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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Mike & Michelle Stillman
Mike & Michelle Stillman

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"Vows That Endure"

"I will fulfill my vows to the LORD in the presence of all His people" (Psalm 116:14). "Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord'" (Matthew 5:33). "Marriage should be honored by all" (Hebrews 13:4).

We recently had lunch with some friends at Panera Restaurant. As we dined together they shared the moving story of the healing that has taken place in their marriage over the past few years.

I first met Mike Stillman nine years ago shortly after moving to Lancaster County. For the first several years our relationship was mostly business related and if we did any personal talking it was usually about sports! Mike played on a Penn State NCAA national championship football team back in the eighties.

However in time Brooksyne and I both began serving his companies as chaplains and that is when we came to know Mike and Michelle as a couple. Little did I know that during the early years when I first came to know him that his marriage was in serious trouble.

You've seen it many times or perhaps you've experienced it yourself; a marriage screaming for help – the fingers are pointed, the blame game is in full swing, and excuses roll off the tongue. How many couples imagine in their minds, "If only he (or she) would do this or be like (you fill in the blank) we'd have a happy marriage!"

Interestingly, the majority of couples enter into a marriage covenant so starry eyed, convinced that nothing could ever lessen the degree of their commitment or intensity of their love. But, over time the children come along, job responsibilities and stresses increase, financial challenges lurk, and other difficulties are thrown into the daily grind. Before one realizes it the marriage is in trouble.

Mike and Michelle similarly found themselves in this situation. Both were raised in church and committed believers; they never expected to find themselves in a troubled marriage. Mike who owns several businesses candidly shared that it came very natural to him, when the problems grew, that he'd trying managing his wife much like he managed his businesses. But no husband or wife likes to be managed like a business! When this strategy failed and their marriage was on the brink of falling apart, God began to speak to Mike's heart about the need to be the spiritual leader in his home and to truly understand what it means to be Christ-like.

They began attending mentoring classes and together they learned God's way of resolving relationship problems. They began applying godly principles so that they could build a dynamic relationship once again and become living examples to their six children. In the process they honored their marriage, rather than simply enduring it.

Mike and Michelle had made solemn vows between themselves with the Lord and a company of others who were at their wedding over twenty years ago. We now live in a generation where many times vows are entered into lightly and are so easily broken. But God calls us to take our vows seriously. As I searched through the Scriptures in preparing this encouragement I am struck by just how much emphasis there is in the Word on this subject. 

"I will fulfill my vows to the LORD in the presence of all His people." That's a powerful commitment. Ultimately our vows are made to the Lord but they are indeed witnessed by many others. The Psalmist made a solemn pledge to fulfill the vows he had made. Surely apart from our commitment to God, our marital vows are the most serious, and we, in a Christian marriage ceremony, make these vows to God as well.

Today I call each reader to consider the vows you have made, particularly in regard to your marriage, and in your own heart. If you're in a troubled marriage take the needed steps to strengthen your marriage commitment and restore it to wholeness. Reaffirm your marital vows regularly so that your commitment is absolute and you will properly respond to whatever ordeal you face with your partner. God is honored when we do so.

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily prayer: Father, we pray for those of us who are in a marriage relationship, that You would strengthen our marital bond and increase our love year by year. Help us to be quick to forgive, willing to say "I'm sorry" and look not only to our own interests but also to the interests of our partner. Help us to practice forbearance and persevere daily as we build healthy relationships with our spouses. In this world of instability with frequent divorces and broken families may our children see us honor our vows. In Jesus' name we pray.  Amen.

Brooksyne's Note: Due to my sensitive nature and because of the emails we receive from those who've had tragic losses through divorce, I always feel the need to let you know that God loves you and is with you in the midst of your struggle. For many it will remain a lifelong struggle to recover from such disappointment, but God heals the broken-hearted and draws them near to His heart. His love is abundant and His provisions sufficient for whatever need you and your children might have. James instructs us to "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you." And I draw near to you in my spirit that wants to help you bear your heavy load. Another passage also comes to mind today: "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, 'He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust'…. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart" (Psalm 91:1-4).

Stillman family
The Stillman family

Mike and Michelle have benefitted from and recommend Life Partners Christian Ministries

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
Click on the link to open and play.
(In some cases you may also need to click again to start the song.)

"I Will Be Here"  Video  Steven Curtis Chapman  Instrumental version

"I Loved You Then"  Video

Finally today here are some captions to the photo we posted yesterday of Roxie who was visited by Bruno, the St. Bernard:

Bruno & Roxie

Bruno & Roxie

Bruno & Roxie

Bruno & Roxie

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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