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A matter of the heart


NEW ORLEANS (BP)–There is a muscle that beats about 100,000 times each day, pumping about 5 quarts of blood each minute, approximately 2,000 gallons of blood each day, throughout your body.

The path taken, your system of blood vessels which includes arteries, veins, and capillaries, is over 60,000 miles long. That’s long enough to go around the world more than twice! And for an adult, this muscle is the size of two clenched fists.

For the couples whose hearts are not cemented by God’s covenant of grace, these clenched fists serve as a reminder of the constant, unbending posture of combative behavior rather than of two hearts divinely joined together in mutual love and support.

Weighing in at 10 ounces, the heart is the universal symbol of love. From golden heart- shaped earrings, to chocolate hearts, to various sizes of heart tattoos, the heart conveys a common experience. Or, does it?

At one time or another, most people will be struck by love and experience a skipping of the heart or even a heart flutter. Life comes to a stop and nothing else matters. Some couples will cry to the tune of an “achy breaky heart” (whatever that means!). Some will face an unforeseen heartache and even a broken heart when a so-called “good” marriage turns bad. Again, life comes to a stop. Still others will encounter and enjoy the blessings of the love God so wonderfully designed for a man and a woman. The two then become one. Not good math, but amazing theology!

William Gurnall, in his Puritan classic “The Christian in Complete Armour, Volume 1,” writes, “Head knowledge of the things of Christ is not enough; this following Christ is primarily a matter of the heart. If your heart is not fixed in its purpose, your principles, as good as they may be, will hang loose and be of no more use in the heat of battle than an ill-strung bow.”

Is your heart, as a Christian couple, “fixed in its purpose”? What are the guiding principles of your marriage? Do these principles “hang loose” and not provide the necessary help in difficult times? When two hearts are joined together to beat as one, then life’s greatest lessons can be learned. Consider these lessons, these principles, coming from the very H-E-A-R-T of God.

H — Honor the Lord through your marriage.

The greatest testimony you can leave your children is for them to see and hear about the workings of God in and through your marriage (Psalm 78:1-7). The greatest testimony you can give a disease-filled world is evidence that Jesus makes a difference in and through your marriage. Be the salt and light to a tasteless and dark world. We exist on this earth to bring glory to our Father. You exist, as a Christian couple, to do the same.

E — Encourage one another in unconditional love.

Husbands, do you know that your first priority in disciple-making is to disciple your spouse? Wives, do you know that your first priority as an encourager and booster is to support your spouse? “Building up of the body in love” (Ephesians 4:16) cannot take place in the church when Christian couples are working at tearing each other down outside the church. Find ways to verbally and behaviorally build up your spouse.

A — Ask for and give forgiveness.

Perhaps every week, if not every day, you will have the opportunity (or even opportunities) to ask for forgiveness or forgive your spouse over something said or done. Be quick to do both. God does for us what we cannot do for ourselves (1 John 1:9). As God forgives us when we ask Him for forgiveness, would He not expect us to do the same with our spouse? What a beautiful example we have for each other! Do not allow the pride of the heart to rob you of intimate moments of asking for and giving forgiveness with your spouse.

R — Realign your priorities daily.

We all do what we think (or feel) is important for us to do. Outside of your relationship with the Lord, your spouse holds the second spot of importance and significance in your heart. What changes do you need to make today to reflect this priority? Mark Twain once said, “One learns about people through the heart, not the eyes or the intellect.” What is your spouse learning about you and your priorities? What are you teaching your spouse by what you are doing during the day?

T — Train your children to know and love the heart of God.

Concerning our spiritual parental responsibilities, Deuteronomy 4:9 compels and commands us to “teach [the statues of the law] to your children and your grandchildren.” We are to nurture our children in the faith. You are your child’s greatest spiritual mentor! Don’t be alarmed, but be warned. No greater urgency exists today in the home. No greater training will draw your children into the heart of God. The church has the responsibility to equip parents for this fundamental and essential task.

Cleland B. McAfee experienced firsthand a lesson from God’s heart. When diphtheria claimed the lives of his two beloved nieces, he penned a song to comfort his soul and the hearts of his suffering family members. We, too, as couples are now reminded to find comfort and strength in this one place:

“There is a place of quiet rest,

Near to the heart of God.

A place where sin cannot molest,

Near to the heart of God.

O Jesus, blest Redeemer,

Sent from the heart of God,

Hold us who wait before thee

Near to the heart of God.”

H-E-A-R-T: Herein begins the lessons learned from the heart of God.
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Jerry W. Pounds Sr. is assistant to the president and professor of discipleship at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He can be reached at jpounds@nobts.edu.

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  • Jerry W. Pounds Sr.