Pastor’s Biography

Reverend Galen “Joe” MacDonald

Reverend Galen “Joe” MacDonald and his wife, Pam, began their tenure with First Presbyterian Church of Livingston in September, 2010. Pastor MacDonald, a native of northern Maine, came to us from the Sandy Lake, PA area. Before he came to us, he served two churches for 12 years in the Sandy Lake area. He has been with First Presbyterian Church in Livingston since 2010. Rev. MacDonald earned bachelor degrees in Bible and Psychology in 1968 from Gordon College and a Master of Divinity from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary and was ordained in 1970. In 1990 he earned a Masters Degree in clinical psychology from Edinboro University.
 

Never, Never, Never Give Up

“Therefore we do not lose heart—”II Corinthians 4:16

 Stories abound about people who have never given up when all the circumstances have indicated that all hope is lost. One of the greatest speeches in history was delivered by Prime Minister Winston Churchill on October 29, 1941. It was delivered at Harrow school (from which he nearly flunked out). There are two versions of the speech which he delivered. When the fanfare and introductions died down, one of the versions stated that Churchill stood and simply said, “ Never, never, never, never give up,” and then he sat down. Another version stated that he said “never, never, never, never give in.” In either case that brief statement (hardly considered to be a speech) propelled and sustained the morale and spirit of England through the great conflagration of WWII. Much earlier in history, another Englishman was considered the leader of the banishment of slavery in that country. The following  excerpt reveals the impetus that sustained him in the tiring battle against slavery  in England.

Young William Wilberforce was discouraged one night in the early 1790s after another defeat in his 10 year battle against the slave trade in England. Tired and frustrated, he opened his Bible and began to leaf through it. A small piece of paper fell out and fluttered to the floor. It was a letter written by John Wesley shortly before his death. Wilberforce read it again: “Unless the divine power has raised you up… I see not how you can go through your glorious enterprise in opposing that (abominable practice of slavery), which is the scandal of religion, of England, and of human nature. Unless God has raised you up for this very thing, you will be worn out by the opposition of men and devils. But if God be for you, who can be against you? Are all of them together stronger than God? Oh, be not weary of well-doing. Go on in the name of God, and in the power of His might.”

Is there something in your life for which you have been striving or waiting for such a long time that you are ready to give up? Are you tired of continuing the battle? Consider this: is what you have been striving or waiting for worth it? Is it really a significantly important goal for you, your family, your church and/or your community? Will it make a difference in the future? God loves to reward perseverance, but if we give up we will never know how much he wants to honor our “hanging in there.”

Blessings, Pastor Joe



Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

“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

We know one thing for sure about the new year and that is that there will be decisions that face us in every aspect of life. Will I buy something new? Will I get rid of too many things that I have accumulated? Will I downsize my life or increase my activities? If my health or finances cause me to have to make changes, what will I choose to do? The questions and possibilities go on and on. There are decisions that we make every day. Some are minor and others are major.
 
The story is told of the man who told his friend that the success of his marriage was simple. He said that when he and his wife were married, they agreed that he would get to make all the major decisions and she would get to make all the minor decisions. As he contemplated the agreement he said, “You know, come to think of it, there hasn’t been a major decision to be made since we were married.”
 
Decisions big or small are based on making good choices; in fact, making Godly choices.
Little choices create habits.
Habits carve and mold character.
Out of character flows decisions.
 
What that says is that even the little things count. Determine not to be halfhearted about work or life. Resist cutting corners even in the seemingly unimportant choices you have to make. Think of all you do, say, or think as though it were for your Lord. This will result in wise and productive decisions, and He can direct your path.
 

Blessings, Pastor Joe



Wisdom is Your BFF

“If any of you lacks wisdom let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally without reproach, and it will be given to him”
-James 1:5.
For those who may not be initiated, BFF means “best friend forever”. And how true that is. The genius of Solomon is that, of all the things he could have asked God for, he chose wisdom. Isn’t it interesting that with the wisdom God gave him came everything else? We speak of kings or “wise men” following a star to see a new born King. It wasn’t what they knew about this king, they had little factual knowledge. It was a sense of understanding and insight that something cosmically significant was about to take place, which was a priority for them and the world. Amassing knowledge about anything is possible for anyone and is available at the click of a mouse and the internet. Wisdom is not so much about how much knowledge one has, but how one utilizes that knowledge to the benefit of those around him or her. Some of the wisest men or women you and I have known have not been those who necessarily had lots of knowledge. They were people who had learned, often the hard way, and had profound insight and discernment. I like one definition of wisdom which says “wisdom is learning from experience, that of others who have been there.”

Blessings, Pastor Joe



When God Does Not Answer Prayer

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will He hears us”
-I John 5:14.
 
A little boy whose father was a pastor was gathered with the family around the table for an evening meal. The little boy asked his dad, “Why is it that I see you praying every Saturday night at the same time?” His father replied, “I am praying that God will help me preach a good sermon on Sunday”. To which the boy responded, “Then how come He never answers your prayers?” I hope that made you chuckle but there are some people who ask that question of God a lot. “Why is it that God doesn’t answer my prayer?”
 
First of all, God answers all prayers, but He answers them on His terms not on ours. There are some very good reasons for that. First, He knows what is best for us at any given time in our lives and because he knows the beginning to the end He also knows what is best for each of us long term. The reason that the scripture from I John includes the qualifier “according to His will” is for our good and the good of the kingdom of God. The most important issue related to prayer is our willingness to want, even long for His will in all that we pray. So many times our prayers are misguided, self-centered or driven by what we want or think is best for us. He will always give us bread and not stones. In other words, our very best is at His heart and often our prayers are not directed on what He knows is best for us but what we think is best for us. He will not answer a prayer that He knows will harm us or His answer will be a life- saving NO. Remember, God answers in only three ways: yes, no and not yet. The question is, are we ready to accept the “no” or “wait” as enthusiastically as the yes?
 
Blessings, Pastor Joe


Intimacy

“Draw near to me and I will draw near to you” -James 4:8

The word “intimacy” has been mutilated by a culture that has little understanding of its depth and dignity. If you ask the average person what they think intimacy means, they only understand it within a sexual context. It only connotes some form of sexual encounter.

Don’t misunderstand, it certainly does mean the beauty of physical intercourse between two people in the context of marriage. However, what if age or physical disability forego that aspect of intimacy? Is that all there is, or is there a broader more profound meaning?

God makes it clear in His Word that He longs for an “intimate” relationship with all of his children. In that context, intimacy means a closeness, a cherished oneness, and full commitment to the relationship. It entails total transparency and exposure of all that we are to all that He is. In a progressively technology driven society, real intimacy is being lost. People are more ‘intimate’ with their iPhones than they are with God or people.

Intimacy between two people is a frightening concept to some, because it always involves risk; risk of being exposed and vulnerable to another person including God himself. One person said, “Women long for real intimacy, and men flee from it in fear.” While that statement may not be totally true, both men and women desperately need to experience intimacy in their lifetimes; both with God, for certain, and hopefully with another special person.

Intimacy is part of  creation’s spiritual DNA. A God who is intimate has reproduced that need as part of His image at the very core of mankind, so that his children have the capacity to have an intimate relationship with Him. He brought us to Himself not just to have a religious, theological, or conceptual relationship, but an intimate relationship with Him. Draw near to Him and He will draw near to you.

Blessings, Pastor Joe

 



Holy Toleration

Our culture cries out that we must be tolerant, but what is the cultural intention of toleration? More and more it is coming to mean that we should embrace and accept anything so that we can be open to everything. By implication, culture says that the more inclusive we are of everyone’s thinking and behavior the more enlightened and compassionate we are. However, when we look at what is happening all around us we are discovering that this type of cultural tolerance doesn’t work. In fact it breeds chaos, violence, fear and even intolerance. 

Cultural toleration really morphs into universal relativism, free from any ultimate reference to truth or guidelines. It simply says that everyone has their own laws or they are autonomous. That word broken down means: auto- self; nomous- a law unto. In other words, we are to be a law unto ourselves and accountable only to ourselves. While there are many ways that autonomy is healthy (e.g., the ability to take care of ourselves, maintain independence in daily living and not have to be dependent on  others,  make wise and free decisions,  etc.), there is a destructive sense in which there is no ultimate guide to life outside ourselves.

What is the difference when we speak of Holy toleration or God’s view of toleration? How is God’s toleration radically different from cultural toleration? God’s toleration involves loving us all just as we are, meeting us right where we are but not leaving us there. His invitation to a relationship with Him is universal and open to all without exception.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but shall have eternal life” John 3:16. God embraces us as people even when we were sinners and had our backs turned to him. What he does not tolerate is sin and the behavior or life style of sin. The person is unconditionally loved, the sin and the behavior of sin is hated by God because he knows that the sin destroys the person. The good news is that none of us can pay the price for sin. God has paid that price in Christ and when we receive Christ as Savior we are no longer simply “tolerated”, we are now adopted as his child. Holy tolerance does not mean anything goes; it means that everything goes (sin) that destroys our lives so that we can become free to be what He wants us to be. The old saying is that “ He hates the sin but loves the sinner”

Blessings, Pastor Joe

 



The Power of Mentorship

“You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses; now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others—“ II Timothy 2:2

My dad was a master carpenter for his day and time. He used hand saws instead of skill saws, hammers instead of nail guns, hand crank drills that he called “bit and bores”, etc. I was extremely proud of his ability at construction. He built six homes from the foundation to the shingles on the roof by himself, and when he retired at the age of 75, he and mother moved in and out of four homes in five years, completely remodeled and sold them before he contracted cancer and died at the age of eighty. Three days before he died I said to him (he talked openly about his pending death) “Dad, there is only one thing I wish that I could do before you leave us; I wish I could download everything you know and preserve it for posterity”. Even as I said those words it hit me. I could have “downloaded” what he knew if I had invested time with him allowing him to mentor me in what he knew. It was no one’s fault but my own that I did not enter into that lifetime training program. Whether we are aware of it or not we all need a mentor or mentors at all stages of life and whether we like it or not we are always mentoring someone who is watching. It might be a child or grandchild, someone in the church, someone else’s child or someone that is watching us, though we may not know it. We are always teaching something by our actions and attitudes, good or bad. The biblical term is discipleship. We are always discipling, or pouring something of ourselves into others. We always are part of a mentorship process. What are we reproducing in others?
 
Blessings, Pastor Joe