home > Pastor’s Desk > 2021 > May > EXCUSE ME

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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SUPER NATURAL CHRISTIANITY

The early Christians were sensitive to the voice of God. Ananias, who prayed for the newly converted Saul of Tarsus, was told by the Spirit where to find Saul, what to say to him, and why it was important for him to do so (Acts 9:10-18). Sometimes followers of Christ are misled to believe that they need to “learn” how to hear the voice of God. There is no example of this need anywhere in Scripture. But there are, however, injunctions to seek the Lord (Deut. 4:29; 1Chron. 16:11; Ps. 34:10; 105:3-4; Isa. 51:1; 55:6; Matt. 6:33; 7:7). 

It was John Calvin who wrote in his commentary on Ephesians that the reasons believers today do not experience the divinely supernatural, as it seems the early Christians did, was the lack of desire. This is what I now want to both remind you of and encourage you to do: seek God. Seek Him. Be open to Him. Pray that you might pray effectively. Ask God to confirm His Word in the hearts of those who need a supernatural encounter with God that might lead to their conversion. And then, be still (Ps. 46:10).

DEEPER SPIRITUALITY

I don’t normally share like this so please excuse me for being a bit more personal than I am normally in these Pastor’s Desks. Last Sunday morning I awoke with a strong sense that I needed to incorporate the vision of Ezekiel’s Temple as a framework for us to think about our year ahead in my sermon for that day. I had to re-jig my presentation (which as you might be aware involves a bit more work than they way most other preachers do their slides). This is why I arrived at church a little later than I normally comfortable in doing. I was particularly gripped by this divine vision given to Ezekiel of the Holy Spirit’s outpouring in the New Covenant with Christ Himself being the Temple-Source (John 2:19-21). While I was preaching to our church community (in-person and online) I was also preaching to myself. As a result, Kim and I continued  in prayer and fasting for the rest of our Sunday. I now want to invite you to consider again Ezekiel’s picture of the Spirit-filled Christian life as the map for going deeper with God.

THINK

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WHAT CHILD IS THIS?

The grace and the truth expressed in the classic Christmas Carols brings great joy to this preacher who strives to produce biblically and theologically informed followers of Christ. It’s one the reasons why this preacher also serves as a gate-keeper over the songs that use at Legana because I know that most of my sermons are long forgotten soon after they are preached yet what we sing on a Sunday rings in our hearts for years to come. This is no doubt why singing, music, hymns, has always been integral to Christian worship (Eph. 5:19). The consolation that us forgettable preachers have though is that most good song-writers were, and are, biblically/theologically informed by faithful preachers. May the magnitude of what we sing this Advent grip our hearts, enlighten our souls and fill us each with joy inexpressible. Merry Christmas.

THE ART OF COMFORT

Pastors come in different varieties which is why the term pastoral conjures different ideas in the minds of different people. A pastor is like the hand that is placed in the glove of a ministry position which then leads to that glove taking a certain shape of the pastor’s strengths, abilities, and spiritual gifts. Over time, if the partnership between a pastor and a congregation endures, that pastor will also be shaped by the needs and demands of those whom God has called them to shepherd. And if both that pastor and that congregation are particularly blessed by God, the breadth of the needs and demands of a growing congregation will be attended to by pastors rather than the unrealistic expectation of them being met be a pastor. But there are times when a pastor is called upon by the broader community to care for that broader community in those times of severe adversity resulting from some tragedy. Floods, bush-fires, transport disasters (air/sea/road), military incidents, famine, are just some broader community demands for pastoring that come to mind as examples. More often than not, the type of person that God equips to enter these tragedies is one who has been shaped by God through having to deal with their own tragedies. In these instances the pastoral glove takes the shape of a chaplain. A chaplain’s principal function is comfort. In writing to the Corinthians after a particularly painful series of events, the tragedy-seasoned apostle Paul was able to comfort those he was ministering to because he himself had been the beneficiary of comfort from God through others.

IS THERE ANYTHING DIFFERENT ABOUT BEING UNIQUE?

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WHO CARES?

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WHAT FILLS YOUR HEART, MIND, AND SOUL?

God has made humans to engage their hearts, minds, and souls with music. Bach discovered this; but, Cobain did not. It is why music has played a central role in Christianity — in its discipleship of believers, and in its facility to bring God’s people together in worship each Lord’s Day. Musical songs teach biblical truth and theologically educate believers about the God. Sacred music stirs and lifts the soul and not just for the fleeting moment, but in a way that actually nourishes the soul by filling it with a lingering sense of God’s presence. This is why bring, joyful, upbeat Christian worship songs are so important for the discipleship and sustenance of the believer. As a preacher I am deeply appreciative of the complementary role that our musical worship plays in promoting the truth of God’s Word, and I hope you are too. 

It’s Complicated

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WHEN CULTURE BEGINS TO ZIG IT MAY BE TIME FOR CHRISTIANS TO ZAG

LESSONS FROM THE LIFE OF DANIEL
¶ But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself.  And God gave Daniel favour and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs
Daniel 1:8-9
Daniel’s world had been turned upside down. As a young well-to-do Jewish boy who grew up in a highly regarded family with parents who took their devotion to Yahweh seriously, he too would have expected that all of his training would have led him to follow in his father’s and Grandfather’s footsteps in the service of the King’s royal court. Even as a young man in his early teenage years he would have expected to one day take a wife and pass the baton of his knowledge and privilege to his son too. But then his world began to be shaken. The early stages of the disruption began when he was not yet a teen and a very upset and tearful young man from Anathoth, not too much older than himself, stood on the temple steps and denounced the wickedness of the King of Judah. Daniel would have remembered hearing this teenage prophet call the King and the people of Judah to repentance before the Lord’s wrath came upon them. This virgin prophet warned of the destruction of the temple and the invasion of the world’s most vile people — the Babylonians. The disruptions from this highly emotional priest-prophet continued until he was barred from entering the city, but undaunted, he wrote his prophecies out and his secretary, Baruch, deliver them in his stead. Despite the scorn, mocking, and eventual imprisonment, Daniel witnessed the tenacity of the one who came to be known as “ the Weeping Prophet” and some seventy years after Jerusalem was indeed destroyed by Babylonian forces (just as the prophet had foretold), Daniel referred to his copy of the now late prophet’s words and turned them into a …