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Old Time Faith – Is It Outdated?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

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

Praying for Our Enemies and Others

1 Thessalonians 1:2

We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers.

Life ChangeSo – in our prayer life – whom do we mention? The typical night-time prayer for a child is – God bless mommy and daddy – God bless my brother and sister – and maybe the child might add – God bless my grandma and granddad and my doggy too. We might add prayers for someone sick – for world peace – for that new job we are starting Monday – and other items on our plate. We might even praise God for simply being God. But what about praying for our enemies or for those whom we disagree with – even on important issues – including politics and theology?

My family has four continuous generations of Methodist/United Methodist pastors. We are heaped in Wesleyan theology and practice. Over the last four plus decades (a time that has encompassed my entire time as an ordained minister) – the divide between the left and the right leaning positions in the church has grown. We have debated the Bible and the Book of Discipline (the two rule books of the church). General Conference after General Conference has dealt with numerous issues where the two extremes have differed. Even as we prepare for yet another battle at the 2020 General Conference – the two sides are opposed to one another and at different places in theology and practice. The future of the unity in the UMC is at stake. We are facing schism and more. Some are outwardly definite to the Bible’s teaching and to the instructions of the Book of Discipline – General Conference rulings – and the Judicial Council of the church. Continue reading

June 11, 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, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How’s Our Prayer Life

Psalm 27:4

One thing I ask from the Lord…

Life ChangeThe Special General Conference (SGC) begins tomorrow. They are meeting in St. Louis – and delegates from all over the world will be there – representing the United Methodist Church. We are a global denomination with over 12 million members. The Methodist movement has approximately 80 million worldwide in various denominations that have their roots in the Wesleyan movement of Christianity.

At the SGC – there will be 864 delegates – with 58 percent from the United States and 30 percent from Africa. The remaining delegates are from the Philippines – Europe – and Eurasia – as well as from churches with which The United Methodist Church has formal relationships.

If we could ask for one thing of God – what would it be? Would we ask for unity in the denomination? Would we ask for a peaceful split? I know my prayer has been for us to be open to the Holy Spirit. I have prayed for unity – but not at the cost of doctrinal integrity. I have prayed for the church to understand clearly the Word of God and to rightly determine its use in our lives. What would we ask for if we could ask for one thing of God?

Let me ask another question. How’s our prayer life? Prayer is how we speak with God. How’s our prayer life? Continue reading

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

Consistency Is Important!

1 Peter 1:25

“…but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you.

Life ChangeConsistency is important to most of us. Two plus two better equal four every time or our whole number system is thrown up in the air. Consistency is important.

Inconsistencies usually drive most of us crazy. The person who says one thing and yet does another is an example of inconsistency that drives most of us crazy. Remember when your friends tried to change the rules mid game as a child – like when you were playing whiffle ball – batted left-handed – began to hit homers over the right field fence and they called homers over that fence an automatic double or even an out (my cousin pulled that one on me)?

What about in your line of work – what if the formula for concrete kept changing? What if the codes kept changing – not once-in-awhile but every day? Consistency is something we all try for in life. It is a good feeling for most of us to come home to basically the same-old-same-old. I know that might sound boring to some of our readers – and some variance at times is good – but most of all – we love consistency. Continue reading

February 7, 2019 Posted by | Build, Church, Community, Daily Devotion, Daily Prayer, Denomination, Discipleship, Encouragement, Evangelism, Faith Journey, Family, From the Pastor, Leadership, Outreach, Personal, Prayer, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Remain Faithful

1 John 1:9

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

Life ChangeGod’s grace is amazing as the song – Amazing Grace – records (isn’t that one of your favorite older hymns?).  One of the best promises in the Bible – IMHO (in my humble opinion) – is this one about the forgiveness of sins. We are all sinners in need of God’s grace and forgiveness. Today’s passage speaks of God’s desire to forgive. 1 John 1:9 – If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

Most of us have experienced deals before – like if you do something – I will do something. As children I remember getting notes passed in school – with if you like me – I will like you. As adults we learn that if we work at a certain job – the boss will pay us a certain paycheck. I’m sure we can all come up with if you I will life experiences. We have one in today’s passage when we’re told if we confess our sins – He will forgive our sins. Continue reading

January 29, 2019 Posted by | Build, Church, Community, Daily Devotion, Daily Prayer, Denomination, Discipleship, Encouragement, Evangelism, Faith Journey, Family, From the Pastor, Leadership, Outreach, Personal, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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