Ray McDonald's Blog

Thoughts and Reflections

Old Time Faith – Is It Outdated?

Matthew 28:18–20

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

photo on 6-11-19 at 10.52 amToday’s presenting scripture has been called the the Great Commission. It is often seen as the marching orders for the Christian church. We are called to go and make disciples of or for Jesus Christ (whichever makes the most sense to you – lol). In the early years of the Methodist movement – making disciples – followers of Christ – seemed to be the main focus. Revivals and Camp Meetings were all the rage and altar calls were common place in Methodist worship – as pastors challenged parishioners to be transformed after the likeness of Christ. I typically have an altar call each week to challenge those in attendance to faith – or to a deeper faith – or simply to pray about something that has been a challenge for them.

Early Methodists were called to holiness – they were part of the holiness movement in the United States for instance. We were taught to study the Word of God (the Bible) and to strive to live our lives after what it taught. We were even encouraged to avoid some of the ills of our society. The way it was explained to me (as a third generation Methodist pastor) – Methodists were encouraged to abstain from alcohol – from playing cards – from dancing – even from playing pool. The reason – again as it was explained to me – was because these social activities were often associated with bars and night clubs – with gambling and behavior and places that were not appropriate for folks striving to follow after Christ. We were encouraged to avoid even the appearance of evil or sin (we actually called behavior contrary to God’s will – sin).  We were encouraged to keep Sunday set aside for the Lord. In my home growing up – Sunday was a day for worship and Sunday School in the morning – a family lunch – a nap time – youth group – and worship in the evening. Sunday was a day set aside for being with God and with other Christians.

Correct me if I am wrong – but – I just don’t see the United Methodist Church of today – in many places – in many churches – as part of the holiness movement any longer. I rarely hear or read about the UMC calling people to Scriptural holiness. I rarely hear about revivals and camp meetings or Sunday or Wednesday night services. What I often hear – even from some of our clergy and Bishops – is a caving to social norm – to the sin of society. I hear tolerance preached and taught rather than holiness. It seems like we are trying to be popular rather than faithful. I hope I’m not being too harsh. Correct me if I am wrong or being too harsh – please. Continue reading

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September 9, 2019 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, Sermons, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is Holiness Still Our Call?

Matthew 28:18–20

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Today’s passage is called the Great Commission. It is often seen as the marching orders for the Christian church. We are called to go and make disciples of or for Jesus Christ (whichever makes the most sense to you – lol). In the early years of the Methodist movement – making disciples – followers of Christ – seemed to be the main focus. Revivals and Camp Meetings were all the rage and altar calls were common place in Methodist worship – as pastors challenged parishioners to be transformed after the likeness of Christ. I remember revivals and camp meetings and altar calls and still use them today.

Early Methodists were called to holiness – they were part of the holiness movement in the United States for instance. We were taught to study the Word of God (the Bible) and to strive to live our lives after what it taught. We were even encouraged to avoid some of the ills of our society. The way it was explained to me (as a third generation Methodist pastor) – Methodists were encouraged to abstain from alcohol – from playing cards – from dancing – even from playing pool. The reason – again as it was explained to me – was because these social activities were often associated with bars and night clubs – with gambling and behavior and places that were not appropriate for folks striving to follow after Christ. We were encouraged to avoid even the appearance of evil or sin. We were encouraged to keep Sunday set aside for the Lord. In my home growing up – Sunday was a day for worship and Sunday School in the morning – a family lunch – a nap time – youth group – and worship in the evening. Sunday was a day set aside for being with God and with other Christians. Continue reading

February 6, 2019 Posted by | Build, Church, Community, Daily Devotion, Daily Prayer, Denomination, Discipleship, Encouragement, Evangelism, Faith Journey, Family, From the Pastor, Holy Spirit, Leadership, Missions, Outreach, Personal, Prayer, Sermons, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Reaching the Lost for Jesus

Luke 19:10

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.

Life ChangeWhen I read this passage recently – I thought of this passage – Matthew 9:12 – On hearing this, Jesus said, It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.

I believe at times the church forgets our vision or purpose. In my 40 plus years of ministry – my purpose has been to reach everyone for Christ. The implication – although subtle – is that those who know Christ are not my primary target in the church. Not that they are ignored – but if they know Jesus – part of my task is to build them up so they can reach other for Christ. If we know Jesus – we should want to be built up and be sent out to serve Christ. Our main or primary focus needs to be the lost – those who do not know Jesus. That should be the primary target group of any church IMHO.

Jesus instructed His disciples this way – as part of His final instructions to them. Matthew 28:19 – Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Now – one could argue that becoming a disciple is more than being saved – but the indication when you talk about all the nations – or even Israel – is that they were unsaved (there weren’t too many Christians at the time of this statement!). Continue reading

January 11, 2019 Posted by | Bring, Build, Church, Community, Daily Devotion, Denomination, Discipleship, Encouragement, Evangelism, Faith Journey, Family, From the Pastor, Holy Spirit, Leadership, Missions, Outreach, Personal, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Seek First The Important Things!

Matthew 6:33

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Think about this for a moment. What is the most important thing in your life? Think before you answer – and don’t give me what you wish were most important or think should be most important. Someone once said if you want to know what is really important to a person – just look at the person’s checkbook. I’ll add – take a look at their credit card bills and their online spending too! Do we spend more money on things that are really only peripheral things in our lives? Do we own that boat or does that boat own us? Are our hobbies that important to our lives?

The Sunday School answer – of course – would be Jesus! Jesus should be most important in our lives. We have been bought and paid for by the blood of the Lamb and He owns us – 1 Corinthians 6:20 – you were bought at a price. At least – God should own us – but at times we act as if we own ourselves. At times we act as if we are more important than God. Continue reading

May 14, 2018 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

Christmas Praises 12

Psalm 118:24

The Lord has done it this very day; let us rejoice today and be glad.

christmas-12During 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 is my favorite time of the year, because most people demonstrate a spirit of happiness and giving. 

This Christmas season, however, is very different than years past. Throughout the year I have experienced several losses of loved ones, financial hardship, ministry challenges, employment reductions, and seen a large spike in violent crimes in our community. With all the telltale signs of the end times, most would agree that we may be in them or steadily approaching them. That does not stop us from serving Christ in the capacity he wants us to. We often use our struggles and hardships to learn things and Christ uses them to help others in need.

The true meaning of Christmas is often lost though. The worldly version we are familiar with equals giving presents, having large meals, spending time with family and demonstrating a cheerful attitude.  The Christ portion of it is downplayed in the spirit of the holiday. Whether we use the prophetic name Emmanuel or the word in flesh name Jesus—the holiday is about his birth.

Every year, I feel honored to participate in Warm Nights—shelter for the homeless, Angel Tree—gifts for children with incarcerated parents, Food drive—stocking the LARS food pantry, and many other mission related events. Not only do I get great joy out of helping others,  but I see it as my spiritual gift—Faith and Deeds. 

Church is not a building or location—it is each individual who makes up a community of believers who gather together to fulfill the Great Commission of Jesus Christ. Good, bad, or indifferent that is what we do as a collective spiritual body.

As my favorite author wrote: 

IN OUR WALK, WE WILL SEE THE MOST HONORABLE OF INTENTIONS, BOTH THE MOST NOBLE AND VILE OF HUMAN BEHAVIOR, AS WELL AS DEPRAVED INDIFFERENCE.  I INVITE YOU TO BE INSPIRED BY THAT WHICH IS HONORABLE, CHALLENGED BY INDIFFERENCE, AND SEPARATED FROM DEPRAVITY.”   F. M. BELL

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 12, 2016 Posted by | Build, Christmas, Church, Community, Discipleship, Encouragement, Faith Journey, Family, Leadership, Missions, Outreach, Personal, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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