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.

Where Do You Belong?

“They will be my people, and I will be their God” -Ezekiel 11:20b

When I started first grade (and that was eons ago) I had a traumatic experience on my first day that has stuck with me for years. I had never been in this new school and I needed to go to the boy’s room. The teacher gave me permission to go but when I left the classroom I had a hard time finding the restrooms and I was kind of wandering the halls alone. A big man came toward me (possibly the principal) and in a loud and, what seemed to me, a threatening voice said, “Where do you belong?” For a moment I was stunned because I wasn’t sure where I belonged. I was new in that place and had not developed a sense of belonging anywhere, but I felt that I needed to give this man an answer so I said “I think I belong in the bathroom.”

Social psychologists state that belongingness is an innate human need to be accepted in a group. Whether it is family, friends, co-workers, organizations, clubs etc., there is a drive to belong to something more than just oneself – the need to give or receive attention from others. Belonging creates a backdrop and feedback for developing one’s own identity. It is such a deep need that people (especially children and adolescents) will choose to be part of even destructive groups like gangs or cults or faddish social groups that develop extreme forms of self- expression.

Because of technology, especially “social media,” millennials and even older generations are driven by a need to be accepted or “friended” on these sites. The down side is the severe rejection, humiliation and bullying that can take place in these venues which have resulted in adolescent despair and even suicide.

The good news, in fact, the best news is, that if we have a relationship with God we are recipients of the greatest state of belonging possible. The person who has a relationship with Jesus Christ belongs to the ultimate family and that can never, ever be taken away. I hope you can really “get it” that you belong to God and He belongs to you. When you go through the darkest times of isolation and aloneness you can count on the fact that you belong to a Father above all fathers. In Romans 8, Paul makes it clear that nothing can interfere with that belonging: “ I am persuaded that neither death, nor life nor angels or principalities or powers, or things present or things to come, or height nor depth nor anything else in all creation shall separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.” So when someone says “Where do you belong,” you can boldly say, “I belong to God.”

Blessings, Pastor Joe


“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the father will send in my name, He will teach you all things and bring to remembrance all that I have said to you” -John 14:26

I have never been one who has had God “speak” to me in a voice that I could hear. There are some who say that they have heard God speak to them clearly in that way and I certainly would not be one to critique such an experience, because God is not contained in my or any other person’s limited theological box.

However, I have had God communicate through internal promptings, sometimes described as inner urgings, burdens or impressions. Have you ever had a time when someone was strongly on your mind and you couldn’t get them off your mind; or you developed a strong inclination to do something special for someone or become involved in some activity or ministry? I call those moments in our lives as promptings of the Holy Spirit and may I suggest that you do not ignore them. God is trying to use you to minister to someone or some ministry in the church or some mission in the community. In fact, this morning I was prompted to send a text to my son because I knew he was facing a major decision in his life this weekend. It may be something as simple as just making a phone call, sending a text or note or spending some significant time in prayer. Promptings can come to you any time of the day or night, and for me they often come in the middle of the night in dreams, or I am just awakened with a strong and specific urging to act or pray about a special person or circumstance.

I have had people come to me at times, either complaining about some ministry we do not have in the church or something that should be done for someone. My response is, “How can I support you in making that happen?” Sometimes those people turn on their heels and leave because they only wanted to complain but not be a part of the solution. However, if it is a real prompting then they will step out and act on that way that God is “speaking” to them. Have you or are you experiencing a prompting of God in any area of your life? Don’t ignore it. Step into it and watch God do something special.

Blessings, Pastor Joe

You Have A Problem? That’s Good

“Do not be anxious about anything but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” -Philippians 4:6

How in the world could a problem ever be good? What could be positive about any problem? Well the title does not say that a problem is good. It implies that one’s awareness of the problem is good. In one sense, the awareness of the problem is good because to be oblivious to the problem could be dangerous. To be totally unaware of a bad tire on your car, or that there is ice on the road ahead, or a tree across the road around the next bend, in fact, can be deadly. Ignorance or blindness to any problem can be devastating. Many people try to avoid facing real problems by denial, blame or excuses.

Once we face our problems head on, we are able, with God’s help, to do something about it. The emphasis is God’s help. Remember He alone is the Master of the impossible and can always do what you and I cannot. By reliance on Him and having the courage to share the problem with others, amazing things can take place.

The fact is that there will be problems that face us each day if we are willing to expand our understanding that problems are not always negative. For example, one might be faced with the “problem” of winning the lottery. If you don’t think that can be a problem, just ask anyone who has won a significant sum in that way.

Three positive outcomes result from both negative and positive problems: 1) you are aware that it exists and you now can address it; 2) you can put in God’s hands with prayer and thanksgiving; and 3) you will experience, first hand,  how powerful and creative God is in solving the problem. So, do you have a problem? That’s good!

Blessings, Pastor Joe