Get Bitter, or Get Better

In his sermon this morning, my pastor had a great message for everyone who has had life upended by COVID-19. The advice he gave to our congregation is useful for any person or organization dealing with this crisis, or, as he stated, any crisis that comes along.

Think about not getting caught waiting; waiting for everything to return to normal…most likely things are going to be different in the future. There’s no going back to what was, so we need to lean into what’s coming and not miss out on the opportunity that this season – this situation – gives us. We want to look back at what we’ve lived through in this season and accept the challenge of it for what it is and see it as a part of moving forward.

So my challenge to us is this: ‘Are you going to look back at this season with rejoicing or with regret? Are you going to rejoice in the opportunities that you had to learn and to grow and to engage with your life in a new and maybe different way and set yourself up for a better future or are you going to regret having all of the time that you’ve had and all this opportunity that you’ve had different than it’s been before; are you going to regret not having taken advantage of this opportunity. Are you going to sit back and let this all happen around you and to you or are you going to grab a hold of the opportunity and grow into what you want to become when this is all done and we’re on to whatever the new normal is after the storm?’

As pastor McCready said, we get to choose how we respond to the crisis – we have a choice in how we respond when anything in our life doesn’t go the way we want. He put it like this:

“In every storm, we have a chance to respond. We have the choice. We can either get bitter or we can get better.” Pastor Bill McCready

So, what mindset will you choose in the midst of COVID-19? Are you going to use the time of isolation to get better? To read good books, build new skills, shape better habits? Prepare for a new future Or, just follow Twitter and Google News all day and get bitter, hoping that the world quickly goes back to what it was? It’s your choice.

Here’s his full message:

The Purpose, Partners and Plans of Paul

We’re in Holy Week and today is Maundy Thursday, so I thought it appropriate to post about a sermon my friend Jason Folkerts preached at our church a little over a month ago.

Jason preached on Acts 18:1-4. To me, the four verses seemed like an unimportant introduction to the rest of the chapter, but in Jason’s hands, they uncovered the most important thing about Paul’s mission to take the good news of the Gospel beyond his nation.

Purpose

“After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth (18:1).” Athens was the intellectual center of the world. A place where the scholar and theologian Paul would have felt right at home.

What would cause him to leave Athens for a port town like Corinth? His was following his purpose that we learned about in Acts 9:15. Pursuing his calling necessitated that Paul leave the familiar and comfortable for something new and uncertain.

Partners

“There he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all Jews to leave Rome. Paul went to see them, and, because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them, and they worked together—by trade they were tentmakers. (18:2-3).” Paul didn’t go to Corinth and try to do it all on his own. He got partners from the city and worked with them.

As Jason pointed out, when God is up to something really good, it’s rarely around one person. Even someone as influential as the Apostle Paul had partners that he worked with throughout his ministry.

Plan

“Every sabbath he would argue in the synagogue and would try to convince Jews and Greeks (18:4).” Lastly, Paul had a plan for accomplishing his mission. Every sabbath he went to the place where practitioners and seekers of religion gathered for debate.

I like the word “every” at the start of verse four. To me, it shows commitment to the plan. I think of Paul on the days he didn’t feel like going to the synagogue, but doing it anyway out of commitment to his plan. His plan wasn’t just a dream. He built a routine.

So, the Apostle Paul had a purpose that was bigger than himself, he joined with other people to complete the important work, and he followed a plan.

How did that turn out? Maundy Thursday is a celebration of the Last Supper, when most of the Christians fit around one table. Today, Christianity has almost 2.5 billion followers. That would require a little bit bigger table.