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.
 

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