This train of thought is a bit of a rabbit hole journey, so I trust you’ll stick with the ramble and find something of interest or point of connection. It started a few months ago when someone said to me for the n’th time, ‘don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.’ This has always been a phrase that has grated with me because I know what this person is really trying to tell me. ‘Don’t throw anything away’. ‘Keep everything the same’. ‘Hoard up everything even if it has no use.’ What these people end up doing, and they want you to do it as well, is to keep hold of not just the baby but the bathwater as well. These people end up throwing nothing away. The bathwater has long gone lukewarm, or pukewarm as the book of Revelation calls it, or even downright freezing, but we cannot throw it out because some bit of magic may happen to rekindle or revive what was. God started it and therefore what He has begun He will complete. Someone at some point in history, could even have been me, has said ‘God wants us to do this’. So if God was the initiator how can we be the one to end it? Why do so many things that start off as being God breathed end up being pukewarm? We just so love to start things off, but we are terrible at closing down. We are terrible at hoarding ‘spiritual’ stuff, activities, meetings, but terrible at getting rid of what has no use, because it may be useful one day. We start, but we have to learn to finish stuff, burn the plough, the bridges, the ministry, the meetings. Time to de-clutter and discover in the space the stuff that is really important. What is the baby that we need to keep hold of? What does that represent? We may be afraid that if we chuck out the bathwater we may throw the baby out as well. It may feel like that for a season, but there comes a time of rediscovering what is important and worth keeping hold of. We need to learn to shut things down before we wear ourselves out doing good.
Hoarding ‘Holy’ Stuff.
I remember when I first turned up in Tonyrefail when I was ‘appointed’ as ‘pastor’ for the first time (all this language that does not sit right with me now). I could not believe what they hoarded in hidden corners of the building, or even in plain site. To get an office in the building I had to take over a small cupboard that was full of junk that would not get 50p at a car boot sale or yard sale. Cheap cups and plates given by dear saints of years gone by thrown out of site, but we could not throw them away because they were ‘holy’ relics of bygone years. So precious no one had seen them for years. They only liked them when I planned to throw them away (and I did). Hymn books that had not been used for 15 years. We’d better keep them just in case, even though the words can be put on the overhead projector. A church organ that was broken sitting to one side at the front of the church, that had a speaker that was bigger than the room where my office was. Got to keep hold of that it was bought/donated by such and such a family. Cannot throw it away or sell it. We allow sentiment to hold us, but is it really sentiment or something else? A family hold over the church? We’ll support you as long as you do not touch this? But it is not just about stuff. All those meetings, things we do. We just have to keep on doing them. We believed God said we need to do it so we have to keep on, keeping on, even though everyone has lost interest, there are no benefits, it wears us out, we have to keep pressing on. So many projects going on that we thought God had initiated, but now the original fervour has gone it becomes like hard work, but we have to be faithful. I remember once a Korean speaker with a passion for early morning prayer came along to Tonyrefail, and with authority and a persuasive nature he told us that we needed to pray every morning as a church at 6am to see break through, including Christmas day I remember him saying. This became a thus saith the Lord and the next morning we all gathered. It was like revival as over 20 of us gathered and prayed. This momentum and excitement went on for about 6 months through rain, shine and even snow we would be there. And yes Christmas morning. We were such good Christians, now revival would surely come. What we could not see was the creation of an us and them, the holy, obedient one’s that did it, and the half-hearted that didn’t. How proud. (I remember when the Sowing Seeds team came with Martin they became a part of this for a week too. After about 8 to 10 months people lost interest. It came down in the end to three of us. We were knackered. I came to a decision to close it down. The guys still there thought I missed the boat as God told us to do this. But God never asked me to be tied down to a man’s controlling words, even if he told me God said it. I finished it. Loads of us are doing stuff that we need to learn to finish. If we feel compelled to do it out of necessity or pleasing people or through a Word of the Lord, and there is a weight to doing it around our necks, this is not a yoke from the Lord. So many of us fill the diary’s with stuff that needs to be de-cluttered.
Living Life to the Full.
Living life to the full is not the same as having a full life. So often with God less is more. How many of us are dictated to with control and manipulation when we do not realise that those things have taken place? I should go and show my face, show my support. Must go to the such and such a meeting because there will not be many there. God wants us to gather and pray and hear the Word, because I need these things to grow. We have to fellowship together in church. Those dreaded words, ‘missed you on Sunday’, the kindest words of interrogation you will ever hear. Translated really as, where were you when you should have been here. Commitment is key. We often think it is hard to start something, but in the Christian world it is so easy to start something, the problem is finishing something. Getting rid of the religious stuff from the past, the relics from a bygone age. Yes God may have at one time blessed these things, but His blessing in the past or even the present is not a sign that God wants us to do these things. He came in his glory to Solomon’s Temple but He never wanted it built in the first place. He just cannot help blessing us. Just because ‘God turns up’ in our meetings and gatherings, it is not God’s sign of approval to what is going on, it is just a sign of His character. We should not measure stuff by apparent blessing. It is time to throw out that pukewarm bathwater. Time to free ourselves into a life that is lived to the full. Time to rediscover what the baby really is, the important stuff that we have lost in all that murky water. I’ve started, now I need to learn to finish, to close, to fold some stuff. I will not live life to the full until I have given away my full life.