but in reality – most of us would change some things.

From time to time – have we ever thought of taking a different career path? Have we ever thought about living in a different part of the country or even a different part of the world? Have we ever regretted choices we have made? I bet the answer to that is a resounding YES for many of us. Continue reading

December 14, 2016 Posted by | Advent Thought, Build, Christmas, Church, Community, Daily Devotion, Discipleship, Encouragement, Evangelism, Faith Journey, Family, From the Pastor, Holy Spirit, Leadership, Missions, Outreach, Personal, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rend Your Hearts

Joel 2:13

Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.

RayMcDI hope our readers don’t get tired of posts about the heart. I think that the heart (not the blood pumping organ but the inner being) is the central element in our Christian walk. One of my favorite sayings – which I created some 35 plus years ago – goes like this – Christianity boils down to attitude. A about 25 years ago I added the following – Christianity boils down to attitude – the condition and position of one’s heart.

The condition and position of one’s heart is vital. One can go through all of the Christian-like actions and not feel it in the heart. One can rend their garments and bow and tithe and attend to the regular ordinances of the faith – but if they do not feel it in their heart – their actions are empty.

Today’s passage reminds us that it isn’t the outward things God is after but the inner heart. If God has the inner heart – the actions will follow. Here’s today’s passage in partial context. Joel 2:12–14 – 12 “Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” 13 Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. 14 Who knows? He may turn and relent and leave behind a blessing— grain offerings and drink offerings for the Lord your God. Continue reading

October 19, 2016 Posted by | Daily Devotion | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hidden in Christ

Colossians 3:3

For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.

RayMcDSunday we talked about Submitting to God in our Sunday message at First United Methodist Church of Laurel. You can listen to the sermon here. The message was part four of a five part series titled 5 Themes From James.

Some key verses from this message were as follows.

Matthew 16:24 – Then Jesus said to his disciples, Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.

James 4:7-8 – 7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

Today’s passage in this devotional thought is a good follow up to the message from Sunday. It reminds us that we are called to die to self (deny self – the carnal nature) and be reborn in Christ (the spiritual self or nature). We referred to this passage as well – about the new nature.

2 Corinthians 5:17 – Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! Continue reading

October 10, 2016 Posted by | Build, Church, Community, Daily Devotion, Denomination, Discipleship, Encouragement, Evangelism, Faith Journey, Family, From the Pastor, Leadership, Outreach, Personal, Sermons, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Real Life Transformations

2 Corinthians 5:17

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

RevRayMcFrom time to time – shows appear on TV that seem to be popular. Shows like Extreme Makeover or Strong or Biggest Losers appeal to the general population because we like to believe – given the right circumstances – we can all become better than we are right now. We can lose the weight – we can reshape our appearance – we can have a better life. If nothing else – we can get lost in the fantasy of someone else’s transformation and wish it were really about our lives.

From time to time – most of us – looking back on the life choices that have led us to where we find ourselves – most of us would change a few. We often hear people say – if I had it all to do over again I wouldn’t change a thing – but in reality – most of us would change some things.

From time to time – have we ever thought of taking a different career path? Have we ever thought about living in a different part of the country or even a different part of the world? Have we ever regretted choices we have made? I bet the answer to that is a resounding YES for many of us. Continue reading

June 28, 2016 Posted by | Build, Church, Daily Devotion, Discipleship, Encouragement, Evangelism, Faith Journey, Family, From the Pastor, Leadership, Outreach, Personal, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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