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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AMAZING ACCESS

Anyone who has attended a large event such as the recent Will Graham Outreach event that was held at the Launceston Silverdome would be familiar with the varying levels of access that are provided to staff and volunteers associated with this type of event. The security system used included identification in the form of different coloured shirts, prayer volunteer cards, and all access cards that permitted access to the entire venue with no questions asked by security personnel. This is like the access level that God has to our lives. Being omnipresent, He has unhindered access to every aspect of our lives. He knows our innermost thoughts, sees all that we do, hears all that we say. God has the ultimate ‘all access’ card.

WHY FINDING TRUTH MATTERS

How can we determine whether a claim is true or false? Some people think there are different kinds of truth — my truth, their truth, and your truth. But how do they know that their assessment of truth is true? After all, their assessment – that there is my/their/your truth might just be based on their truth rather than the truth. Truth has certain qualities that distinguishes it from what is false-
 Truth corresponds to reality.
 Truth is verifiable (that is, if it is true, it can be evidentially shown to be so).
 Truth is falsifiable (that is, if it is false, it can be evidentially shown to be so).
 Truth is sometimes testable (that is, claims that are experiential can be tested by experience – including scientific claims, historic claims, and existential claims).
We have good reasons for the believing that the Bible is true because it is the divinely inspired, reliable and authoritative Word of God which has been superintendedly preserved by the Holy Spirit (read more about this).

THE 5 MOST IMPORTANT YEARS OF ANYONE’S LIFE

Parents, Kids Church leaders, and Christian school teachers should be intentional about shaping children to be fully devoted followers of Christ who have reasons for believing Christianity is true – which shapes them into virtuous contributors to society and to find their role in God’s Kingdom. This will be one of the necessary and indispensable means for the Church to fulfil the Great Commission of Christ.

TIME- YOU CAN’T CONTROL IT – BUT YOU CAN LEARN FROM IT

We live in a fast paced world. We expect things to happen quickly. None of us like to be kept waiting. Even when we order something online we expect it delivered straight away. Some of us having to work two or even three jobs just to be able to pay the bills. We describe ourselves as time-poor. Yet, we all get twenty-four-hours in a day. Sixty-minutes in an hour. And sixty-seconds in a minute. Most of us need to adjust how we see, understand, and treat our time. This will involve, what will be for some, adopting a foreign and largely unaccustomed view of time that involves worship, sabbath, and deepening relationships. From this biblical perspective we will come to see time as a gift from God, not a curse, or source of frustration. Within this gift of time God teaches us how to worship in those times when it is difficult to do so. Rather than thinking this divine gift of time is ours to do with what ever we want, God uses this gift to teach us that we should gift it back to Him beginning with (but not limited to) treating Sunday as a sabbath to come together to recommit our hearts, voices, minds, and presence with God’s people, back to God. God gives us passing time to learn to deepen relationships – especially with our kin, and our friends. Time is meant for relationship building. 

I AM WHO I AM BUT I AM NOT WHO I USED TO BE BUT I AM NOT YET WHO I WILL BE

One of the greatest lies that the would-be enemy of all our souls attempts to perpetuate is that we are what we are and we can never change. This lie is whispered into the ears of many people’s invisible ears so imperceptibly that they actually think it originated with them. “You were born this way – and you can never change”, “This is who you really are – and you can never change”, “There’s no hope of anything ever changing for better – so you might as well just kill yourself” and so on. But these sly alien voices inside the heads of the vulnerable are lies. People can change. People do change. Some circumstances were always going to be temporary and were always going to change. I know this is true because I am living proof. I am who I am but I am not who I used to be and I am not yet who I will be.

WHO DOES THIS EPHESIANS FELLA THINK HE IS?!

It may well still be the best-selling book of all time – and continues year-by-year to be so – but certainly is not the best-read of our current times! If there was ever any doubt about this, the events this week in Hobart, at St. Mary’s (Catholic) College Girl’s School, should remove all doubt! A furore erupted over the news that the prescribed Scripture reading for the year-end graduation celebration, which incorporated a Mass, was “Wives submit to your husbands” taken from Ephesians. Callers into ABC radio’s breakfast program decried this assault against women – especially young, vulnerable girls. One caller, responding to the news that the text being used was a citation from Ephesians, denounced Ephesians and apparently demanded, “Just who does this Ephesians bloke think he is?!” Another caller stated, “Why are they quoting ancient Roman philosophers in the twenty-first century?!” And yet another caller somehow linked all religious wars to passages like this one in the Bible! He remarked, “I’m an atheist. All wars are started by those who are religious! No war was ever started by atheists!” (Perhaps he had never heard of Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Mao Zedong, Pol Pot, Vladimir Putin, who were collectively responsible for the deaths of over 20,000,000?) This furore led to the Archbishop conceding that the Ephesians passage did not have to be used at the graduation ceremony. But this furore has highlighted just how unaware many Tasmanians are about what the Bible is, what is actually says, and why it says it. And I am now about to correct this deficiency.  

THE LORD IS MY ROCK

Of the many tributes paid to her majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, was the often noted reflection that during her reign the world underwent a series of rapid changes that were dramatic and unprecedented in human history. There were technological inventions that revolutionised the way people could access international travel options enabling them to be virtually anywhere in the world within a matter of hours. New forms of communication emerged with the development of a global satellite communications network enabling people to watch Neil Armstrong take his one giant leap Live on their black-and-white TV screens (as I did in the corridors of Corio Primary School in 1969). Space exploration, the stuff previously just in the realm of science fiction writers, became a reality with manned and unmanned voyages to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. But the past one hundred years have also been a time of great upheaval with empires crumbling, governments toppled, wars waged, genocides committed, pandemics raging, nations birthed, rulers assassinated, and massive refugee movements from oppressive Islamic and Communist regimes. Added to this has been the demise of professional journalism and the rise of internet-citizen-journalism where it is now common for TV News reports to feature footage taken from someone’s cell-phone which was posted on social media rather than the more expensive option of sending their own film crew there. And while we’re mentioning the internet, let’s not forget to mention – the internet. This alone has possibly been the most monumental change in the way people communicate, work, learn, and shop. But while it was noted that the Queen had witnessed all of these many changes, it was also noted that the Queen herself was an unchanging constant during all these upheavals who brought about a sense of stability, peace and reassurance. To millions of people around the world, she was their rock in a world of turmoil and change. Yet this was only possible because she herself had an immovable, dependable rock upon which she had built her life.

WHO BUILDS A CITY ON A HILL?

home > Pastor's Desk > 2022 > October 7th > Who Builds A City On A HillFor those who don’t know, I was born in Geelong, and have always been fan of the Geelong Football Club. But I’m not just a fan, I’m a paid-up member of the Club. In fact, I’m a student...

5 INDISPENSABLE GUIDELINES FOR NEW PARENTS

This is not for everyone. If you are already a parent, this is not for you. Instead of reading this I suggest you read one of my other more abstract Pastor’s Desk articles. If you are not a parent and have no intention of ever being a parent, this is not for you. Instead of reading this I suggest you read one of my more weighty articles on FindingTruthMatters.org. If you are not yet a parent and one day hope to become a parent, this is for you. Find a quiet place, take the next six minutes thirteen seconds and use the reading of this article as an investment into your future parenting strategies. I did not invent these guidelines. Like many parents who have also discovered the value of these guidelines, once discovered, they seem obvious. These successful parents probably grew up with own parents who inculcated these guidelines almost intuitively. However, my suspicion is that this is becoming increasingly rarer. As with all true guidelines they are adaptable, flexible, and are not a guarantee of parental success — but if ignored they become the point in the mathematical problem solving where you can see you made an error in your working out. In other words, while these guidelines may not guarantee success, if ignored their neglect almost certainly leads to frustration and disappointment. Here are five indispensable guidelines for every prospective new parent.

WHAT WOULD IT TAKE FOR ATHEIST & MAGICIAN PENN JILLETTE TO BECOME A CHRISTIAN?

I’ve been praying for Penn Jillette for some time now. It began when I first heard him ridicule the Bible and Christianity. My fascination with Penn (and Teller), and other world-class magicians, has been due to my pursuit to develop my craft of preaching. There are a lot of similarities between preachers and magicians (just as there is also a lot similarities between solo musicians and preachers). I seek to learn from magicians about how to keep an audience’s attention, how to tell a story, and how to make a point by employing the element of surprise. But there are some significant differences between what magicians do and what preachers do though. A magician is deliberately deceptive. A preacher is striving to uphold truth in an honest way.