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Ethics & Religion
Column #1,831
September 29, 2016
Guard Your Heart: Part I
(first of a two-part series)
By Mike McManus


Rev. John and Susan Yates conducted a seminar on the theme, "Guard Your Heart," a teaching that attracted 150 people to The Falls Church Anglican last Saturday.

"You are listening to people married 47 years with 21 grandchildren," he said with a twinkle. But he quickly became serious: "I don't know of any other aspect of life that is more important as our relationship with God. He can be a spring of water, welling up, keeping us alive spiritually."

He outlined how one might develop "Intimacy with God." He reminded us that "God loves us like most caring fathers." Jesus told us 100 times that "God is our Father" who knows your secret needs. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, "Look at the birds of the air...Your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?"

How can one develop an intimacy with God? "Make the first priority of the morning to spend time alone with God." How? By reading Scripture and praying. "A growing intimacy with Jesus will help all of your other relationships."

Susan added, "Our kids can keep us from God. We mothers put the needs of our kids ahead of God. We let business - our cell phone - to keep us from time alone with God."

They each get up at or before dawn to read Scripture and do so separately. She likes to read the Psalms and Proverbs, where there is one chapter for every day of the month.

John confessed, "It is hard to be honest with God. I talk to God out loud, and push myself to give into God." In fact, they believe it is important to have a healthy fear of God. Proverbs 14:24 states, "He who fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for his children it will be a refuge."

My wife and I build the Lord into our life every morning - but together, not separately. We read from a quarterly publication, "Encounter with God," by Scripture Union (Box 215, Valley Forge, PA 19481). It is mailed to all members of our church. I read aloud one page for each day that opens with prayer, a Scriptural passage of 10-20 verses, followed by a commentary on that Scripture, and a relevant closing prayer. Harriet and I then pray for each other, our family and any needs.

Second, John and Susan outlined how they develop "Intimacy with Spouse." He began by noting Scripture calls us to first love God "and your neighbor as yourself." If you are married, "your primary neighbor is your spouse. A loving intimacy with your spouse cannot be achieved without consistent time with your spouse."

Susan noted "It is easy to put children before your mate, which is a subtle mistake. Our mate's needs must come first. As a practical step, we go on a weekly Date Night. We have not made it every week, but have it on our calendar every week. We don't use Date Nights to talk about tough issues, but to have fun."

Finally, we do things that we enjoy together, like walking around the block.

John warns that those who fail to invest in their mate "are vulnerable to extramarital affairs or pornography. Marriage required continual investing in one another." Otherwise, there is a danger that one's marriage will go through five phases:

  1. A Romantic Phase of intense attraction.

  2. A Reality Phase as you learn more about each other.

  3. A Renovation Phase, in which each struggles to make over their spouse.

  4. A Retaliation Phase of hurt and bitterness.

  5. A Rejection Phase.

America has the highest divorce rate in the civilized world. In 2014 there were
2,183,000 marriages and 1,156,000 divorces. That's a 52.9% divorce rate. The United States has had one divorce for every two marriages for four decades.

John and Susan promised each other on their wedding night, to pray together every night before they go to sleep. They close with The Lord's Prayer.

It has worked so well, they propose that couples take a 30 day challenge. First each person shares concerns from their heart. Then pray daily for one another: husband for the wife, and wife for the husband.

"That's husband and wife seeking God's help for one another."

Intimacy with God and spouse creates a solid foundation for a long and rewarding life.
Copyright (c) 2016 Michel J. McManus, a syndicated columnist and past president of Marriage Savers. For previous columns go to Hit Search for any topic.

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