Those who know me best know my emotional attachment to Pennsville, Morgan County, OH. No, I wasn’t born there, but my parents called it their “hometown.” From my youth up, it was where Grandpa and Grandma Van Fossen, and Grandmother Davis lived. (We distinguished our grandmothers by those respective monikers.) Grandmother lived “in front of” Grandma literally: Grandma Van’s was right behind Grandmother Davis’ house! From my earliest memory, Mom and Dad let me stay with either of them whenever I desired, provided it was convenient for them, and it seemed it was always, “just fine.” Even into my late teens, it wasn’t uncommon for me to stay from Friday night through Sunday with either of them, especially when I would be preaching in the county on Sunday. Either place was “home” to me, and consequently, a lifetime of loving memories fills my mind!
Before Grandmother died (March 30, 1983), she told Dad, “When I’m gone, you will own my house, but with a provision. With Michael (she never called me Mike!) preaching, there may come a time when he’ll need a place to live. See that he gets this house.” Dad promised, and after his death, had things been a bit different, the house would have been mine. Instead, I kept it in Mom’s name so she could sell it and the other Pennsville property and use the income for her needs. After all, being four hundred miles from Pennsville would make it a bit difficult for me to care for the property until I moved there …if ever!
Dad and I had devoted hours and hours to remodeling Grandmother’s house. It was his intent (for a time) to move there, but that never materialized. We used it for a “get-a-way” place. I even stayed there overnight a few times during return trips when Dad and Mom were still living! I loved that old house dearly and cried like a baby when Mom and I turned the keys over to the next owner!
In time, Grandmother’s house (to this day referred to as “The Davis House”) sold twice more until its present owner bought it. I got to meet him and was delighted to hear his plans for the place. However, he informed me that the last owner hadn’t kept it in good repair (which was evident!) and even allowed four dogs to live in the house – coming once a week and tossing in a bag of feed for them, then leaving! You can imagine the ruin!! Just yesterday I got word the newest owner had town down Grandmother’s house! There was no other choice!
Solomon’s words came to mind when I read the news: “By much slothfulness the building decayeth; and through idleness of the hands the house droppeth through.” (Ecclesiastes 10:18) For at least ten years, a lot of “blood, sweat, and tears” went into remodeling that place a bit at a time! We repainted it twice in ten years as I recall; completely redid the kitchen and living room, finished the “doctor’s office” and upstairs bedrooms, and only had the bathroom and “waiting room” to finish. (Grandfather was a doctor who kept his office and waiting room at the house.) The new owner to whom we sold the house finished what we hadn’t when Dad died and rented it to a nice couple for over a year. But when Dean sold it, that owner stayed in the house less than a year, never cared for anything about its upkeep during that year, and when he moved out, used the house for storage … and a dog pen! Even the yard looked atrocious. It is true, “By much slothfulness the building decayeth; and through idleness of the hands the house droppeth through.”
While Solomon’s words are true for that old house, they are even more prophetic regarding two things: 1) the local work of Christ’s church and 2) the maintenance of our souls! Titus was told, “This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.” (Titus 3:8) It is quite evident that FIRST, one must maintain the good works of Christ within the SOUL before endeavoring the good works within the local work: without souls comprising it, there is no “local work!” Sadly, because little if any attention is given to the immeasurable value of the former (soul), the inevitable ruin of the latter results!
Yes, it requires diligence for both SOUL and the local WORK to succeed and last. While there is a sense that each supports the other in this effort, the fact remains the local work will only be as viable as the members comprising that work: and yes, the world will note the “weakest link” before they admire the strength of either! Spiritually speaking, there’s always some painting, plumbing, electrical work, or general repairs to be made; not to mention the requirement of general housecleaning! But when the occupant of the SOUL’s home fails to maintain his house (1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19), and the local house of God does nothing to correct the atrocity, then BOTH are lost to the corruption overtaking its once noted place of prominence and importance! It is then, the house decays, and drops through!
Someone says in an attempt to comfort the emotional pain, “But you have your memories.” Yes, but you can’t live in a memory! The newest owner of Grandmother’s house asked me when I met him last May, “Do you want to buy it?” I answered, “Emotionally, yes. But in reality, there’s nothing I can do about it.” Even so, the soul when neglected is cast to ruin (Hebrews 6:4 – 6) and the local work’s lamp stand is gone (Revelation 2:5).
The story should urge us all to carefully examine our house of clay (the tabernacle of the soul), AND the soul dwelling in that body. Further, we need to examine the work of which we are part, and with all our energy, place it into the finest of spiritual presence for every soul to see! For a SOUL to utter, “I have memories of good times in Christ” is to hear that soul admit to departure from Christ and His church. To note of once faithful works of Christ ending their existence is to note a failure to work harder at maintaining good works! Neither is righteous! Let’s get busy before we see another house lost to carelessness! Muse on that reality, dear friends!