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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Follow Me AS I FOLLOW JESUS

We all walk a path in life that is set before us. We start with very little experience and knowledge about the purpose of our life and the world beyond us. All of humanity experiences joy, wisdom, strength, weakness, suffering and hardship, especially those who are “contending for the faith”. Knowing Jesus is a very special part of this life journey.

A CERTAIN GOD

We can be reasonably certain about many things. In fact, without this certainty about life, none of us could function. We can be certain that tonight the sun will ‘set’. Tomorrow the sun will ‘rise’. After the February 28th it will be February 29th. This year there will be international unrest and much political instability in many parts of the world. In the coming months global warming will be identified by politicians as the source of floods and wildfires. Several high profile international celebrities will die this year. Archaeologists will make a discovery that will require some aspects of history to be rewritten. And you will certainly have one of the most memorable moments in your life in the coming days. You see, there are clearly some things we can be quite certain about. However, there are some aspects about our future that we cannot be certain about, yet in those moments we can be certain about what we should do.

LOW COST LIVING

Turn on any TV or radio news lately and there’s bound to be a story about the current “cost of living crisis”. We all feel it. Initially most people accepted the widespread price-rises were caused by 2020-21 pandemic lockdowns. But whatever the reasons for the rapid price hikes over the past two years, every time we go to the supermarket we feel it again. While governments are striving to curb the impact of this cost of living crisis, there remains a way to enjoy low cost living. The key to this is recognising that the most valuable things in life are literally priceless. The path to enjoying low-cost living is to be found in Christ, and what He taught — and it begins with treasure.

How To Know Jesus Better

It’s a scary thought to realise that the Jesus we have been told about and worship may not really be known to us at all. We can ‘know’ about someone or something, but not really know them. In Christian circles it’s often referred to as head knowledge not heart knowledge.

Knowing Christ Better

As a church, this year’s theme is coming closer to Christ by getting to know Him better. I feel that I am “the least qualified person” to tell anyone how this is done — but someone else has already claimed this distinction – the apostle Paul. After decades of hearing directly from Christ, seeing extraordinary miracles, being taken to heaven temporarily, planting churches across the Roman Empire, he could still say I would give anything to really know Christ – even if it meant suffering like He did! (Phil. 3:7-10). Therefore, I could say: If you do this or that, you will then know Christ better – but in my view, it’s not as easy as that! How we develop our relationship with Christ is shaped by several factors including our personality, our life experiences, our physical health and fitness, and our relationships with others (especially our parents and particularly our father). In fact, I believe that there is a relationship between how we have learned to build relationships with others (and notably how we have learned to relate to those who are closest to us) and how we then proceed to have a relationship with God. Even though I have expressed my lack of qualifications in telling anyone how to have a closer relationship with Christ, I still can, like one hungry beggar to another hungry beggar, offer you a few of the morsels of food that I’ve been able to find.

SOME PEOPLE HAVE AMAZING BUTS

I know of several people with amazing buts. There’s Jo’, Mo’, Sam, Esther, Jerry, and others. Each of these people were gifted by God with an amazing but that changed there life and the course of human history. Sometimes these gifts came with a …then, or …God, or …the LORD. When it comes to the size of things, a but is a relatively small thing (in Greek it can be just two letters: de) but it can have huge implications and enormously great blessings for multitudes. I hope to show you how this was the case with each of the people I have chosen as samples, and then show you how God is your God of buts.

OPEN

What does the word ‘open’ mean to you? Like language itself, it is like any word in which the meaning only comes from the context in which it is used. I can think of at least 12 different understandings of this word, some of which I will point out, most I will not, and one that I focus on because it is prophetically important for where we are at as a church at this crucial time.

ONE THING I HAVE TO SAY

​I’m always amazed at the really cool events I’d organised for my kids to experience, so that they might have happy memories – but now they don’t remember it except the random comment someone made in the car trip on the way there or what snack was eaten. Conversely, if you make a mistake, well that one is remembered! Once I drove Andrew’s car and just lightly hit something so it ended up with an annoying 2cm scratch. The mistake is (still) there in full view to anyone who looks. Is Andrew going to remember this above the years of my devotion to him? (Not likely, but some people do remember the wrong for way too long!) If you had the choice, what one thing would you want to be remembered for? What one thing would you want your family to remember? It’s not often going to be the thing you have in mind.

‘Famous last words’ comes from the hope that you’ll be remembered for them. If you were given the privilege of being able to articulate as the important thing to say, to be remembered by all, what would it be? Would it be a reflection on your love toward someone? Would it be a directive on how to have the best life? Would it be that you wished you had done something? Someone once mused, ‘would your dying words be that you’d wished you’d spent just one more day in the office’? (Not likely.)

AT THE END OF THIS YEAR I WILL RECOUNT 12 WONDERFUL THINGS (An Explication of Psalm 9)

This is my last end-of-year Pastor’s Desk post. When the head of our Live-stream ministry, Sari, asked me what I was thankful for this year, my immediate answer was obvious and predictable. But since then, I have considered that I also have eleven other things for which I am grateful to GOD for. In this last ever end-of-year Pastor’s Desk please indulge as I share my heartfelt thanks to God and for those God has used to bless me this year.

HE WAS BORN A KING

The king who reigned over Judea when Jesus was born was Herod the Great. Herod had no legitimate claim to the throne of Israel. He was from an Idumean noble family who supported the Roman occupation of Palestine. As a reward he was appointed by the Roman Senate as the King of Judea. Despite his attempts to curry favour with the Jews, including several major public works programs (including completing the temple reconstruction) he was still largely unpopular among the Jews. Little wonder then that when the Magi arrived in Jerusalem with their large retinue and requested to view the birth of the prophesied King of the Jews, Herod was emotionally threatened by this revelation. Herod immediately ordered an enquiry from the chief priests and religious scribes.