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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LOOKING BEYOND THE MOMENT

home > Pastor's Desk > 2021 > June > LOOKING BEYOND THE MOMENTLOOKING BEYOND THE MOMENT For anyone who is a fan of aviation, the movie Sully (2016) is one you will have probably enjoyed watching. The storyline is biographical drama based on the 2009...

THE BENEFITS OF A DAILY DOSE OF VITAMIN R

The Greatest Exponent of what vitamin R can achieve within a person was the One who introduced vitamin R in small doses to His twelve followers. There initial dose came from simply complying with the request to, “Follow Me.” This they did for some three years or so. After watching Him intently, they then got a larger dose when they were told to, “Go…and proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” And as every example of those who have ever received a near maximum dose of vitamin R bears witness, just before they received their ultimate dose vitamin R they felt two universally common sensations: inadequacy and inability. Yet, as everyone who has received such high doses of vitamin R from the One who gives the ultimate enabling strength found in vitamin R, somehow they were supernaturally enabled to do the very thing they felt both inadequate and unable to do!

A PICTURE IS PAINTED BY A THOUSAND WORDS

The most difficult challenge you’ll ever have to deal with throughout your life is others. They’ll make you angry, get you frustrated, and hurt you. At the root of these challenges will be miscommunication with others and communication breakdowns. Your ability to understand how language and communication really works could save you from much of this heartache. But the most unrealised — and by far the potentially greatest source of — heartache may eternally shock untold numbers of poor souls when they realise too late that they did not respond to God’s communications.

IN LIGHT OF ETERNITY

“That I may know Him!” Fancy that! The apostle who was struck from his horse by the radiant glory of Christ while on the Persecutor’s Road to Damascus; the apostle whom the resurrected Christ appeared to in a vision and spoke directly to him (Acts 18:9-10); the apostle whom Christ used to raise people from the dead and to heal many people miraculously; and, the apostle who testifies that he was caught up to heaven and saw things too wonderful to reveal — this apostle gets toward the end of his life and states that he doesn’t yet know Christ the way he should! This apostle, the apostle Paul, toward the end of his life begins to see his life and his troubles in the light of eternity. And I am thus assured that in this light many of the problems that we face today will fade from our gaze and vanish as we fix our eyes on the Source of eternity’s Light.

EXCUSE ME

The essence of an excuse is the word, no. If we get invited to a party that we don’t to go to and we make a polite excuse to decline the offer, in essence we are saying “No, I will not come to your party.” This is the gist of the parable that Christ told in Luke 14 about His Father who sent His Son as His Servant to personally invite those who had already received an invitation to come to a great banquet. (It’s interesting how Jesus describes His Father’s heaven as a great banquet.) By saying “No” to the great banquet invitation those who were declining this invitation were saying that they had a better offer. What offer could be better than dining with the Source of Life, Joy, Peace, and Power, as His special guest in His luxurious mansion? What happens next in this parable also says a lot about how God feels when people make excuses to decline His offer to dine.

BELONGING

I’m not sure about you, but one of my great wrestles in becoming more Christlike is that sinful tendency to see my time, my resources, my life as belonging to me. I like to control it. I like to own it. I like to decide what happens and when.

God, in His great grace and wisdom, seems to work in our lives reminding us how little we truly control and that it all truly does belong to Him. So often these reminders come in the way of hardship and loss with the call to surrender ownership and control.

If our Heavenly Father was a despotic God, a cruel, tyrannical God who acted arbitrarily and selfishly for His own ends, knowing we belonged to Him would cause us to tremble and live in fear and apprehension.

But praise Him that this is not our God!

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies your with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
Psalm 103:2-5

ROOFS AND DRAGONS – THE VALUE OF PLANNING

ROOFS AND  DRAGONS – THE VALUE OF PLANNING
John F. Kennedy once said, “The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining.”  J.R.R. Tolkien said, “It does not do to leave a live a dragon out of your calculations, if you live near one.” Having a plan is generally a strategy that will help us to get things done, or respond correctly when things go wrong. A plan may help us to find a solution and a way through an adverse situation that we are experiencing. A plan also helps us to know what resources we might need for dealing with situations that we can foresee.

When it comes to thinking about the importance of planning, a statement that is worth considering is one that I like to get my Maritime Passage Planning students to contemplate:

‘The best thing about failing to plan, is that disaster comes as a complete surprise that is not preceded by hours or days of stress and worry associated with the planning process.’

SOMETHING FOR SLUGGARDS TO CONSIDER

There are those who look busy but are not very productive. There are those who are busy but are highly productive. Often these people have learned that busy needs to be managed so that their time is focused on maintaining their important relationships, taking regular sabbaths, prioritising the important over the urgent, and cooperating with others. These busy people have learned to recognise God’s open doors and have confidence that the Apostle Paul had that it is God who gives them supernatural energy to toil, struggle and work to get things done when no-one else thought it could be.

WHAT COVID DID TO CHURCHES’ MOMENTUM

The Covid pandemic and its effect upon Churches has caused many church leaders and their teams to reevaluate what it means to be the Church. This leads into some really healthy questions that challenge what many had previously unquestionably accepted as “Church”. What ‘should’ a church do when it meets together for its weekly gathering (especially if it can’t actually ‘gather’)? How should the leaders and members of a church contribute to the issues confronting society and culture? Or should the Church be disengaged from ‘the world’ and treat its Christianity as purely ‘private’ matter between the worshiper and God? What do the ministries within a Church within a church — especially that of an evangelist — look like it the Church can not actually meet due to ongoing Covid lockdowns? Perhaps several of these questions might never have even been asked if it wasn’t for Covid. But one thing is for sure, the answer to these questions can be found within Scripture and the lessons from Church history and require that we prayerfully seek the Spirit’s guidance as we apply the best answers. Perhaps it will be then that we can build some fresh momentum and reach the current and next generation for Christ.

CONSPIRITUAL CONSPIRACIES

This is why we can have great confidence in the accounts given in the Bible. Two of the four evangelists (Matthew and John) who wrote Gospels were eye-witnesses to many of the events they describe – particularly and critically – the resurrection appearances of Christ. Rather than appealing to a “trust me when I tell you…” approach, the Biblical writers of the New Testament invite readers to examine the evidence for themselves and consider carefully what they have presented. They do not present their accounts anonymously or in an only share this after I’ve died memoir approach. When the apostle Paul could say that the physically resurrected Christ was seen by up to 500 people at one time and that most of these people are still alive (1Cor. 15:6), he was inviting verification of the facts that he presented (and we have no record of anyone ever refuting Paul’s claim). This made the claims of Christianity verifiable and it therefore makes the further claims of Christianity about a spiritual new birth testable and verifiable today.

¶ Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
John 20:30-31