Soar Like an Eagle

But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. (Isaiah 40:31).
Ever wonder how and why the eagle is able to so easily stay aloft with seemingly little effort as it glides with wings outstretched and motionless, while smaller birds seem to struggle, beating the air with their wings incessantly? I know that there are aerodynamic explanations for this, but the example of the eagle is such a picture of peace and tranquility as it soars higher and higher. It can reach amazing heights that other birds cannot reach. There are two reasons. First, its wings are aerodynamically engineered by the Lord to catch the updraft of the prevailing winds, and secondly, the eagle needs to stay aloft for much longer periods of time to hunt its prey from the air. What the eagle models and what the scripture above indicates is that, like the eagle depends on the updrafts for its easy flight, we should rest and depend on the mighty wind of God’s Spirit for our energy to walk the walk and live the life he has given. Too often we “flap” our wings and try to live on our own strength which is a guarantee of failure. Like the wings of eagles and the sails of a ship, we need to draw close to the Lord and embrace His strength for the journey. I heard this little poem a long time ago about seeking God early in the morning for the strength we need for each day:
I met God in the morning when the day was at its best
And His presence came like sunshine with a glory in my breast
All day long His presence lingered; all day long he sailed with me,
And I sailed in perfect calmness oe’r a very troubled sea
Other ships were torn and battered; other ships were sore distressed,
But the winds that seemed to drive them brought to me a peace and rest.
So I think I’ve learned the secret, learned from many a troublesome way.
I must meet God in the morning to sail with Him through the day.
Blessings, Pastor Joe MacDonald

Dying to Live

I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I but Christ lives in me and the life I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me. -Galatians 2:20
Ironically, real victory and success in life is not how we develop our own fleshly resources, but how we die to them in exchange for dependence on Christ’s resources. Paul says that everything he had ever accomplished, and all his credentials were considered “rubbish” compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ (Phil. 3: 3-8). On the other hand he said that “I can do all things through Christ—“ (Phil. 4:13). This thinking flies in the face of the cultural dogma of self-help, self-improvement, self-sustenance, be the best “you” you can be, etc.
Don’t get me wrong. We can be grateful for the many resources that are available to us and thank God for them. It is when we become solely dependent on ourselves and the resources that are available to us to the exclusion of any dependence on the One who has made all of them possible. We think that when we are in control of the car of life and everything starts to get out of control, that things will be better if we just grip the wheel of life a little harder.
It is a reminder of the old adage that insanity is doing the same things we have always done and expect different results. How many times have Christians had to be brought to their knees by the removal of all other resources but the Lord Himself? Why is Christ always the last resort? Why do we always feel that we have to figure it out instead of figuring Him in? Here is a thought. As you face all that life throws your way, start by saying “Apart from You I can do nothing; I confess death to my own puny resources and depend alone on You, Lord.”
The bottom line issue is trust. Do we trust in self and what we think self can provide or do we die to the insufficiency of self-sustenance and find life in dependence on Christ? Death to self is the discovery of real life and peace in Christ. Jim Elliot said, “ He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
Blessings, Pastor Joe MacDonald

World’s Meanest Mother

It is May already, the month we celebrate and honor our mothers. It is my hope that your mother was as “mean” as the following by Bobbie Pingaro  and, if you are a mother, that you are as well:
“The Meanest Mother”
I had the meanest mother in the whole world. While other kids ate candy for breakfast, I had to have cereal, eggs or toast. When others had cokes and candy for lunch, I had to eat a sandwich. As you can guess, my supper was different than the other kids’ also. But at least, I wasn’t alone in my sufferings. My sister and two brothers had the same mean mother as I did. My mother insisted upon knowing where we were at all times. You’d think we were on a chain gang. She had to know who our friends were and where we were going. She insisted if we said we’d be gone an hour, that were gone one hour or less–not one hour and one minute. I am nearly ashamed to admit it, but she actually struck us. Not once, but each time we had a mind of our own and did as we pleased. That poor belt was used more on our seats than it was to hold up Daddy’s pants. Can you imagine someone actually hitting a child just because he disobeyed? Now you can begin to see how mean she really was. We had to wear clean clothes and take a bath. The other kids always wore their clothes for days. We reached the height of insults because she made our clothes herself, just to save money. Why, oh why, did we have to have a mother who made us feel different from our friends? The worst is yet to come. We had to be in bed by nine each night and up at eight the next morning. We couldn’t sleep till noon like our friends. So while they slept-my mother actually had the nerve to break the child-labor law. She made us work. We had to wash dishes, make beds, learn to cook and all sorts of cruel things. I believe she laid awake at night thinking up mean things to do to us. She always insisted upon us telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, even if it killed us- and it nearly did. By the time we were teenagers, she was much wiser, and our life became even more unbearable. None of this tooting the horn of a car for us to come running. She embarrassed us to no end by making our dates and friends come to the door to get us. If I spent the night with a girlfriend, can you imagine she checked on me to see if I were really there. I never had the chance to elope to Mexico. That is if I’d had a boyfriend to elope with. I forgot to mention, while my friends were dating at the mature age of 12 and 13, my old fashioned mother refused to let me date until the age of 15 and 16. Fifteen, that is, if you dated only to go to a school function. And that was maybe twice a year. Through the years, things didn’t improve a bit. We could not lie in bed, “sick” like our friends did, and miss school. If our friends had a toe ache, a hang nail or serious ailment, they could stay home from school. Our marks in school had to be up to par. Our friends’ report cards had beautiful colors on them, black for passing, red for failing. My mother being as different as she was, would settle for nothing less than ugly black marks. As the years rolled by, first one and then the other of us was put to shame. We were graduated from high school.  With our mother behind us, talking, hitting and demanding respect, none of us was allowed the pleasure of being a drop-out. My mother was a complete failure as a mother. Out of four children, a couple of us attained some higher education. None of us have ever been arrested, divorced or beaten his mate.  Each of my brothers served his time in the service of this country. And whom do we have to blame for the terrible way we turned out? You’re right, our mean mother. Look at the things we missed. We never got to march in a protest parade, nor to take part in a riot, burn draft cards, and a million and one other things that our friends did. She forced us to grow up into God-fearing, educated, honest adults. Using this as a background, I am trying to raise my three children. I stand a little taller and I am filled with pride when my children call me mean. Because, you see, I thank God, He gave me the meanest mother in the whole world. (written by Bobbie Pingaro, 1967)
It is my prayer that you will always strive to be a Proverbs 31 mom.
Blessings, Pastor Joe MacDonald

Image is Everything

“So God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God, He created them; male and female he created them” -Genesis 1:27
It is almost frightening how important “image” has become in our culture. Though it is not stated overtly, it is obvious that the news media make sure their announcers and anchor people fit a certain image (notwithstanding the potential risk of being accused of discrimination because certain qualified people may not fit that image). Furthermore, millions, even billions of dollars are spent on cosmetic creams or surgical procedures on Hollywood stars and starlets to maintain a certain image that will “sell” on screen. Those in the modeling industry are so pressured to fit a certain image that many suffer from bulimia, anorexia, or dietary extremes just to fit a certain socially acceptable look. Unfortunately teenagers and even younger children buy into this obsession with image, sometimes to the extent that if they are not able to fit it they even attempt or commit suicide. It is a tragedy when anyone’s value is dictated by a culturally driven image demand. Thank God, those who know Christ never have to be a slave to those cultural demands. As God’s child you already have and carry a perfect image. It is not that any human being is perfect. No, we are all sinners by birth; but God says we are made in and carry His image. Even those who do not know Christ carry the image of God by the act of creation. Your value and mine are not dictated by how culture or others see us but by the value our Creator puts upon us. How valuable is that? So valuable that God Himself took on flesh and died on a cross, that our relationship with Him could be restored and His image in us could be renewed. You never have to live in the slavery of the dictates of culture or the pressure of peers. God has made us unique and more valuable to Him than anything else in the universe. It is my prayer that the only One you want to look like is Him shining through your uniqueness.
Blessings, Pastor Joe MacDonald

Just a Touch

“If I only touch His cloak I will be healed” Matthew 9:21
In 1944, a highly unethical, cruel and undoubtedly criminal experiment was conducted using 40 newborn infants to determine whether they could survive alone with all their physiological needs met including diaper changes and bathing. Twenty of them were placed in a special facility where caregivers would feed them, change their diapers, and bathe and clothe them, but nothing else. The caregivers were instructed not to look at them, touch them in any way (other than what was necessary) or communicate at all with them. The environment was kept sterile and none of the babies became physically ill. After four months the experiment was halted since half of the babies had died even though there was nothing wrong with them physically. Just prior to their deaths the infants would stop verbalizing, stop trying to engage with their caregivers, stop crying, stop moving and even changing expression. Death would soon follow. Yes, this is a horrible illustration but it points out one of the most important principles of life: the power of human touch. Sometimes when people who are going through severe trauma or loss, there is nothing more important at that time than a loving, caring touch. When words seem so useless, even insensitive, a touch on the hand or a shoulder or a hug can say more than a thousand words to really comfort. The woman in Matthew 9 with the issue of blood knew that a touch was not just comforting but healing when the she could merely touch the Master. She wanted her touch to be unnoticed by everyone including Jesus but He was fully aware of power flowing from Him to this woman. It wasn’t simply the touch that Jesus noticed but the faith that was behind it. She did not require His full attention, or for Him to come to her house or for Him to do anything. She knew that just a mere contact, just a touch would suffice. The ministry of touch was important in Jesus’ ministry. Whenever he healed he often touched the person. Each of us should not fear the ministry of touch. Granted, we must take care that all and any touch is appropriate and never misleading. Physical touch is one way of caring but reaching out to others with a note, an e-mail or blog, or even a sincere, “I am thinking about you and praying for you,” may touch someone in ways that you never know. Is there someone you know who just needs a touch?
Blessings, Pastor Joe MacDonald

The One Thing God Wants- Our Trust

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path” Proverbs 3:5,6
In 1858 a French acrobat named Monsieur Charles Blondin traveled to Niagara Falls in America with the goal of crossing the more than 2,000 foot span from the American side to the Canadian side on a two inch diameter rope. He not only crossed that span and back once but many times. On one occasion he carried a camera, took the camera off in the middle of the walk and took a picture of the onlookers on the bank. He also crossed Niagara in shackles and once with a bag over his head and body. On another occasion he stopped in the center of the tightrope, asked for the “Maid of the Mist”, Niagara’s famous tour boat, to stop underneath him. He let down a rope, had a flask of wine attached and hoisted it up for a mid-rope glass of wine before finishing the walk. On July 15th, before a huge crowd, including President Millard Fillmore, he walked backwards on the rope to Canada and pushed a wheel barrow back to America. His most noted exploit was when he carried a stove and utensils on his back, stopped in the middle of the walk, started a fire, cooked an omelet and let it down on a rope to serve passengers on the Maid of the Mist. On one occasion he was said to ask the crowd if they thought he could take a man across on the rope. Everyone shouted yes of course; to which he replied, “Then who will be the first to get on my back?” That’s right. The real test of trust is when we “cut off the limb” and depend only on Him. Jesus said take my yoke and give me yours. He doesn’t want to just take your load “on His back,” he wants to take you as well. Incidentally, there was a man by the name of Harry Colcord, who accepted the challenge and rode across the great falls on Blondin’s back. It was estimated that when he made his final crossing in 1896 that he had crossed the falls 300 times and had walked the rope more than 10,000 miles. By the way, he never had any life insurance. All the companies refused because of the risk. Are we willing to let Jesus take us “on His back” in every life situation?
Blessings, Pastor Joe MacDonald

The End From the Beginning

“I am the Alpha and the Omega”
Think about this quote as you launch on a new year: “No one can go back and make a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.” It is obvious that none of us can change the past. We may want to. All of us have things we wish we could turn the time back and change, but the past is the past and it is what it is. We don’t change the past, but we can certainly learn from it and make different choices going forward.Just like there was an ending to the old year there will be an ending to the new that is before us. That ending will depend on our day by day choices in every aspect of life. Instead of making new year’s resolutions (which usually go by the wayside all too soon), maybe it is more important to make daily choices that will lead to a different ending to 2019. Start by praying that God will guide those decisions because He is the only one who sees the end from the beginning and will faithfully guide you to those choices that will lead to a fulfilling ending. Here is a tough but important question. “As I set my goals for a new year, what are my motives?” If we are honest with ourselves our deepest motives will be either self- centered, others centered or God centered. Those are the only options even though they have overlaps. Jesus promised that if we seek His Kingdom first everything else will be added to you. Let us join with Paul who said he was pressing on toward the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Our audience is not other people, cultural pressure, or the “shoulds and oughts” of life. Daily seek to put a smile on the face of the Master and the new year will be unforgettable.
Blessings, Pastor Joe MacDonald

If It Were Not for People You Could Love Everyone

“Arrogant foes are attacking me, ruthless people are trying to kill me–“ Psalm 54:3
In a “Peanuts” cartoon Lucy has her back turned to Charlie Brown with her arms folded. Charlie is pleading with her to be tolerant and understanding. He says: “Lucy, you must be loving. This world really needs love. You have to let yourself love to make the world a better place in which to live.” Lucy whirls around and screams: “Look, Blockhead— the world I love. It’s people I can’t stand.”I am sure you have seen the little pictorial cartoon of a really frazzled individual, and the caption reads: “I am down to my last nerve and you are getting on it.” Everyone has someone or maybe many someones in their lives like that. We try to avoid them, ignore them, move away from them or forget them but no matter what we do they will still be there like an unmitigating hangnail. The scary reality is that we are like that to someone else and we may not even be aware of it. You know what is amazing? Those are the very people God puts in our lives to grow us in His likeness in ways that we could not grow otherwise. God uses those people like sandpaper to take off the rough edges of our character and make us into the people He wants us to be. This sounds crazy, but when you begin to thank God for those very people and begin to pray that God will bless them and pour His love out on them, that is when you will begin to understand how God is using them to bring you closer to Christ.
Blessings, Pastor Joe MacDonald

Looking for Peace in All the Wrong Places

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you—” John 14: 27
When I came to faith I remember well the words the pastor in a small church in Maine was saying. They were words that were so timely that I thought he was speaking them only for me. He said that so many people experience a deep restlessness inside that they cannot seem to satisfy. They will wander down so many dead- end streets like the street of money, fame, sex, power, or worldly success. He said the streets are dead ends because none of them fulfill the longing for happiness, meaning or lasting peace. He said there will still be a vacuum that you cannot fill; an itch you cannot scratch. Those words went like darts to my heart and the timing could not have been better. Not only was I restless and wandering but I longed to have some kind of meaning and purpose. I felt lost and directionless. What really sealed it for me is when he said that until you find Jesus as your personal Savior and discover that you can have a personal relationship with God you will never find peace. He said Jesus is like the last piece of a puzzle for your heart. Until you find that Piece you will never find permanent peace in your life. I have found that to be true not only in the journey of coming to Christ but in the journey of walking with Him through the years. When I have wandered spiritually or neglected to feed my spirit with God’s Word or praying or fellowship with others, that sense of restlessness and longing haunts me inside. It is like a compass or a warning light on the dash of a car. It means that peace and contentment are only found in a close walk with God. Remember the old saying: If you feel far from God, guess who moved?
Blessings, Pastor Joe MacDonald

More of Thee – Less of Me

“Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs  is the kingdom of heaven” -Matthew 5:3
I really like the Message Bible rendering of this beatitude, in fact, all of them. You’re blessed when you are at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule. I want to share a poem that has touched my heart many times. It was written by Theodore Monod in 1874, and was put to music by my spiritual mother and sung at my ordination to the ministry:
O the bitter pain and sorrow
That a time could ever be
When I proudly said to Jesus
“All of self, and none of Thee”
Yet he found me, I beheld him,
Bleeding on the accursed tree
And my wistful heart said faintly,
“Some of self and some of thee.”
Day by day his tender mercies
Healing, helping, full and free
Brought me lower while I whispered
“Less of self and more of Thee.”
Higher than the highest heavens
Deeper than the deepest sea Lord
Thy love, at last, has conquered:
None of self, and all of Thee.
The secret to really understanding the power of God is to come to the end of our rope and find that His is just beginning.
Blessings, Pastor Joe MacDonald