(This was the midweek message I wrote and delivered last July 10, 2013 @ MAMC Church. Thank you very much for the encouragement of my companion that night.)
What’s in a house that makes it a home?
When I was a kid, those two words seemed the same to me. House-Home, Home-House, see any difference? I don’t see anything.
If you were given the chance to build your own house with an unlimited budget, how would you build it? Perhaps some of you would want to have a huge garden or a house with lots of spacious rooms. Maybe some of you would build a home theater system or a kitchen that would make any chef’s mouth drop. Some might even add in a swimming pool, a tennis court, a basketball court, a 10-car garage and a horse stable. It’s nice to imagine. Personally, I only require a library and I’m good to go.
In 1988, a man bought a huge piece of land from a golf course entrepreneur named William Bone for a sum of 30 million US Dollars. The man then placed a Ferris Wheel, a Carousel, two steam locomotives including railroad tracks and train stations, a floral clock, a petting zoo, a museum and a 10, 000 volume library on art, poetry and psychology. Not contented as all people are, the man then placed two kinds of roller coasters – a kiddie coaster and an adult coaster, then he installed bumper cars, super slides, and all sorts of odds and ends you’d typically see in Enchanted Kingdom or any amusement park you may know and may have visited. And, of course, his mansion was there somewhere in the middle. He transformed his huge land into an amusement park all for the heck of it.
Who would like that kind of house? Free rides any time of the day, you can personally feed your own elephant or giraffe or lion and you can ride your own train around the property. Is that a good deal or not? Would you live there?
About the man, he is none other than Michael Jackson, also known as the King of Pop, and his house is the famed Never land. Now who would like to live there? Knowing the man, what he stood for and how he lived no matter how wealthy, successful and influential he is, makes you think twice of living in Never land, right?
Another man was the son of a hardworking grocer. He worked hard to earn a degree in civil engineering, bought a house, got married and had children. His house is a simple six-bedroom house enough to house him and his wife, and his six children. He has lived there for the past 40 years. His name is Carlos Slim. Does his name ring any bell?
Forbes lists him as the wealthiest man in the world. His net worth is around 66.8 billion US Dollars. He owns and controls a business telecommunications empire that spans most of South America. Yet he doesn’t own any luxurious yachts, palaces or mansions. He drives on his own from his house to his work. He doesn’t even have a computer in his office, and instead relies on a pencils and papers. He doesn’t have any other houses outside of his home of 40 years and has never remarried after the death of his wife of 33 years.
“He says he doesn’t need a bigger house and asks in Spanish-accented English: ‘What I do with a house 10 times bigger?’ In a big house, you don’t see your family, never. You don’t meet each other. My wife and me try to have this family, to, ehn, to live together, convivencia, I don’t know if you say that in English. What for you want a big space? What for you need a big space?”
Simply put, the richest man in the whole world never lived in a mansion. Is he in a house or a home?
In Counsels for the Church, Ellen G. White listed down specifications on how a home should be like. These are ideal counsels for raising a Christian family in an environment that frees one-self of distractions. She advises to have a home away from the cities where we can focus only of raising our children in God’s love. According to her, we ought to live in the countryside where we can teach our kids about Christ away from the distractions of fame, wealth, entertainment and other worldly influences.
“In choosing a home, God would have us consider, first of all, the moral and religious influences that will surround us and our families.”
Counsels for the Church chapter 25.
However, let’s face it, her suggestions are ideal but in our context, in our setting, in our current state, could be quite difficult to obtain especially now that we’re seeing people fleeing the country in search of work in the cities. On the other hand, we also find the country sides still mired in sin. We find some of the worst crimes committed in the country – remember the Maguindanao massacre.
Practically speaking, wherever we go, as long as we live in this world, we can find sin surrounding us. We cannot escape unless we have laid the firm foundations of Christ’s love and salvation in the hearts of our children. Mrs. White had good intentions in giving us counsels and if ever we have the means and the capability of following her advice, we ought to do it. Most of us, when reading this, would really take pains to bring their children in the countryside. There are people who have actually tried that but sadly they eventually went back to the city because the jobs, the education and the better hospital care are in the city.
Before you try to shut me down, we ought to remember the real essence of Mrs. White’s counsel to us, it is not about the kind of house you would build, it is not about the location, no, it is not about that. What Mrs. White wanted to say is that our homes should safe guard our children from the ills of this world. We ought to consider guiding our children away from the things that distract us from this world – wealth, gadgets, entertainment, fashion, vices, and many other things.
“Parents are under obligation to God to make their surroundings such as will correspond to the truth they profess. They can then give correct lessons to their children, and the children will learn to associate the home below with the home above. The family here must, as far as possible, be a model of the one in heaven. Then temptations to indulge in what is low and groveling will lose much of their force. Children should be taught that they are only probationers here, and educated to become inhabitants of the mansions which Christ is preparing for those who love Him and keep His commandments. This is the highest duty which parents have to perform.”
Instead of sticking ourselves to the details of the house, we ought to focus on the details of drawing our children closer to Christ. Not all of us may have that privilege of living in a Christian home. Not all of us may find our parents bringing us closer to God or realizing this duty. But this does not mean that we cannot cultivate this duty when we finally have our own family. This does not mean that we cannot influence our parents, siblings, relatives to make our surroundings correspond to the truth that we posses. It may take a huge leap, but with God, it is very much possible.
“We can have the salvation of God in our families; but we must believe for it, live for it, and have a continual, abiding faith and trust in God. The restraint which God’s Word imposes upon us is for our own interest. It increases the happiness of our families, and of all around us. It refines our taste, sanctifies our judgment, and brings peace of mind, and in the end, everlasting life. Ministering angels will linger in our dwellings, and with joy carry heavenward the tidings of our advance in the divine life, and the recording angel will make a cheerful, happy record.”
Now how do we do that?
Mrs. White suggested evening and morning worship. As a kid, I remember the time when my parents would force us, yes, force, to do evening and morning worship. It was grueling because you had to sit up half asleep in the morning while you had to sing songs and listen to the lesson. Then you had to wait for the worship to be over at night before you could eat dinner. That aside, you would also get those weird looks from your neighbors whenever you go out of the house right after the worship, they heard every word and every song.
While I might make it sound like a torture for you, it had effects on me that I carried long after we’ve reverted to personal devotions. I learned the value of studying the Bible, the essence of prayer wherever you go and whatever we do. I learned that not only were the neighbors eavesdropping, but their attitude towards us also changed. They know that you are diligently studying God’s word and would think twice of doing harm to you.
“Fathers and mothers, each morning and evening gather your children around you, and in humble supplication lift the heart to God for help. Your dear ones are exposed to temptation. Daily annoyances beset the path of young and old. Those who would live patient, loving, cheerful lives must pray. Only by receiving constant help from God can we gain the victory over self. If ever there was a time when every house should be a house of prayer, it is now.”
As a therapist for children, we always encourage kids who could already talk to talk about what is happening in their life. What happened to them today? Who brought you to school? What did you eat for lunch or breakfast or dinner? Where did you go? Why did you hit your classmate?
Aside from morning and evening devotionals, why not also have that interest in each child’s life? A reading of the Bible or the lesson is good, but if it does not answer the child’s life’s questions, then it would have no effect on the child. It becomes life changing when it answers our tiny questions about life.
On the other hand, why not offer the same interest in our parents’ lives. If ever our parents are those who do not realize or follow their duty for God, let us show them how it is done. Try to get an interest in their lives. Ask them what’s happening to their day-to-day lives. Share to them some tidbits of Bible messages that would inspire and give them hope. Show them the importance of morning and evening devotionals by practice. Show them a change of behavior, attitude and perspective. When we become the positive force for our parents in the home, little by little our parents would realize the importance of worship and devotionals. Although it is a steep climb, with God’s help it is possible.
In conclusion, Mrs. White placed a strong emphasis in building a home – not a house – that has its eyes set on God. We ought not to think of building mansions, and palaces and personal amusement parks. Instead we ought to build hearts fortified by God’s word to withstand temptation and vices. We ought to foster an aura that would inspire and influence other people to discover Jesus Christ and learn more about His love for us. In essence, it is not the specifications of the home or the timing of the worship and devotional at home but the cultivation of the practice and the appreciation and realization of Christ’s love for each one.
A house is not always a home. A home is not always a Christian home. The definition is ours to discover, develop and cultivate.