Know God’s Heart

Read 1 Peter 4:12-19. 
As you seek to follow the Lord’s commands in His Word with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength, be prepared for flack from the enemy. What does Peter say not to be surprised about? How does he say to respond? 

SHARE GOD’S HEART 

Ask the Lord to continue to grow your love for your husband and to give you His love for your husband. But don’t stop there. Ask Him to give you a glimpse of His vision for your husband so that you can come alongside him in every way possible. Lay down your life and follow Christ, die to self and pick up your cross, and be a servant of all, beginning first with your husband. Ask the Lord to show you some way that you can serve your husband this week. Then ask your husband how you can better serve him. 

An Affair

An affair you say? No, I would never let that come my way. 
I love my man; my heart wouldn’t look to another. 

My husband is the best; he’s my friend and lover. 

My pride tells me that I could never commit adultery. 

No, that would be awful; it simply isn’t me. 
Then one day, the Lord revealed to me; 

Just how unfaithful I could really be. 
For my Maker is my husband, 

the Lord Almighty is His name. 

He loves me unconditionally 

and wants from me the same. 
He wants my soul, my body, mind, and heart. 

He wants my WHOLE heart, not just a piece or part. 
You are my number one, Lord; 

I love you, I really do! 

Of course I also love my husband; 

So maybe you are number two. 
And you see, Lord, I have three young children; they really need me. 

Okay, Lord, perhaps you are number three. 

Well, who else is going to take care of all these chores? 

I guess, Lord, you might be number four. 

What about me, myself, and I? 

Yes, it’s true; you are at least number five. 
I can’t bear to go on; the list would be too long. 

I thought that you were first in my heart; 

Obviously, I was wrong. 
Standing in my pride, I know I’m on shaky ground. 

Oh, to be humbled; thank you Lord for bringing me down. 

Down to a level where I can truly see; 

What really is going on deep inside of me. 
The truth of the matter is I love myself the most. 

The Lord is not first in my heart; 

He doesn’t come even close. 

Therefore, I praise you Father with everything I can; 

That even when you see my heart, 

you love me just as I am. 
I’m humbled by this amazing love; 

Faithful, true, and pure. 

His loving kindness draws me in; 

Of this I can be sure. 
What do I do now in response to a love of this kind? 

The answer is clear: 

Love my Lord with all my heart, 

all my soul, and all my mind. 
How is it now that I can heed this call? 

I must die to myself and truly surrender all. 

Then the Lord will have His rightful place; 

As truly first in my heart, thanks to His amazing grace. 

The Difference Faith Makes 

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1) 
Hebrews 11:6 says that it is impossible to please God without faith. Every good thing that God does in our lives is in response to our faith in Him and His Word. It pleases Him when we believe in His presence and His good intentions for us. In other words, faith works when we believe in the unseen presence of God and His unfailing love. Faith withers when we doubt that He is with us in an intimate manner or that He loves us as our Heavenly Father. 

In marriage, faith must be exercised every day and in every area of life. Faith gets our eyes off of each other and the smaller issues and puts them on a big God. When we pray in faith, not only do we see God answer with miracles, but we also find a place of unity and peace in the midst of the worst storms in life.

Faith becomes especially crucial when you see an area of weakness in your spouse. 

God cares about every detail of your life, and He is ready to act on your behalf when you put faith in Him. As you pray and believe, God will come through for you. 

Man of the House

For you, dear friends, have been called to live in freedom—not freedom to satisfy your sinful nature, but freedom to serve one another in love. (Gal. 5:13 NLT) 
Many police cars have this slogan on the side: “To protect and to serve.” The authority of a husband as the head of his home exists for the same two purposes. Righteous authority can only be used in this manner. Any other use of authority is abusive and self-serving. 
The misuse of authority has led many women to flinch when the word submission is brought up. Today’s women often view submission to men as an outdated and humiliating concept. Much of this response is due to the failure of men to be Christlike leaders in their homes. 
Let’s go back to the two purposes of authority. One of the reasons God gives men the position as head of the home is to protect his wife. Every good marriage thrives on cooperation and respect. Men should protect their wives. The Bible uses the word cherish to describe how husbands should love their wives. It means to protect from all harm. 
The other purpose of authority is to serve. Jesus was a servant leader and taught us to be the same. Men should be the servant leaders of their homes. This means two things. First of all it means that he is the loving initiator of the well-being of the home—respecting his wife as his equal. Rather than being passive or dominant, a servant leader initiates discussions and actions related to such things as children, finances, spirituality, and romance as he invites the advice and influence of his wife. 
The second thing that a servant leader does is use his position to bring others to their highest potential. The Bible says a man should nourish his wife. The word nourish in that text means to “feed to maturity.” A good husband is God’s partner to bring his wife to the full purpose God created her for—which is always great. When a wife knows that her husband is her biggest fan and is there to promote and protect her, she’s in heaven. 

Marriage is… A Gardener’s Touch!

A bruised reed He will not break. (Isaiah 42:3) 
Most people have a consumer’s mentality. When a consumer buys a product and brings it home and realizes there is a problem with it, he or she takes it back. As a consumer, you pay for something and you expect your money’s worth. You take no responsibility for the problem the product came with. 
Often couples bring a consumer mentality into their marriages. Obviously, we all marry imperfect people, and we ourselves are imperfect. But many people become overwhelmed by the faults of their spouses. In fact, it is common for couples to wonder if they married the wrong person at some point in time. 
Of course, the devil loves to point out your spouse’s flaws and problems because he is the accuser. To stop the devil in his tracks and to keep your spouse’s faults from overwhelming you and damaging your marriage, you must adopt a different mentality. I call it the gardener’s mentality. It is the opposite of the consumer’s mentality. Let me explain. 
A gardener is a different breed. Say, for example, there is a tree or shrub in a gardener’s care that is unhealthy or has problems. A true gardener doesn’t accuse the seller or reject the plant. A gardener takes responsibility to do what is necessary to restore the plant to health. He or she asks the question, “I wonder what I could be doing that would cause this problem?” Or, “I wonder what I can do that will fix it and restore it to health?” 
We can all thank God that Jesus has a gardener’s mentality toward us. Even though He is in no way responsible for our problems, He loves us and nurtures us to health. In Ephesians chapter five, men are charged with “nourishing and cherishing” their wives. Interestingly, those are both agricultural words. Even the word husband is an agricultural term (e.g., husbandman). 
Related to marriage, are you a gardener or a consumer? If you are a consumer, you are most likely impatient and frustrated with your spouse’s problems. You take no responsibility to do what you can to nurture your spouse or redeem the situation. You probably think you might have made a mistake. 
If you are a gardener, you see the problems in your spouse but view them much differently from a consumer. You are optimistic about them getting better because you are proactive and positive. Your caring behavior gives your spouse the encouragement and loving atmosphere needed to get better. Also, your prayers and obedience become God’s tools for redeeming your spouse and making him or her into the person God intended. 
Talk It Out | Has your attitude toward your spouse been that of a gardener or a consumer? Identify attitudes and tendencies you would like to change, and talk about how to follow through on those changes.

Walk It Out | Buy a package of seeds and plant them (in a container indoors if necessary). As you watch the seeds sprout and grow into healthy plants, think about the positive results of nurturing care and how that applies to your marriage. 

Marriage is… A Fork in the Road

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye. (Psalm 32:8) 
The famous baseball player Yogi Berra has a way with words. Of his many famous quotes, this is one of my favorites: “When you come to the fork in the road, take it.” He said it originally when giving someone directions to his home, because either way you turned at the fork, right or left, it still led to his house. Don’t you wish it was that way in life? 
The truth is, you will come to critical times in your life when you must make decisions as to which way you will turn. Will you forgive or hold a grudge? Will you stay and work things out or run from your problems? Will you withdraw from your spouse when he or she offends you and go elsewhere to get your needs met, or will you pursue your spouse and fight for your marriage? 
In life, there are many proverbial “forks in the road.” What you do at these times forms your character and forges your destiny. I recently met with a person who is bankrupt and has been divorced multiple times. He lamented to me that he had made every wrong choice at crucial times and wished he could go back and do it all over again. 
Every marriage has problems and requires hard work and sacrifice for success. When you get to the difficult times in your life and marriage, you must forgive, commit and give of yourself in spite of your negative emotions. There will always be a little voice inside of you trying to convince you to take “the easy way”—the alternate road that looks so much more pleasing. 
Also, at these times there are often supporters of that other path cheering you on and assuring you that you are justified in following your feelings. They want you to believe that the answer to all of your problems lies in the choice to do what God’s Word says is wrong, but what the majority of people say is right. 

Marriage is… The Friend Factor

Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.” (1 Corinthians 15:33) 
Your close friends are some of the most important predictors of how successful you will be in life and in marriage. The Scripture from 1 Corinthians is a caution against being deceived by the lie that you can keep bad company and not be negatively affected. 
At the University of Chicago, researchers found that couples who stayed together through adversity had friends who wanted them to stay together and had a low opinion of divorce. This proves what the Bible says. It also proves another point that might surprise many people—divorce runs in groups. So do adultery, drug and alcohol abuse, and many other behaviors. 
The old saying, “misery loves company” is unfortunately true. It is common for divorce to break out in an office, company, neighborhood, family, or sometimes even in a church group. All it takes is one person going through a divorce and becoming bitter at a husband or wife. This person will look for someone to provide consolation and companionship. If you have a seed of discontent in your marriage, the next thing you know this person will be trying to build an offense between you and your spouse. 
To succeed in marriage, you need friends who share your values and are committed to their marriages. There are no such things as perfect friends, even if they are very godly people you meet in church. However, perfection isn’t the issue. The issue is that you have a support group around you encouraging you to do the right thing as you also encourage them. 
The last thing you need when you are going through tough times in marriage is someone encouraging you to do the wrong thing. You need wise counsel and prayer from a person of faith and character. 
Don’t be deceived; bad company will corrupt your morals and your marriage. Break off unhealthy relationships and work to create healthy ones. The best place I know of to meet good friends is in a Bible-based church. The people there aren’t perfect any more than you are, but they are people who share your values and will be an essential support base for a successful marriage. 
Talk It Out | Honestly evaluate your friendships and speak up about any concerns you have. If you identify that some of your friendships aren’t healthy for your marriage, make a commitment to seek out the kind of friends who share your values. 
Walk It Out | Invite another couple over for dinner or go out to a movie together. Spend time cultivating friendships that have a positive effect on your marriage. 

Marriage is… Regulating the Thermostat 

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Hebrews 13:8) 

In your house, I’m sure you have a thermostat that controls the heating and/or air conditioning. On that thermostat there is also a thermometer that shows the actual temperature. Of course, the thermostat is the more important of the two, because it actually controls the environment. The thermometer merely reflects the work of the thermostat. 
In marriage, you must determine what the thermostat of your relationship is going to be—emotion or decision. In other words, how are you going to control the atmosphere of your relationship? Is it going to be determined by how you feel or by deciding to do the right thing regardless of how you feel? 
When you build your marriage upon the thermostat of decision, it doesn’t mean that emotions aren’t important. It simply means that both of you are willing to act above your emotions if they are negative or passive. Because you act in a positive and proactive manner on a consistent basis, your emotions become the thermometer of the marriage that reflects a stable and passionate relationship. 
But when emotions are the thermostat of your marriage, you’re in for a rough ride. The dangerous thing about living based on emotion is the inconsistency of it. You simply cannot predict your emotions. You never know when you are going to feel up or down. But even worse than that is the fact that the more you act upon your emotions, the more unsuccessful life becomes, which produces even more negative emotions—and then more negative behavior. 
You’ve probably heard me say this before, but love is a decision, not an emotion. True love is the choice to do the right thing for the object of your affection regardless of negative circumstances or the other person’s behavior. It also includes the decision to be committed through every phase, challenge, and season of marriage without wavering.
Don’t worship your emotions. They will lead you to a rollercoaster ride of frustration and failure. Worship God and let His love be the standard for your own. God’s love is stable and consistent. Through the ups and downs of life, His love for you never changes. 
Talk It Out | Is it time for a new thermostat in your marriage? Think of a situation when your emotions caused you to respond negatively to each other. What choices could you make to be proactive in changing that behavior before your emotions take control? 
Walk It Out | Go on a lunch date this week, just the two of you. Try out a special restaurant you wouldn’t normally go to, and choose a day when your schedule isn’t rushed so that you can spend a little extra time just relaxing and talking about the events of your week.

Marriage is… Worth the Effort

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it. (Ephesians 5:25) 

I recently saw another report about how male sweat causes positive responses in women. The latest research was published by the University of California. In testing the effects of male sweat on women, they once again recorded positive hormonal changes for the majority of them who were exposed to its smell. This is significant. 
First of all, those hormonal changes indicate sexual arousal. For any man who is looking for a way to rev up his wife’s libido, this is it. This is really good news—but there is a twist involved. To produce sweat, you have to exert effort. Jumping in a sauna and collecting sweat in a jar that you put under your wife’s nose probably won’t produce the desired result. 
The issue is how God has wired women to respond to a sacrificial, servant-hearted man. Besides the sweat research, studies have shown that wives find their husbands sexually attractive when they are doing housework. Men really need to understand the truth of this. Whereas males are sexually wired to respond to visual stimuli, women respond more to emotional stimuli. Specifically, they are attracted to men who serve them and help around the house. 
Another important element of the sweat research has to do with the calming influence male sweat has on women. A study that was conducted at the University of Pennsylvania found that male sweat causes women to relax and feel happy. 
To look at the other side of this, without sweat, women tend to be more tense and less happy. I know a lot of men who wonder why their wives are so uptight and hormonal (in the negative sense). In many cases, it just goes back to the fact that they feel as though they are not being supported and served by their husbands. In other words, they just need to get a whiff of a little sweat around the house to calm down and get into a better mood.
Talk It Out | What does the “sweat meter” at your house reveal? Talk about the times you have noticed this principle at work in your marriage. Be open and honest about ways to improve in this area. 
Walk It Out | Husbands, do a specific chore for your wife this week. It could be running an errand, shopping for groceries, or doing something around the house. (Based on the research referenced above, housework might be a good choice!).