Ray McDonald's Blog

Thoughts and Reflections

Why Am I a United Methodist Christian?

Mark 1:17

“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.”

img_0063-2This is another of my reworked devotionals. Seems some things never change or at least stay the same for a long time. The original post was from 4 years ago – as we had just faced GC2016 and were headed to GC2019. The message from this devotional is still current and accurate as we now head to GC2020 in May of this year.

In today’s climate – this might be a very serious question. Why Am I a United Methodist today? Wy am I a Christian that attends a United Methodist Church?

These are simple questions – but – it might have some complicated answers. Let’s look at a few. When asked – Why am I a United Methodist?:

One might answer – because the church I go to is United Methodist. It is the church closest to my home or the church I have always attended. I really haven’t thought of why before but maybe I should.

One might answer – because I grew up in the United Methodist Church. It is the church my parents attended and I have just never thought much about changing or trying another church.

One might answer – because I believe in the method of their theological discernment. Now we’re starting to dive a little deeper. Have any of us thought this deep about our relationship with the denomination we attend.

One might answer – I don’t know! This might be a more common answer than we would like.

One might answer – United Methodist?  You mean I’m United Methodist? You mean the church I attend is a United Methodist Church?

Continue reading

January 24, 2020 Posted by | Build, Church, Community, Daily Devotion, Denomination, Discipleship, Encouragement, Evangelism, Faith Journey, Family, From the Pastor, Leadership, Outreach, Personal, Prayer, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2020 General Conference

Romans 14:1

Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters.

img_0063-2Our denomination is facing some tough discussions and decisions right now. General Conference 2020 is taking place in May of this year. I will be watching the simulcast when time allows – even if on vacation. I have kept these proceedings in my prayers since it became clear the left would not obey the Book of Discipline. I hope you have as well. I knew this General Conference would be of great significance. Although the future of the Body of Christ is not in question – the future of the United Methodist Church stands in the balance. A number of proposals are coming forth to split the UMC.

A number of people have quoted today’s passage from both sides of the aisle it seems – on some of the current issues. I can see where both sides are coming from – and the bottom line is that if we are to remain a United Methodist Church – we will need to give some – on both sides of the aisle. In order to get along in any family – some give and take are needed.

Here is today’s passage in partial context. Romans 14:1-9 – Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand. One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living. Continue reading

January 16, 2020 Posted by | Build, Church, Community, Daily Devotion, Daily Prayer, Denomination, Discipleship, Encouragement, Evangelism, Faith Journey, Family, From the Pastor, Leadership, Outreach, Personal, Prayer, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Calling All Prayer Warriors

Ephesians 6:18–20

18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.

img_0063-2Calling all Prayer Warriors!

This morning I feel compelled (obligated, duty-bound) to call on all who will to pray for the church and for your pastors and leaders. According to Scripture: 1 Peter 5:8-98 Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith,

The devil is out there and wants nothing more than to devour the Church! Part of standing firm is to stay in prayer together. Pray that the devil not be given even a foothold in our lives and in the church. As Scripture says; Ephesians 4:25-2825 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26 “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. 28 He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need. Continue reading

January 9, 2020 Posted by | Build, Church, Community, Daily Devotion, Daily Prayer, Denomination, Discipleship, Encouragement, Evangelism, Faith Journey, Family, From the Pastor, Holy Spirit, Leadership, Outreach, Personal, Prayer, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Serving God at the Winter Shelter

Galatians 5:13

Serve one another humbly in love

Ray 2019This Sunday will end our week this winter – serving the homeless communities men – with the Winter Shelter program. I’m always impressed by those who participate in this ministry. Many stay up all night and then go to work the next day. I know this is hard – regardless of your age – because I have been doing it one night each year that I have had the privilege to serve First Church. If the men are calm and sleeping – the hardest part of spending the night is staying up all night and then going to work the next day. From Wednesday at 6 am till Thursday morning at 9 am – the posting of this devotional – I got 3.5 hours of bed time (less in sleep time). I will crash tonight or maybe take a nap this afternoon. I know the two men who stayed last night along with me are tired. One went to work this morning and the other will go to work in the afternoon. Some people work more evenings than one. I’m not sure how they do it. We could certainly use more help this year and each year. We have the shelter for the men through Sunday morning.

Aside from the lack of sleep – the amazing part of the week is getting to know the men who visit the shelter. I usually take the time to sit and eat several dinners with the men – talking with them and getting to know them. Several of the men have jobs. We talked about their work. Several of the men were new to the shelter program this year. Several of the men from years past have found shelter elsewhere. Continue reading

December 19, 2019 Posted by | Advent Thought, Build, Church, Community, Daily Devotion, Daily Prayer, Discipleship, Encouragement, Evangelism, Faith Journey, Family, From the Pastor, Leadership, Missions, Outreach, Personal, Prayer, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pretend or Real?

Romans 13:14

Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.

Ray 2019I remember playing pretend as a child. My brother and I would dress up like soldiers and play Combat! It was fun to pretend. I was usually Sergeant “Chip” Saunders – played by Vic Morrow on the show. I even had a plastic machine gun to complete the ensemble. I remember I had an army canteen and an army backpack (for my sandwiches for lunch). My brother and I would make adventures in the sand dunes between our house and our grandmother’s home. It was fun playing make believe. When we got a little older we would play in the woods or even in the cemetery next door to the parsonage. It was great fun pretending.

I remember a recent week of VBS at First UMC of Laurel. The theme that summer was having great adventures – Rolling River Rampage. The children had a blast. They had great adventures on the river and learned about Jesus. They imagined a number of adventures on the river. We collected funds to support those devastated by the rising river in Ellicott City.

They learned that some adventures are imaginary – and some are real – like walking with Jesus can be an adventure – but it is for real! We learned that following Jesus – who died to pay for our sins and to allow us into a right relationship with God the Father – can be a great adventure too. We were also encouraged to tell others of our excitement – being in an adventure with Jesus. Continue reading

December 16, 2019 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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