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THE BUSY FOOLS’ ARGUMENT
WITH THE BUSY WISE

Been busy?” I’m not sure if women get asked this question as often as men do (although my guess is that women more frequently ask, “How have you been?” more than they ask “Have you been busy?”). The ‘busy question’ seems to be a badge of honour for men—especially when they stick to the unwritten script and respond with either option A (“Yeah, flat out!”) or option B (“Yeah, I’ve been {insert details here}!”). Even retired men still refer to the modified retirement script with variations of the “Since I’ve been retired, I’ve never been busier!” response. As a student and practitioner of the art of busy I have discovered that there is a type of being busy that is worthwhile and there is another type that is not – but its practitioners are convinced that it is. 

 

THE DOWNSIDE OF BUSY

But busy has its downside. When people are always filling their schedules and adding to their To-Do lists, they run the spiritual risk of neglecting the godly discipline of ceasing their normal activity and resting. This is the basis of the principle of the sabbath. Cease, rest from normal activity, breathe, contemplate (declutter your mind), worship, re-focus on God, reset, and remember. If you have heard  Pastor Phil Hills preach as often as I have, you would know that he often repeated his ministry maxim (and even though he is retired, I’m sure he still repeats it), “We work from rest rather than resting from work!” What Pastor Hills was affirming the principle of treating the sabbath as a spiritual discipline. This is something that the unwisely busy should consider. It is also why they should consider attending church each Sunday as a spiritual discipline that should not be neglected. 

So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God…And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Hebrews 4:9; 10:24-25

 

A DIFFERENT TYPE OF BUSY

Most of us are aware that someone can be busy but not productive. Those who are highly productive often don’t appear to be as busy as the busy-yet-not-productive. These highly-productive-and-busy people have learned to incorporate rest into their lifestyles — but their moments of apparent idleness should not be interpreted as a inefficiency. I recently learned an amazing example of ‘apparent idleness’ being essential for productivity when I took a course on how the brain works. What I discovered was that before we had the technology to measure brainwave activity, we used to think that when we slept, our brain also took a break. But it turns out that when we “idly” go to sleep (especially when we reach REM sleep) our brain is actually hard at work reorganising its information and deepening its long-term memory which ends up helping us to think more clearly when we awake. That’s why you can go to sleep at night with an unsolved problem on your mind and then wake up knowing what the solution is.  Added to these scientific insights, we know from Scripture that God frequently gets people’s attention while they slept.

But God came to Laban the Aramean in a dream by night and said to him, “Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.”
Genesis 31:24

Coincidentally, those who are unwisely busy often regard sleep as a waste of time. They brag about only needing four hours sleep a night even though their restless brains need at least seven hours to do their nightly routine properly.

 

RECRUITING BUSY WISE LEADERS

I’ve been thinking through for many years what it would take to see Christ’s Great Commission fulfilled in our valley-city. In 2007 I gathered some of the key Christian leaders for a meeting and posed just one question for discussion: If we could fulfil Christ’s Great Commission in our valley-city, what would it look like? Each of these busy leaders were committed to fulfilling the Great Commission in our valley, but not many of them had thought about what it would end up looking like. The problem with not having a clear vision of what you’re trying to achieve is that it can lead to unproductive busyness. The more I’ve thought about it, the clearer the picture has become to me. And the clearer the picture has become to me, the clearer pathway has also become. This pathway involves strong and united local churches. It involves a commitment to evangelism and multiplication discipleship. It involves sharing a common objective that gives the Christians of our city the courage to be bold witnesses. And it involves outside help from those those who are gifted to assist us. Thus, when I was approached by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association with an offer to come to our city and help us — at no cost to us (!) — I was very keen to be involved. The result has been the birth of the Tasmania Celebration journey. At this point in the journey we are now recruiting and appointing various coordinators for the key responsibilities involved. Each of these coordinators, without exception, are already busy. On Thursday morning this week I met with a prospective team member who told me that he was too busy to be involved and was already serving on seven executive boards. I said, “Good! We only want busy people on our team!” I went on to explain what I meant and I will now try and explain it to you…

 

THE PARABLE OF THE BUSY WISE

“Then the Kingdom of Heaven will be like ten bridesmaids who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. The five who were foolish didn’t take enough olive oil for their lamps, but the other five were wise enough to take along extra oil. When the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep. ¶ “At midnight they were roused by the shout, ‘Look, the bridegroom is coming! Come out and meet him!’ ¶ “All the bridesmaids got up and prepared their lamps. Then the five foolish ones asked the others, ‘Please give us some of your oil because our lamps are going out.’ ¶ “But the others replied, ‘We don’t have enough for all of us. Go to a shop and buy some for yourselves.’“But while they were gone to buy oil, the bridegroom came. Then those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was locked. Later, when the other five bridesmaids returned, they stood outside, calling, ‘Lord! Lord! Open the door for us!’ ¶ “But he called back, ‘Believe me, I don’t know you!’”
Matthew 25:1-12 NLT

This parable highlights the difference between the foolish and busy, and the wise and busy. The foolish bridesmaids were busy doing things that didn’t matter. They were ignoring their primary responsibilities in the midst of their busyness. The wise bridesmaids took their responsibilities seriously and tended to their oil-lit lamps by securing adequate oil for their lamps. Their busyness was focused on doing what they were supposed to be doing. When it became obvious to the foolish bridesmaids that they had neglected their responsibilities they resorted to blaming the wise bridesmaids for not giving them some of their lamp oil. What we can learn from the busy and wise bridesmaids is that productive work involves: planning, preparation, persistence, and prayerfulness. Prayerfulness? Interestingly, at the end of this parable Jesus sums up its point with an injunction for His followers to ‘watch’ – which is a term used for praying (Matt. 26:41).

Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.
Matthew 26:41

The busy-wise bridesmaids were commended and honoured for their diligent work by being admitted to the wedding feast and seated at the head table with the bride and groom. All followers of Christ must know that we are not saved from our sins because of our efforts. Our salvation, redemption, and divine adoption are gifts of God’s grace through the merit of Christ’s finished work of atonement. 

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Ephesians 2:8-9

And all followers of Christ must know that this same grace enables us to be busy-wise in the service of Christ and His Church.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Ephesians 2:10

We need not sit in the waiting-room of Christ’s servants as if Jesus is yet to figure out what we are to do! Christ prepares beforehand the tasks that He wants His followers to do. Yield to Christ and you will soon find Jesus opening doors of service. Don’t immediately expect these doors to be particularly big or likely to gain you much attention or even appreciation. (It would be worth noting the parable immediately following the ten bridesmaids parable in Matthew 25:15-28 where the point is faithfulness rather than fame.) As we examine each of Christ’s last parables retold by Matthew in chapter 25 we are struck by Christ commending His faithful followers to be wisely busy in His service. And for those who don’t feel that their ability to serve Christ and His Church is particularly glamorous you should take heart in Christ’s appreciation for those who feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the shut-ins (and prisoners), tend to the ill and sick, and show hospitality to strangers (Matt. 25:35-36).

For I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed Me, I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you visited Me, I was in prison and you came to Me.’
Matthew 25:35-36

What makes our busyness wise busyness? It’s when our busyness is doing what Christ wants for the reasons that He wants it done. It’s when we are busy without neglecting the priorities of spiritual disciplines and our obligations to those we are responsible to and for. This is why, when Christ calls someone to take on a greater responsibility in His Kingdom it is almost certain that they are already busy. I am not at all suggesting that a Christ-follower needs to be frenetic in their busyness for Christ, or that they should never sabbath (two points I have tried to make clear in this Pastor’s Desk by contrasting the busy wise with the busy foolish). But I am hoping that those who have been following and serving Christ for some seasons will recognise the doors of opportunity that Christ will enable them to walk through wisely. And as they do, and we do together, may we begin to see glimpse of the Great Commission being fulfilled in our valley-city.

View of Kings Bridge Launceston

View of Kings Bridge Launceston

Your pastor,

Andrew

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THE PRODIGAL FATHER

 Does anyone know what the word prodigal means? Perhaps most people assume that it means: “wanderer”, or “rebel”, or perhaps even “backslider” or that it only applies to sons. This seems to be based on the story that Jesus told in Luke 15 to which most Bible Publishers assign the division title – The Parable of the Prodigal Son. But the word prodigal does not occur in this parable. Interestingly, there are three lead characters in this shocking and famous parable: the father and his two sons. One of these was genuinely ‘prodigal’, and, as Tim Keller points out, it was neither son! To appreciate what Keller means we might need to take another look at what the word prodigal actually means. It comes from the verb prodigious which means remarkably great in extent, size, or degree (New Oxford American Dictionary). It is a word often used to describe an author who regularly writes books – John Grisham is a prodigious author. A prodigal person is therefore, prolific, extravagant, excessive, and, lavish. Keller points out that even though most people ascribe this to the wayward son in the parable, it is more appropriately a designation for the lead character in the story, the father!

SUPER SUCCESSFUL CHRISTIANS

Spare a thought for those people who are often overlooked by churches—and if they are Christians—they frequently struggle to even find a suitable church where they can deepen their relationship with Christ. Often we think of those who struggle with life as those who are “down and out” and blighted by impoverishment, or destitution, or ill-health, or family breakdown, or poor mental health. But surprisingly, even those who are seen as super-successful because of their wealth, social stature, public acclaim or amazing achievements, are actually struggling with loneliness, emptiness, and poor mental health — even if they are a Christian. These super-successful Christians are CEOs of large companies, or world-class or national sporting champions, or internationally renowned performing artists, or A-lister actors, or media personalities, or highly sought after professionals such as surgeons or barristers. They often pay a high price for their success, including, long work hours, constant stress, public criticism, extended time away from their families, fierce competition, and strained marriages. These pressures are exacerbated by their constant travel associated with their work which also makes them vulnerable to exhaustion and extraordinary temptations. This is why these super-successful Christians need to join the kind of church that can provide them with the kind of support, counsel, and accountability that every Christian needs. Here’s how a church can become this kind of church.

MAKING CHURCH A WELCOMING HOME

For many people, making a decision to attend a church is a significant and potentially daunting decision. As they come through the front door they are entering an unfamiliar environment. It is also an environment that may be associated with preconceived ideas of what the expectations and rules of the church community may be. These people probably will not know anybody and they might have concerns that relate to their previous or current lifestyle. For those of us who are regular church attendees, it is possible that we may not fully appreciate the challenges a new attendee may be facing. When we can relate to these concerns, I believe we are better equipped to provide a warm and patient “welcome” to what we hope will become their new church home.

LOVE IN ACTION

Physical illnesses and stressful events are endemic in our society. They can be likened to the thorns that cause both pain and damage. It doesn’t take much for them to impact a person’s life in ways that they did not expect. I believe that we can become more resilient as followers of Jesus by applying an appropriate solution to a known problem. I believe that an appropriate and important part of the solution is for us to show love the way that Jesus demonstrated love during His ministry on earth.

THE TOOLS OF REMEMBERING

I like to think I have a pretty good memory.  I like to think I’m organised.  Generally, I am – I don’t double book appointments, I keep track of what I’m doing and when, I mostly turn up on time. But, on reflection, I’m not so sure this means I have a good memory.

TRUTH vs SOMETHING BIG AND HAIRY

“You were lying in your bed, you were feeling kind of sleepy.
But you couldn’t close your eyes because the room was getting creepy.
Were those eyeballs in the closet? Was that Godzilla in the hall?
There was something big and hairy casting shadows on the wall.
Now your heart is beating like a drum, your skin is getting clammy.
There’s a hundred tiny monsters jumping right into your jammies”!

These are lyrics from a song on the very first Veggie Tales video every made. The title of the song?  “God is bigger than the Boogie Man”. Junior Asparagus was lying in bed frightened, and Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber appeared to tell him that he doesn’t have to be scared of the imaginary monsters because, “God is the bigger.” My childhood night-time fears weren’t so much about big and hairy monsters, aka boogie men, or Godzilla in the hall. My fears were house fires – our home burning down, and “burglars” or “robbers”. But I certainly identify with lying in bed, my heart beating like a drum, my skin getting clammy, my imagination in overdrive.

CLOSING THE DEAL

In 1871, the American evangelist, Dwight (“DL”) Moody was preaching to huge crowds each night in Chicago. At the end of each message he would give an appeal for people to either respond immediately to the gospel message he had just presented, or at least go home and consider it. But on Sunday October 8th, 1871, a huge fire broke out in Chicago. It burned through the city for days and became known as The Great Chicago Fire. Around 10,000 people were homeless as a result, and hundreds of people lost their lives. Moody was heart-broken when he realised that many of the people who had died were the people who had attended that Sunday night meeting where he had urged them to consider accepting Christ. His deep grief over this tragedy led him to make a vow that he would never again merely urge people to simply consider accepting Christ. From now on, he vowed, he would plead with all those he preached to – to immediately turn away from their sins and turn to the Saviour. DL Moody committed his life and ministry as an evangelist to be someone who would always strive to close the deal because he was now aware—more than ever—that people’s eternal destinies were in jeopardy! 

BUILDING A MOODY CHURCH

The three things that make the Christian life exciting and enthralling are the same three things that enable a believer to develop a closer relationship with God. The combination of these supernatural gifts gives the child of God an awareness that there is more, much more, to this world than we can see, touch, taste or feel. When the Christian’s faith is grounded and buttressed in God’s Word, godly prayer, and God’s house he or she flourishes. But there are forces at play that are determined to stop the believer from reaching their spiritual destiny. While we might think these enemy forces only use the fiery darts of doubt to hinder the believer’s journey to glory, there is something that they successfully use far more often: our mood. This is why, for any church to be successful, it must discover how to build moody church.

PRAYING PRAYERS

The amazing thing about prayer, is that nearly everyone does it – but hardly anyone thinks they do it well. If you visit any Christian bookstore you will notice that the largest display of books is about prayer. And it’s not just Christian bookstores where you’ll find books on prayer. Regular bookstores also sell a wide range of books on prayer (even if they do classify them as books on ‘meditation’!). One of the most frequently searched questions on Google is, “How to pray” (which then points enquirers to over 2.3 billion web pages answering their question). But in all of human history – and two thousand years before anyone but one had ever heard of Google – there was just One person who was supremely qualified to answer this question. And fortunately for those of us who really want to know the answer to this question (without having to peruse more than 2.3 billion web pages!) He gave us the answer.

WHY SOME BELIEVE

Why is it that two people can look at exactly the same evidence and can come to completely different conclusions about it? Even more puzzling is how two equally qualified scientific experts can look at the same data and utterly disagree about what it means. This happens many times in court cases where the prosecution will call their “expert witness” to give his or her professional opinion to verify that the defendant is guilty only to have the defence to present their “expert witness” who gives his or her professional opinion as to why the prosecution’s expert witness was wrong and to prove that defendant is innocent! This at least illustrates why it is not always the quality of the evidence that leads a person to accept or reject a claim. This especially apply to the claims that Jesus Christ made. Of the four accounts in the New Testament written about His life, three of them were written by eye-witnesses and the other one (Luke’s) was written by someone who interviewed many eye-witnesses. It is with interest that we turn to the last one to be John’s Gospel, where he describes dramatic proofs that Jesus was who He claimed to be. Yet despite these otherwise inexplicable proofs that at times thousands of people witnessed, many still wouldn’t believe. But it seems among those who did believe they all had one thing in common.