Home, Heritage, and Heart

       Vanessa likes to move things around in our house. Especially in the early years of our marriage, I’d come home, and the entire bedroom or living room would be flip-flopped around, or certain pictures, tables, or other furniture would be taken from one room and put in another. It keeps things interesting, for sure. I’m sitting in “my chair” right now. She moved it from one side of the living room to the other about a week ago. I like it here – because every time I look up now, I can’t ignore the various Christian-themed decorations on the wall directly across from me.
       I’m looking at them right now – a 14×16 matt of John 3:16 with the words “for GOD so LOVED the WORLD” boldly embossed on top of the verse – surrounded by two delicate crosses… …and adjacent to that elegant presentation, a beautiful plate-rack looking fixture housing three tablets respectively displaying, “Faith,” “Hope,” and “Love.” It’s an encouraging, yet sober reminder of who God is in my life, our home, and our world.

       Very often, I’ll write a Bible verse on my home screen (computer). I usually don’t write out the whole verse, but just the reference. It’s often a verse I’m trying to memorize, that is directly applicable to where I find myself at that specific point in life. For instance, a few months ago, it was Romans 13:14, “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no plans to satisfy the desires of the flesh.”
       I saw Ethan (my oldest) with a cross-necklace on going to school the other day. He’s had it in his room for a while, but has only worn it a few times. I was proud that he decided to put his faith on display that day… and was not ashamed of who he is in Christ.

       Very often, I hear people criticizing the wearing/displaying of religious symbols and paraphernalia. I understand that many times these things are displayed for the wrong intentions or in an improper manner. But I do enjoy subtle reminders that help Christians recall Whose they are. Have you ever walked into a house that has Joshua 24:15 written over the entryway, or stitched into a matt outside their front door? It encourages me. When I walk in a house that is gently ornamented with biblical reminders, a feeling of comfort and trust consumes me.

       The Jews, from millennia past, hold dear what they call the Sh’ma or Sh’ma YisraelSh’ma (or, shema) is a verb meaning “listen,” or “hear.” It is the first word in Deuteronomy 6:4 – an imperative addressed to Israel (Yisrael, from above) by God through Moses. Here’s more of the verse…

Hear, o Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, 
with all your soul, and with all your strength. – Deut. 6:4-5

What an incredible reminder of Who God is, and how we should live.

       I know you’ve heard this verse before. In Matthew 22 (as well as Luke 10), a Pharisee asks Jesus how he might inherit eternal life. In Jesus’ answer, He identifies the Sh’ma as THE most important commandment. It is arguable that even the “second, which is like it,” stems from the first. Viz. if you love God, you will in turn love others. You’ve heard this more recently in the phrase, “Love God, Love People.” And you’ve even heard it described in the shape of a cross: Vertical line (Loving God), and Horizontal line (Loving people).

       What’s so interesting about Deuteronomy (to me anyway) 6:4-5 is what follows it – in verses 6-9…

6:6 – These words I am giving you today are to be written in your heart. 
We see here that from the earliest of commandment giving, it was God’s desire that living for Him be from the heart. His word isn’t to be obeyed out of habit or ritual. It is to be a matter of the heart. This verse also forms the basis of so many of your favorite scriptures: Psalm 119:11, Proverbs 2:1, Deuteronomy 10:16, and Romans 2:29 to name a few.

6:7 – Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house, and when you walk along the road, when you lie down, and when you get up.
Do you know that your children will learn more between the ages of 1 and 6 than they will for the rest of their lives? Capitalize on this crucial time in their development to instill within them something more important than worldly expectations. Teach them scripture. And don’t just expect them to learn about God at church. This verse says in your house, when you’re walking on the road, at bedtime, and in the morning. Every moment that passes holds irreplaceable teaching opportunity. When your children disobey you, what do you tell them? How about mentioning Ephesians 6:1? Not ever to demean them, but rather to teach them God’s Word and how they can bring Him joy by being obedient to you. We’re so proud when our 4-6 year olds ask questions about math, science, or language – and we immediately explain to them the concepts involved. What about when they ask about sickness, church, God, death, or ghosts? Let the Word of God be a normal and regular part of the interaction you have with your children.

6:8 – Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead. 
“Tie a ribbon around your finger!” I always thought that was a little ridiculous when I was a kid. But I never “tried it,” so I guess I can’t “knock it.” But I’ll tell you what – those yellow ribbons around the oak trees… every time I see one, I think of our soldiers who are fighting for our freedom all over the globe. It’s a symbol of reminder. Years ago, the WWJD bracelets became popular. And as soon as they came on the scene, so did the critics’ ranting about their invalidity and how they relegated the gospel message. But I know for a fact that wearing something like that on your wrist affects the way you act. It’s a gentle reminder of our position in Christ. You don’t have to wear a WWJD bracelet. But sometimes, especially when we’re struggling in a specific area, a tangible reminder of Whose we are is very helpful.

6:9 – Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Identify your home as one belonging to God, and dedicated to His purposes. “Play Like a Champion” – the sign painted between the locker room and the tunnel leading to the field at Notre Dame, is one that every football player slaps on his way into battle. It reminds them of the approach they are to have on the field they’re about to enter. It’s a sign marking a respectable truth on their home territory. It’s more than a sign – it’s a commitment.
       What commitment does your home display? If you invited someone into your house for the first time, would they identify you as a Christian by the decorations in your house? A better question… …are you constantly reminded by the pictures on your walls and the trinkets in your display cabinets that your home is dedicated to Christ? I’m not telling you how to decorate your home. The good Lord knows that is NOT my calling! But I am telling you that the Bible tells us to put reminders in our home that will prompt memories of His love for us and of our devotion to Him.

What does your home say of your faith? 
What does your heritage teach of Christ?
What does your heart reveal of God’s Word?

Grace and Peace,
Tony