Ray McDonald's Blog

Thoughts and Reflections

Maranatha! Come Lord, Come!

Luke 2:9

An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.

Life ChangeDo you have any idea why we celebrate Advent – or don’t? Advent is more than the period of time that begins with the fourth Sunday before Christmas and runs through Christmas Eve. It is more than merely a time of awaiting the coming of the baby Jesus in the manger. In the fourth century when they began to celebrate Advent – it was also a time of remembering and waiting on the Lord’s return.

Have you ever heard the term Maranatha? It is an Aramaic term that literally means – Come Lord, Come – and was often used to invite our Lord’s return. I have used it for years on this blog page and in my e-mails (at times). Continue reading

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December 4, 2018 Posted by | Advent Thought, Build, Christmas, Church, Community, Daily Devotion, Discipleship, Encouragement, Evangelism, Faith Journey, Family, From the Pastor, Leadership, Outreach, Personal, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Christmas Eve 2017 Is Coming!

John 1:14 – KJV

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

Well – here we are – the week of Christmas. I hope that everyone has made their plans to celebrate Christmas with family and/or with friends. I hope you also plan to share some of Christmas Eve with your church family. At First Church we are planning our Christmas Eve services in detail this week. We’d love to hear back from you about the services we are offering and how they meet or don’t meet your needs and the needs of your family. This feedback will help us as we plan services for next year. Please share next week after the services.

On Christmas Eve – December 24th for those who might not remember – lol – we will offer 4 services (this year Christmas Eve is on a Sunday). The same sermon will be preached at the first three services (our regular Sunday services) with a different sermon preached at the 8 pm service. All except the 5 pm service will be held in the Sanctuary. Continue reading

December 19, 2017 Posted by | Build, Christmas, Church, Community, Daily Devotion, Discipleship, Encouragement, Evangelism, Faith Journey, Family, From the Pastor, Leadership, Personal, Sermons, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

There Is Now No Condemnation

Romans 8:1

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

Easter 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 next Easter or maybe Christmas Eve.

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 folk all attending on the same Sunday. Sadly – studies show that regular for some folks means once or twice a month these days – 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 regular – your normal attendance might be closer to 115 than 75. Continue reading

April 17, 2017 Posted by | Build, Church, Community, Daily Devotion, Discipleship, Encouragement, Evangelism, Faith Journey, Family, From the Pastor, Leadership, Marriage, Outreach, Personal, Theology, Worship | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Christmas Praise 26

John 1:14 – KJV

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

christmas-6During 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.

Christmas at First Church is all about Jesus. The world tries hard to take our eyes off of Jesus, while our pastor and our church family tries to help us focus on Jesus. Jesus is the reason for the season.

This year our pastor promises us something we have never done before. The last time he said that was Good Friday and we had a very moving service as we brought our sins to Christ. I look forward to what God has planned for us this Christmas.

The joy I feel when I attend worship at First Church cannot be measured. It is home to me. It is a safe place for me. It is a safe place for me to bring my friends. It is a place where people feel the Spirit of God. I never hesitate to invite my friends to attend with me. 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 26, 2016 Posted by | Build, Christmas, Church, Community, Encouragement, Family, Outreach, Personal | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Merry Christmas To All

Matthew 2:11

On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.

RayMcDMerry Christmas to all! I want to wish each and every one a Merry Christmas. May God bless you real good today and I don’t mean with some gift that someone may or may not be giving you! I mean with the love of Christ and the love of Christ working through you and others.

I’ve been writing most of the month about Christmas (have you enjoyed the Christmas Praises folks have shared?). I prepared for a long weekend this year with Christmas Eve on a Saturday and Christmas on a Sunday. My Christmas Eve is usually pretty busy with three services (4 – 7 – 11 pm). I will not arrive home – once I leave for church – until well past 1 am on Christmas Day. There is a part of me that is glad that we don’t have little ones to prepare for on Christmas morning (at home – not counting the grandchildren) – because this old salt would be one tired puppy if I had to put together a bunch of Christmas toys or bikes before the children woke. On the other hand – I will miss the joy of seeing little children opening their gifts and their giggles as they find something special under the tree for them! I hope the grandchildren give me that thrill again this year or real soon.

As I sip on my hot chocolate and listen to Pentatonix sing Christmas songs on YouTube I am reminded of the gifts that we give and receive at Christmas. Gifts have been a part of Christmas since the first Christmas! Continue reading

December 26, 2016 Posted by | Advent Thought, Build, Christmas, Church, Community, Daily Devotion, Discipleship, Encouragement, Evangelism, Faith Journey, Family, From the Pastor, Leadership, Outreach, Personal, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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