Posted by: pastormikemcdowell | February 14, 2017

“Mickel MeDill and a Love Note of Prayer”

“So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.” (1 Corinthians 13:3- The Message Bible)

Good Morning and Happy Valentine’s Day Everyone!

Valentine’s day was always a big deal when I was a kid. In our school, we’d bring our little cards with us to school and distribute them to our classmates, then open each one we received. Of course, I always picked out the one I thought was most special to give to the little girl I thought was most special, and I still do (that would be my bride).  It was often a source of amusement in elementary school to see how my name was misspelled phonetically by fellow students. I received one that has forever become my nickname courtesy of my brother. One little girl spelled my name “Mickel MeDill”, which my brother is still fond of calling me. Some things never change! I laugh as I remember receiving it, but I know that in giving me that valentine, her heart was right, so I remember it with affection.

What of those “love notes of prayer” we send to our Heavenly Father? As you make them, it is wise to examine your heart as you send them. 2 Corinthians 13:5 reminds us to  “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are holding to your faith.” Prayers lacking in faith and love are the prayers of a bankrupt heart.  In the publication “The Kneeling Christian” , we read

“Unless the heart is right the prayer must be wrong”. 

A self-examination of the heart will be most revealing if it is done honestly and diligently. God isn’t concerned with your spelling or your stammering attempts at prayer. He is much more concerned with the motivation of the heart and the love that is expressed genuinely. Send God your love note of prayer today! It will be treasured by Him just like the one “Mickel MeDill” received many years ago. Let’s pray!

Heavenly Father; this is a love note of prayer just for You today. It comes from the depths of our heart. It is a love note full of thanksgiving and praise. It is a love note of devotion and passion. It is a love note to say how grateful we are for Your constant outpouring of grace. I love you with all my heart, Lord, and always will. Amen!

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Posted by: pastormikemcdowell | February 13, 2017

“It’s Only Natural”

 “When Uriah’s wife heard that her husband was dead, she mourned for him.  After the time of mourning was over, David had her brought to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing David had done displeased the Lord.” 2 Samuel 11:26-27

Good morning my friends!

Over the past few days, I have been reacquainting myself with the history of the decades of my life through the viewing of several series produced a few years ago. One very noticeable connect is that, without exception, while each decade saw remarkable scientific achievement, each was also marked with violence, disease, tragedy, warfare, moral decline, and scandal. Human nature? Indeed! It’s called sin nature. For example, in the late 1960’s and throughout the 1970’s, this nation saw the rise of what was to be called the “sexual revolution.” “Free love” was prevalent, and along with it came the rise of sexually transmitted disease, or “STD’S”. Naturally, people wanted to be free to do whatever they wanted to do without consequence.

Such an attitude is nothing new. It’s as old as the infamous “Garden of Eden” incident. Interestingly, while not necessarily completely rejecting the notion of the existence of a merciful God, people expected such a God to cow-tow to their every whim and to supply mercy without accompanying consequence. People question: “If God is a merciful God, then why is there sickness and disease in the world?” The expectation is that God exists to serve rather than to be served.  In the passage referenced today, King David, one of the most revered figures in all of scripture, has committed adultery with Bathsheba, the wife of one of his loyal military men. In order to cover his indiscretion, David orders his general to have Uriah placed in the front line of an upcoming battle, where he will likely be killed. David plan succeeds, but scripture reminds us that “the thing David had done displeased the Lord.”  Consequences followed.

Theologian R.C. Sproul said this:

We want to be saved from our misery, but not from our sin. We want to sin without misery… Sin always accompanies misery. There is no victimless crime, and all creation is subject to decay because of humanity’s rebellion from God.”  

Day after day…year after year…decade after decade…century after century…since the beginning of time, this reality has been revealed. Misery always accompanies sin. It is not misery from which we need to be delivered…it is sin…our natural state of being since the Fall. Thankfully, God Himself has provided the antidote through the gift of His own sinless Son and His ultimate sacrifice on our behalf. When Jesus taught us how to pray, he taught us to pray Deliver us from evil”, not “deliver us from misery.” Misery is the consequence of the evil Jesus’ adjured us to pray to be delivered from …violence, unrest, sickness, pain, moral decline. Grace is the gift…eternal life! Which do you choose? Let’s pray!

Holy, Merciful God: In your great love, we find that for which we long from birth…abundant life, forgiveness, and restoration. Teach us to focus our heart’s desire on You rather than on ourselves. Only then shall we find that peace we so desire. This we pray in Jesus’ great Name. Amen

 

Posted by: pastormikemcdowell | February 11, 2017

“You Don’t Say” February 11, 2017

“A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”  Luke 6:45

Good Morning my friends!

As a child of the 1950’s, I grew up watching a lot of television. I remember how many shows posted a notification regarding the censorship of language before the show was broadcast. Rarely, if ever, was profanity a part of the dialogue in any of these shows. This reality is long gone. In fact, profanity has become so commonplace in today’s culture that it is barely given a second thought. Adults, adolescents, and even small children are known to use it with regularity. A growing number of professed Christians, especially millennials, consider its use to be harmless…mere words. A bullet is also harmless until it is fired at random. When that happens, the consequences can be devastating.

Shayne Looper, a pastor in Michigan observed, “It is no coincidence that the current breakdown in civil discourse has occurred at the same time we’ve seen a rise in the use of profanity.”  In recent protest marches, I have seen pictures of little children brandishing signs filled with profanity-laced language. Were we to take these same precious children out to breakfast, would we say “Sweetie, eat your eggs and pancakes, and that little bowl of manure and then you can have your applesauce”?

When i was a child in Sunday School, we used to sing a song that went like this: “O be careful tongue what you say,  for the Father up above is looking down in love, so be careful little tongue what you say.” Today, we’re libel to say whatever evil things happens to pop into our heads and excuse our rudeness because we are “tired” or “angry”, or we offer no excuses at all because “everybody talks that way.” Well, as the aforementioned Shayne Looper observed, “Anger is a witches brew, and woe to the person who drinks it. Yet influential people in our society are serving a cocktail of anger and contempt, and urging us to drink it.”  Guess what! We are the influential people in the lives of those around us…especially those with whom we are around every day…our children, grandchildren, friends, and co-workers. Our words carry consequences with them.

In the “old days”, many homes had a “cuss box” in which you were to drop a quarter if you uttered a profanity. Were that in practice today, many of us could likely save enough to make a car payment at the end of a month! This message is for everyone, but particularly for those who profess to follow Christ. Consider once more what he says in Luke 6:45: “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”  What fills your heart? What comes out of your mouth is a strong indicator of what is in there. O be careful tongue what you say,  for the Father up above is looking down in love, so be careful little tongue what you say.”  What you don’t say is just as important in many cases as what you do say!

 

Posted by: pastormikemcdowell | April 8, 2016

April 8, 2016 “I Wonder What Would Happen”?

“And all the believers lived in a wonderful harmony, holding everything in common. They sold whatever they owned and pooled their resources so that each person’s need was met.” (Acts 2: 44-45)

Good Morning Dear Friends!

Sometimes I get to wondering about things for no particular reason…things that spark my imagination, usually because they are a bit “odd”. For example, have you ever stopped to consider the fact that the combination of the letters “OUGH”, when used in the English language to spell certain words, has many different pronunciations? Think about these examples: “bough”…”bought”…”tough”..”though”. No wonder I had such a difficult time with English class in high school! And then there’s this strange reality…as you’re driving down a highway, have you ever taken notice to the fact that there is often one shoe along the side of the road…never two shoes…just the one? Why is that? While having breakfast at a small coffee shop one morning, I read one of those little papers with anecdotes, recipes, etc. inside. There was a short article about Gandhi that caught my attention. It seems he was riding on a train in India one day and lost one of his shoes. Immediately, he took off his remaining shoe and threw it in the direction of the one he had lost. When asked why he had done this, he replied,

“The poor man who finds the shoe lying on the track will now have a pair he can use.”  

Though not himself a Christian, in this act, Gandhi demonstrated a characteristic we see evidenced in the early Christian Church. Their attitude was one of mutual support for one another. When there was a need, they did what they could do to meet the need. Think about it…in the story of Gandhi I just related, he could have chalked his loss of a shoe up to a bit of bad luck and kept his other shoe…but to what end? He no longer had any real use for his remaining shoe. But by doing what he did, he made those shoes of value once again to someone else in need. He didn’t hold on to what he had, but saw it as belonging as much to a stranger as to himself.  The late songwriter Harry Chapin wrote a song reflective of this view called ” I Wonder What Would Happen To This World? The first verse goes, “Now, if a man tried to take his time on earth and prove before he died what man’s life could be worth, oh, I wonder what would happen to this world?” I wonder what would happen to this world if we lived out that Christian principle day by day? I think I have a pretty good idea…shoes for everyone! Let’s pray!

Heavenly Father; I have been so blessed by You. I have plenty of food, friends who love me and pray for me, shelter, provision of all sorts. Thank you. Instill in my heart that these things are not merely for my benefit, but are also distributed that they may bless those all around me, whether or not I know them personally, for you know each one as intimately as you know me. May I reflect your love that Your name may be glorified. I pray this in Jesus’ blessed name. Amen!

Posted by: pastormikemcdowell | April 7, 2016

April 7, 2016 “Pray For All People”

“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—this is good, and pleases God our Savior,  who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”  1 Timothy 2: 1, 3-4)

Good Morning Fellow Citizens of the Kingdom of God!

I endeavor to begin each new day with Bible reading and prayer. I spend a lot of time praying for my considerable family…my wife, my mother, my brother and sister, my eleven children, our twenty-two grandchildren and our new great-granddaughter. I pray for my friends. I pray for those of the church and its continuing witness in the world. I pray for those I know that have particular needs. When all is said and done, that’s a lot of praying. Am I done? Not according to this directive in God’s word. Paul urges Timothy that “Petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people.” He adds the reason why this is important by saying, “this is good, and pleases God our savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” Now there is no way possible for me to pray for all people by name. It is beyond my capacity as a human being. The good news is that God knows their names. The One who knows the name of every star most certainly knows the name of every person who walks on this earth. The One who spoke the world into being and who said “before you were born I knew you”, knows each and every one of us by name. So we may pray that all would come to know Christ and his love. It pleases God that we do this. Now this does not mean that all “will” come to salvation. Scripture is clear on that point, but it does mean that the message of the gospel is universal. It is not just for those living in Israel, or the United States or the United Kingdom. It is not limited to one race, one sex, or one nation. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the WORLD that he gave his only Son that whosoever believes in him shall have everlasting life.” When you pray, include all people…even your enemies. Never assume that anyone is outside God’s mercy or beyond the reach of the offer of salvation. After all…God called you, did he not? Who are you that he would do such a glorious thing? Who prayed for you, I wonder? Let’s pray!

God of mercy and Grace; We would seek to please you in our prayer life. Along with the prayers for those we know well and love deeply, we pray for all people, including those who would seek to do us harm, that they, too would come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ…that they would come to know the truth that is the Gospel…that You love them just as much as you love each one of us, and that You earnestly desire their fellowship around the Throne of Grace. hear our prayer for all your beloved children everywhere. We make this prayer in Jesus Blessed Name. Amen!

Posted by: pastormikemcdowell | April 6, 2016

April 6, 2016 “God’s Greatest Evangelist”

“The heavens are telling of the glory of God;  And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. Day to day pours forth speech, And night to night reveals knowledge”. (Psalm 19: 1-2)

Good Morning Everyone! This is the day the Lord has made! Let us rejoice and be glad in it!

One of the great blessings I have enjoyed in my life has been the extensive traveling I have done throughout the United States. I have a personal goal of visiting all fifty of the states in my lifetime. I have two to go…Montana and Hawaii. I have seen the great cathedral mountains of Colorado. I have stood on the edge of the Grand Canyon. I have witnessed the awesome power of Niagara Falls and stood beneath the towering redwood trees of California. I saw the breaching of humpback whales and orcas in Alaska against the backdrop of glacier-covered mountains. Few things compare to the beauty of the sunsets at Key West, Florida, or the spectacular autumn-colored leaves of my Pennsylvania home.

   There are times when I am praying that I have troubling doubts of God’s existence…especially when those prayers are not immediately or expediently answered in the way I would desire. At times such as that, I pause and contemplate the evidence of His existence all around me in the created world, and I am reassured that my prayers are not made in vain.  I truly cannot comprehend how any rational person can observe the majesty of creation and not know that God exists. In fact, the apostle Paul makes this very point in Romans, declaring, as he puts it, that “they are without excuse” when it comes to an understanding of God’s existence and his power. The great preacher Jonathan Edwards correctly noted: “Nature is God’s greatest evangelist”.

Perhaps you have been hesitant in witnessing to someone…a family member or a friend. May I suggest that you invite them to go for a walk with you somewhere outside. It doesn’t have to be the Grand Canyon (as impressive as that would be), or the redwood forests of California. It could be on a rainy afternoon or a cool spring morning. In might be at twilight or even on a crisp winter’s day. Engage your companion’s focus on the wonders that are all around, and let the Holy Spirit guide your conversation as you begin to talk about God’s marvelous creation. Your words don’t need to be eloquent. In fact, let God’s creation…God’s greatest evangelist… do most of the talking.

“The heavens are telling of the glory of God;
And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.
 Day to day pours forth speech,
And night to night reveals knowledge”.  Let’s pray!

Awesome Lord God; By Your command, all that exists came into being…the majestic mountains…the expansive seas…the sparkling myriad of stars and the whirling planets. All creation declares your greatness and your divinity. Speak to my heart this day as I contemplate the wonder of your works, and lead me to share what I have come to believe with those who have not as yet experienced or understood that truth in their own lives. This I ask in Jesus’ beloved Name. Amen!

Posted by: pastormikemcdowell | April 5, 2016

April 5, 2016 “Imagine That”!

“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it and it will be yours.” (Mark 11:24)

Good Morning Believers!

What an extraordinary statement Jesus makes in Mark’s gospel regarding prayer! Does this mean that so long as I believe what I am praying, no matter how outlandish or unimaginable it may be, that my request will be granted? Suppose I were to pray for untold wealth to flow to me, does that mean it would instantly be mine? What about a more noble prayer, like world peace? Were I to pray and ask God for world peace today and believe that God would immediately bring it, then it would be so? It doesn’t seem to work that way, does it?  Prayer is not meant to be some sort of “magic wand”, nor is God like the proverbial “genie in the lamp” standing on the ready to grant us whatever our heart desires at any particular time. So what does Jesus mean by this startling claim? I believe it to be this: when we pray, we should do so with the confidence in a God who desires the very best for us, and believe that he truly is the giver of “every good and perfect gift.” While we may imagine that untold wealth is a “good and perfect gift”, God understands that upon receiving such a gift, most likely we would either no longer turn to him in prayer, or would regard him as nothing more than some great celestial “bellhop” standing on the ready to grant us whatever foolish or self-serving thing we desire.  But what about world peace? Surely this is a noble prayer, right? In his song “Imagine”, John Lennon paints a view of such a halcyon world, beginning with the thought “Imagine there’s no heaven…it’s easy if you try…no hell below us…above us only sky.”  OK, let’s imagine that. The notion or even the need of God would soon be dismissed in our minds. Jesus does instruct us that faith and prayer are inseparable partners. Prayer partnered with faith is powerful. It is faith that assures us that God is well able to answer our prayers. It is also important for us to understand that the prayers we lift up to God be of such a nature that they are in accordance with God’s perfect will. Prayers that advance us spiritually, prayers that bless others, prayers that liberate others from the imprisonment of a destructive life, prayers that impact those around us in positive, Godly ways are prayers that are in accordance with God’s will as it has been revealed to us in his Word, and are prayers that we can believe in faith will be answered positively by God. That’s his word…his promise. So pray believing. Let’s pray!

Gracious God; you are the giver of every good and perfect gift. As we pray, we do so in faith and in confidence that the prayers we lift up to you will be answered appropriately and always for our benefit. We praise and thank you for this blessed assurance. We praise and thank you, God, for blessing us so richly. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen

Posted by: pastormikemcdowell | April 4, 2016

April4, 2016 “Win Or Lose”

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2nd Corinthians 12:9)

Good Morning My Dear Friends!

It was the bloodiest battle of the war. Thousands on each side of the conflict were killed or wounded. The roar of the cannons and gunfire was so loud that some fifty miles to the south in Baltimore, Maryland, the sound of  it rolled like thunder. It was the turning point of the great war between the states, that which we call the “Civil War.” More Americans perished on the battlefield as a result of that three-day conflict than at any other time or in any other war…there in the town of Gettysburg. I visited the site of that conflict many times as a child, for it is my mother’s home town. Back then, it was fun to see all the monuments and play on the cannons. My brother and I liked climbing on the rocks of “Devil’s Den” which, at the time of the war, was a hiding place for snipers.  As we visited there this trip, though, my thoughts were more on the immensity of that great conflagration and what must have been going on in the minds of those leading these brave young men into this inferno. Commanding the Confederate troops was one of the greatest generals this country had ever produced, a very godly man who himself abhorred slavery, yet led and fought valiantly for the Confederate cause…General Robert E. Lee. As he surveyed this siege and the cost of human lives, his heart ached. Months later, the Confederate cause lost, he signed the treaty at Appomattox Courthouse that officially brought an end to this country’s deadliest war. He later observed,

“We failed, but in the providence of God apparent failure often proves a blessing.”

Lee and his troops lost the war, but Lee never lost his faith in God. He was of the belief, as was the apostle Paul, that “all things work together for good for those that love the Lord.” What to some may have appeared as weakness, Robert E. Lee took to be God’s divine plan unfolding, even in a time of personal defeat. The victory of the Union army led to the abolition of slavery in this nation. What can we learn from this? Personal failure, though never pleasant, may, in fact, prove to be for our ultimate blessing. God’s plans for us are always for our benefit, and for the greater benefit of those around those who believe and honor him. Robert E. Lee’s faith was not shaken by defeat, for he built his life on a firm foundation and understood that the Lord he served had not abandoned him, but was with him, and this nation, even in the throws of battle…win or lose. When some failure comes into your life, don’t give up on God. Inventor Thomas Edison failed many times before successfully inventing the light bulb. He regarded every failed effort as a gain in knowledge, for he knew things others inventors did not know…he knew what didn’t work! So he pressed on to success. God’s power is manifest in our weakness. Trust in Him. Turn to Him in prayer each day. Experience his blessing in your weakness…win or lose!  Let’s pray!

Holy Lord God; The old hymn says “we must never be discouraged…take it to the Lord in prayer.” I come to you in prayer this day. There have been times, I confess, that I felt let down by You because of some failure. Teach me to understand that you have never failed, Lord, and never will. In my weakness, may your glory become more evident. This I pray in Jesus’ Name. Amen!

Posted by: pastormikemcdowell | April 3, 2016

April 3, 2016 “The Stuff You Don’t Deserve”

“We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! ” (Daniel 9: 18-19)

Good Morning and Blessed Lord’s Day to Everyone!

I heard a story some years ago about a boy who came to his dad with a question. “Dad“, the boy asked, “Do you think it’s right for someone to be punished for something they didn’t do?” “Of course not.” said dad. “Why do you ask?” The boy answered, “I’m sure glad to hear you say that, because I didn’t do those chores you told me to do!”  Though this may strike us as being rather amusing, we know it is all too true as it relates to our own relationship with God. Daniel, who made the prayer to God that heads today’s post, was a man of prayer and highly esteemed for living a life of righteous behavior. But even he, as he approached his Holy Lord in prayer, did so with humility and confession. In this passage, he prays, “We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy.” Daniel’s prayer is a prayer for God’s mercy…not for God’s help. He made such a prayer because he knew that it was the punishment of God that was deserved, rather than forgiveness. When God sends His help, it is not because it is earned or merited or deserved, but because God is merciful and loving and forgiving. Suppose God were to refuse to help us because of our disobedience…would we have a right to complain? Not at all…no more so than the boy in the story who failed to do his chores.  But when God chooses to be merciful when it is punishment we deserve, how is it that we sometimes withhold our praise and thanksgiving? God’s mercy is “unmerited favor.”  Joyce Meyer speaks of the mercy we show others very simply and directly:

“Mercy is the stuff you give to people that don’t deserve it.” 

If we who are less than perfect can show mercy to those who are undeserving, how much more so can we trust a loving, gracious God to show mercy to us, who are never deserving? And when we pray for mercy and receive it, the appropriate response is humble thanksgiving. “Lord listen! Lord forgive! Lord, hear and act!” Let’s pray!

Merciful God; Our prayers to you are not made because we are righteous, but because you are merciful! In your great mercy, we are made the Righteousness of God because You are righteous and merciful. Lord, listen as we pray. lord, hear and act as we cry out to You. Lord, hear and act on our behalf. This we ask in Jesus Righteous and Holy Name. Amen!

Posted by: pastormikemcdowell | April 2, 2016

April 2, 2016 “Sweet Sleep”

“The sleep of a laboring man is sweet”. (Ecclesiastes 5:12)

Good Morning everyone! “This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it”!

Happy Saturday everyone! For many people I know, Saturday is not really a day off at the end of the work week, but a day to do work around the house. Those necessary chores left undone during the week beckon. Mowing the lawn…doing the laundry…washing the car…household repair work…any or all of these things may need our attention on such a day. Engaging in work can be tedious, but it is not without its rewards either.

Our Lord recognized this from an early age. On a trip to Jerusalem with his parents at the age of twelve, Jesus became separated from his parents. As it was the season of Passover, tens of thousands of people were streaming into the city. His frantic parents searched high and low for their “lost” son. For three days they searched for him. Finally, they found him in the temple questioning the doctors of the law on matters of theology. The relieved parents, Joseph and Mary, asked him why he would do such a thing because it had them so worried. He responded, “Didn’t you know I would be about my Father’s business”? Even then, Jesus was laboring…preparing himself for the great task of his earthly ministry…a task from which he never wavered. This is not to say that Jesus never rested. On one occasion, Jesus and his disciples were on a boat when a storm arose at sea. The disciples were terrified. Meanwhile, Jesus was sleeping through it all. After being awakened by his terrified friends, Jesus calmly arose and declared “Peace. Be still”. The storm abated and Jesus went back to sleep. “The sleep of a laboring man is sweet.”

Diligence in our labors is an admirable trait, and the effort for work diligently pursued is worth the reward. But we must also remember the value and the necessity of rest. God set the example for us on the seventh day of creation.  A Catholic priest named Dick Sheppard once made this observation regarding the Lord. He said,

“I can more easily see our Lord sweeping the streets of London, than issuing edicts from its cathedral”.

I agree. Jesus never wavered from being about his Father’s business, and when it was time to rest, he rested. Let’s strive to follow his example in pour daily lives. Let us labor on. Let’s pray!

May we work with joyous dedication, O Lord, and thank you for every opportunity to do so, that we might sleep swee

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