Posted by: pastormikemcdowell | April 1, 2016

April 1, 2016 “Twice Fooled”

“The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God'”.  (Psalm 14:1)

Good Morning Everyone!

That’s it…I’m done!  (April Fools)! This is that dubious day of the year for pulling pranks, hopefully of a lighthearted nature, on unsuspecting family members or friends. When they fall for the trick, they are greeted with a hearty shout-out from the trickster…”April Fools”. I understand that it is all in fun, but scripture provides us with a much more sobering definition of a fool in Psalm 14. The Psalmist begins by writing, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.'” Next, we are provided with a description of the acts of the fool: “They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.”

Perhaps some of you have held the opinion that there are deniers of God who have done good things. Maybe they have been kind to their parents or to a neighbor. Maybe they have contributed to a charity. Don’t those acts represent some measure of “goodness”? Not according to God’s Word. Remember how the apostle Paul himself wrote in Romans 10:3 “Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness”. God’s righteousness and our perception of righteousness are polar opposites.  In fact, Isaiah referred to our perceived righteousness as being nothing more that “filthy rags”. Without a true belief in God and the One he sent, Jesus Christ, it is impossible to please God.

Theologian Soren Kierkegaard had something wise to say regarding foolishness when he wrote:

“There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.”

The fool who says in his heart, “There is no God” is twice fooled. He or she believes in that which is not true while refusing to believe in that which is true. Don’t be fooled into thinking that living a good life apart from a belief in God will put you or anyone else in good standing on the great Day of Judgment. Don’t fall for Satan’s perennial “April Fools” deception. The only righteousness we have is that with which we are covered when we come to know Jesus Christ for who he is…our Lord and our God.  Let’s pray!

Only You alone are holy, O Lord. Cover our sin through the cleansing power of the redeeming blood shed for us on Calvary, that we might become ‘the righteousness of God’. This we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen!

 

 

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Posted by: pastormikemcdowell | March 31, 2016

March 31, 2016 “An Instant Vacation and a Continual Feast”

 

“He that has a merry heart has a continual feast” (Proverbs 15:15)

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

The quote with which I begin many of these postings in my greeting is the scripture verse I say when I awaken each morning. “This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it”. It is an important reminder to me in a world full of challenges, trouble, danger, and all manner of sinfulness that God is still sovereign. He is Lord, and my source of joy. So along with that reminder, I endeavor to find humor and laughter in the everyday things that come my way…even those that may be worrisome or aggravating. Personally, I am somewhat of a “punster”. I love to play on words, (which in and of itself is rather a pun when you think about it)…”playing on words”…that kinda swings! Vocabulary can become the mind’s playground, full of slides and carousels,  and the upward curve of the mouth can make everything else straighter.  I like what the late comedian Milton Berle said of laughter:

Laughter is an instant vacation

I also am drawn the observation of Solomon in Proverbs where he said

He that has a merry heart has a continual feast.”

Do you find yourself starving for some joy and mirth in your heart? Are you so tied up with worry and concern, and so dour that you find it difficult to even get through the day? Turn back to the Lord. Rejoice in Him. Consider your situation through his eyes. That which you may regard as overwhelming is not beyond his capacity to heal and handle. And strive each day to add some laughter to your life. It is an instant vacation…a continual feast. Let’s Pray!

O Lord, my Joy; fill my heart with laughter and joy of which You are the source. May I rejoice in this new day that you have made and be truly glad in it. This I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen!

 

 

 

Posted by: pastormikemcdowell | March 30, 2016

March 30, 2016 “The Most Enviable of Titles”

“Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor” (Exodus 20:16)

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

In recent days, we have been inundated with reports of wrongdoing by more than a few of the presidential candidates. Most of the accusations come from one candidate’s camp against another, and at times it is difficult to sort out what is true from that which is not. As a result, denial leads to litigation and it is left to the impartial to decide, while those of us earnestly endeavoring to determine who would be best suited to lead our nation as president for the ensuing four years must come to our own conclusions based on evidence and character.

Over Easter weekend, I took time to re-watch one of my favorite movies…the 1956 film “The Ten Commandments.” One of the more dramatic scenes of the film finds Moses on the mountain receiving the ten commandments from God. At one point, The Lord’s thundering voice rings out, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.” Just what does that mean? It means that we are not to accuse anyone of wrongdoing falsely, or we will find ourselves deserving of the same judgment which would befall one who has committed a wrongdoing. As I pondered this in light of the aforementioned presidential campaigning, I am admittedly perplexed. If accusations of egregious wrongdoing prove to be true, I would be hard pressed to support such a candidate. If the accusations are false, then I would not desire to be supportive of the candidate bearing false witness. Some of the dilemma lies in the fact that there me grains of truth in the accusations made mixed along with hyperbole and outright falsehood. I, (and I do not believe I am alone in this desire), long for a candidate whose integrity is impeccable, or at least of a character that demonstrates this consistently. Interestingly, it was for such a character that our first president, George Washington, strove. He once said,

“I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man”.

I am praying for such a leader to emerge from the current crop of candidates. To me, this is, as Washington emphasized, “the most enviable of all titles” our next president could, and should, possess. Strength of character in our leadership will strengthen and inspire us as a nation. Let’s pray for those who would lead. Let’s pray for our nation. Let’s pray for our citizens. Let’s pray!

Mighty and Holy Lord; You demand honesty and integrity from those who would call themselves your people. May we all humbly bow before you, seeking to be people of firmness and virtue…people of honesty and integrity. This we pray in Jesus’ Great Name. Amen!

Posted by: pastormikemcdowell | March 28, 2016

March 28, 2016 “Happy Easter…What”??

“Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man”.  (Luke 6:22)

Good morning everyone!

I read a rather disturbing article this past week regarding the decision of a number of candy makers to no longer market their seasonal candy as “Easter Candy.” They have decided that calling their confections “Easter candy” somehow lends more credence to Christianity as a world religion and would therefore become offensive to those of other faiths. I suspect that “Christmas candy” will be next on the list. Maybe “Valentine’s day” will succumb to the politically correct as well. A reexamination of “Halloween” might also be in order. Who knows how far such ridiculousness will go? The PC war is not so much against the observation of these “holidays” (there’s yet another word that the “PC” crowd may ultimately find troubling”), for they are worth millions to retailers. Rather, their objection is primarily against those of the faith they represent…Christianity. To a great extent, the secular world hates Christianity. They are not alone in this hatred of the faith. This very day, scores, if not hundreds, of Christians…perhaps even more…will be eradicated by those who hate what faith in the Risen Lord represents. This hatred has existed for centuries, as has spiritual warfare. It is little wonder that those who know and believe in Jesus Christ as Lord are called to arm themselves daily with “the whole armor of God”. Make no mistake…the war rages on. The Enemy, stung by his greatest defeat on Resurrection Day, is hell-bent on destroying every remaining vestige of God’s great army of believers. His primary weapons are guile, deceit, and hatred. While powerful, exposed by the burning light of Truth, they are no match for God’s Elect. Remember the words of Jesus and take heart in them:

“Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man”.  The battle belongs to the Lord! Let’s pray!

Heavenly Father; the battle may rage on, but you have already secured the victory through your Beloved Son. We lift high the Name of Jesus in the face of all adversity, knowing that even the Gates of Hell itself shall not prevail against it. Strengthen us to advance from victory unto victory in our lives. This we pray in the name of our Risen Lord and King, Jesus Christ. Amen!

Posted by: pastormikemcdowell | March 27, 2016

March 27, 2016 “More Than A Little Inspiration”

 “He is not here, for he is risen as he said” (Matthew 28:6)

 

Blessed Easter Morning to all Life-Believers!

August 26, 1988 was one of the saddest days of my life. That was the day my dad, James C. McDowell, died in a Hospice center some 2,000 miles from my new home in Atlantic, Iowa. It was very hard for me to say goodbye to my dad. For some weeks after his passing, I had vivid dreams about him. I remember one in particular in which his casket was in the hallway of my childhood home in Marietta, PA. The casket was open, and my dad sat up and got out, and I took his place in the casket. I would have done it gladly in the real world, just as I did in that dream state. Easter is the tremendous reminder that someone did, in fact, take our place in the grave, then took the sting out of its finality by raising from the dead. This is the very foundation on which Christianity stands…the power and the reality of the Resurrection.  As I read this passage from Matthew, it caused me to reflect on my own expectations of life with Christ. Here is the way Paul laid it down for the Corinthians:

“If Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!  Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.  If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable”.

To many, that is what worship has become…a little inspiration to tide us over until death comes…a little inspiration to motivate us to be a little better and to lead a “good” life. Today, many will make what has become somewhat of an “annual pilgrimage” to church for such a purpose. Don’t get me wrong…I am glad they come, but I don’t really expect to see many of them again until Christmas, or at a funeral. But while attending, they will hear the Good News proclaimed…the resurrection is real. Heaven is real. Christ is not a fairy tale. They will hear that Christ is Risen! This day represents so much more than “a little inspiration.” This day marks the most singularly important day in all of history. Christ arose, and we who know and believe are eternally blessed as a result.

“Tomb, thou shalt not hold Him longer; Death is strong, but Life is stronger; Stronger than the dark, the light; Stronger than the wrong, the right.Faith and Hope triumphant say,’Christ did rise on Easter-Day.” LET’S PRAY!

Mighty, Risen Victorious Lord; We lift up your glorious name in unfettered exuberance this Resurrection morning!  Together with all the saints who have gone before, who live this day and with the angels of heaven we declare Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed!” To God be the glory now and Forevermore! Amen!

 

Posted by: pastormikemcdowell | March 26, 2016

March 26, 2016 “Holy Saturday”

And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the entrance of the tomb and went away. (Matthew 27: 59-60)

Good Morning Everyone!

Today is the day on the Christian calendar that is referred to as “Holy Saturday”…the day prior to the resurrection when the disciples and followers of Jesus were still reeling from the crucifixion and burial of Jesus. They were not the only ones trembling, however. The Enemy, Satan, knew of the prophesy and trembled at the thought of what was to come.

Some years ago, Christian recording artist Carmen Licciardello, wrote and recorded a song called “Sunday’s On The Way”, that portrays Satan on the phone with the Grave after the crucifixion. Here is a part of that song:

The demons were planning on having a party one night.
They got beer, Jack Daniels, and pretzels,
There was red wine, some white.
They were celebratin how they crucified Christ on that tree.
But Satan, the snake himself, wasn’t so at ease.
Well, he took his crooked finger,
And he dialed the phone by his bed,
To call an old faithful friend, who’d know for sure if he was dead.
“He said grave grave tell me did my plan fail?”
Grave just laughed and said ah man, “The dude is dead as nails.”
*chorus*
On Friday night, they crucified the Lord at calvary,
But he said, “Don’t dread, in three days I’m gonna live again,
You’ll see! “
When problems try to bury you, make it hard to pray,
It may seem like Friday Night, but Sunday’s on the way!

In your life, you may be going through times of great testing and trial. Jesus’ disciples were devastated by the reality of the crucifixion. They knew he was dead and buried, and all hope had left their aching hearts. Ah, but while it seemed like Friday night, Jesus had already indicated to them that “Sunday’s On The Way!”

On Friday Night, they crucified the Lord at Calvary,
But He said, “Don’t dread, in three days, I’m gonna live again, you’ll see.”
When problems try to bury you and make it hard to pray,
It may seem like Friday night, but Sunday’s on the way!

O Lord God; Even the grave could not hold you. You crushed the serpent’s head with resurrection power. I lay my burden down before you, majestic risen Lord, and join in the declaration “It may seem like Friday night, but Sunday’s on the way”! Amen!

Posted by: pastormikemcdowell | March 25, 2016

March 25, 2016 “Surrender At the Throne of Grace”

“But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5)

Good Morning Children of the King of Glory!

The year was 1865…the month was April. It was Holy Week. That particular Holy Week and its events are forever etched in our American history. On Palm Sunday of that week, events began auspiciously at the farmhouse of one Wilmer Mclean in Appomattox, Virginia. Union General Ulysses S. Grant met with Confederate General Robert E. Lee to accept the terms of surrender, ending the bloodiest conflict this nation had ever known. The great Civil War had come to an end. The first battleground started in Mclean’s backyard in 1861 and ended in his parlor four years later! As was that Palm Sunday some 1800 years earlier, this was a time of jubilation. The enemy was vanquished and the nation was hopeful…but not everyone shared the same sense of jubilation.

Moving ahead to Washington, DC five days later…Good Friday. President Lincoln and his beloved Mary Todd made plans to attend a play that evening, a comedy farce entitled “Our American Cousin.” It was to be a night out to relax and reflect on the momentous events that had immediately preceded this evening of celebration. But like that Good Friday Christians commemorate to this day, it was to end in bloodshed. John Wilkes Booth made his way to the presidential box and carried out his bloody execution of one he regarded a tyrant. With a shot and a shout, Sic Sempre Tyrannis“, he carried out his heinous act. The president lingered between that great dividing line between life and death until the next day, Saturday…the day before Resurrection Day, before breathing his last on this side of the veil.

“Palm Sunday…Good Friday…and on Saturday the land lies torn, but Easter morning, the Son is out again.”  A friend of mine named Jim Sarkissian wrote those words in a song he called “Appomattox”…a reminder that death is swallowed up in victory. Lincoln died a saved man. He had given his heart to Christ.  He once reflected,

“I remember my mother’s prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life.”

Not only did those prayers stay with him all his earthly life…they helped pave the road to his eternal salvation. Of all times, it was at the death of his own beloved son Willie, that Lincoln surrendered to Christ. His bride, writing to their pastor in Springfield, Illinois wrote,

“When too – the overwhelming sorrow came upon us, our beautiful bright angelic boy, Willie was called away from us, to his Heavenly Home, with God’s chastising hand upon us – he turned his heart to Christ.”   Lee surrendered at Appomattox…Lincoln at the Throne of Grace as he walked through the valley of the Shadow of Death.

Palm Sunday…Good Friday…and on Saturday the land lies torn, but Easter morning, the Son is out again!” Let’s pray!

Lord of All Times and Places; Today, as we prepare once again for the great celebration of Rsurrection Day, we are grateful for those godly mothers and fathers who continually brought us before the Throne of Grace with their prayers and their nurturing care. Thank you for the lives transformed by their faithfulness and their love. Thank you for the grace you have showered upon us, even in those times of deep despair, which may themselves be used for your glorious purposes. We praise you, loving Lord, and give you the glory this and every day. Amen!

Posted by: pastormikemcdowell | March 24, 2016

March 24, 2016 “Raising The Bar”

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13: 34)

“If you love me, keep my commands.” (John 14:15)

Good Morning and Blessed Maundy Thursday to All of You!

From childhood, I enjoyed going to church. The church I attended in Marietta, PA had a beautiful little sanctuary with stunning, intricately detailed stained-glass windows. One depicted Jesus at the age of twelve confounding the religious leaders with his extraordinary knowledge. Another featured the empty tomb with the angel inside telling the amazed women that Christ was no longer in the tomb…that he had risen as he said he would.  From time to time, and every year of Holy Week, the Lord’s Supper was observed. At that time, it was customary to wait until confirmation to receive the elements of bread and cup (which, as a boy, sometimes frustrated me, because I wanted some of that “good stuff” as well.  There was some vocabulary unique to the church that I didn’t understand until I was older. For example, there was that strange term “Maundy Thursday”. What was the meaning of “Maundy”? It sounded like “Monday” to me, so it was a bit confusing. How could Thursday be confused with “Monday”? It was some time before I learned that “Maundy” actually meant “Command”, referring to the new command Christ gave his disciples: “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” How was this a new command? The command it replaced was the one which said “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” Jesus had raised the bar! The new standard of love moved from the degree of “Self-love” to “Christ-like love”.  It moved from protection to sacrifice! Jesus set the example, symbolizing it with the elements of communion and actualizing it on the cross!  The expected love response he called for from those who would follow him would be nothing less. It was not a suggestion he gave…it was a command. Commands are not optional except in the sense that you choose to obey them or disobey them.  Christ demonstrated what that obedience would look like with his willing sacrifice, and demanded nothing less from those who would be his disciples. Christ feeds us the bread of heaven…himself. Then he hungers for us to show our love for him through following his example of self-sacrifice. Mother Theresa of Calcutta said it like this:

“Into each of our lives Jesus comes as the bread of life…to be eaten, to be consumed by us. Then He comes as the hungry one, the other, hoping to be fed with the bread of OUR life, our hearts loving, and our hands serving.”

Do you love Christ? Show Him! Tell Him! Talk with Him! serve Him! Keep His commandments! Let’s pray!

Lord of Love; You have raised the bar of love. You have commanded us to love one another as You have loved us, with self-sacrifice and service. may others come to know of your love through our love towards them. May our lofty words become real through our obedience to Your perfect will. this we pray in Jesus’ mighty Name. Amen!

Posted by: pastormikemcdowell | March 23, 2016

MARCH 23, 2016 “The Loser”

“I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus”. (Philippians 3:14)

Good Morning Friends!

I would like to share a story about a man who, but for the sake of extraordinary perseverance, might have been regarded historically as the quintessential “loser.” He was a failure at many endeavors throughout his life. Here is a list of some of those more notable failures:

  1. Failed in a business endeavor in 1831
  2. Defeated for legislature in 1832
  3. Failed a second time in a business venture in 1833
  4. Suffered a nervous breakdown in 1836
  5. Defeated for Speaker of the House in 1838
  6. Defeated for Congress in 1843
  7. Defeated a second time in a bid for Congress in 1848
  8. Defeated for Senate in 1855
  9. Defeated for Vice President I 1856
  10. Defeated for Senate in 1858

What a loser! This guy was obviously going nowhere. He was unpopular, gangly, unattractive, and unsuccessful. But he did possess an almost quixotic quality of incredible perseverance…a quality that led to his election to the highest office in the land in 1860. His name was Abraham Lincoln, now widely regarded as our nation’s greatest president. He was a man who knew how to face his fears of rejection and failure, and he inspired a nation to do the same at the time of our bloodiest conflagration. He once said,

“Having chosen our course, without guile and with pure purpose, let us renew our trust in God, and go forward without fear and with manly hearts.”

These encouraging words reminded me of the words, inspired by the Holy Spirit and written by the Apostle Paul to the new Philippian Christians: “I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus”. Paul also knew the sting of failure and rejection. He was stoned, shipwrecked, snake-bitten, imprisoned, and eventually beheaded. But he persevered, understanding that his success as a man was not to be measured by his bank account or his popularity. His “boasting” was in the Lord that called him to service…a commission he dutifully and faithfully accepted.

God has a plan and a purpose for your life as well. Discover it, and never succumb to the temptation of regarding yourself as a loser. Press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called you heavenward in Christ Jesus. Let’s pray!

Thank you, O Lord, for the course laid out before me this day and this lifetime. May I follow gladly where you lead in this new day and throughout my life, ever pressing on towards the finish line. I pray this in Jesus’ great Name and for His sake. Amen!

 

 

 

Posted by: pastormikemcdowell | March 22, 2016

March 22, 2016 “Grandma”

“Jesus called the Twelve and said, ‘Anyone who wants to be the first must be the very last, and the servant of all'”. (Mark 9:35)

Good Morning Friends!

At the age of twelve, Ann Marie began her “career” as a housekeeper in the home of a wealthy family. She dutifully and diligently served the family of that stately home for over fifteen years, attending to many daily chores and tirelessly working without complaint.  While in the home, the family took notice to her interest in the many Currier and Ives prints they had amassed. As a gift, the family gave Ann a set of brushes, paints, and canvasses for her to try her hand at painting. It was not until much later in life…a life of continual service to others…that she began to exercise her God-given talent of artistry…a talent that was soon acclaimed and garnered her world-wide fame and the nickname by which she would be best remembered…Ann Marie “Grandma” Moses.

At the age of 93, after receiving the accolades of the art world, the acclaim of presidents, and a cover story on the prestigious “Time” magazine,  an interviewer asked her what she was most proud of in her life. Her answer was direct and succinct. She simply replied “I helped some people.”  Ann Marie Moses had a servant’s heart…that which Jesus declared to be the heart of a true leader.

As I have listened to those seeking the highest office in the land this election cycle, I have listened with a keen interest, for it is indeed a high privilege to cast a vote for someone who will lead not only with strength and resolve, but also with integrity and a servant’s heart. At times, I have been encouraged by what I have heard. At times, I have been greatly dismayed. Then I remember the Biblical command that we are to pray for those in high office and for those who seek to lead. That is my call as a Christian and as a servant of the Most High God.  At the end of my days, if someone were to ask me what I was most proud of in my life, I would want my response to be akin to that of “Grandma” Moses…”I helped some people.” The surest way I know of to do that is to pray and to serve with joyous abandon. Let’s pray!

I want to help someone today, Lord…someone who needs to hear an encouraging word…someone who needs to know they are loved and valued…someone who is lonely or afraid or angry or in despair. I want to be that servant you have called me to be, following your example. I pray this in Jesus Holy Name. Amen

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