From Rev Dr Tom Nibbe
"I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength." Saint Paul in Philippians 4:11-13
Good morning, God!
We've got to be honest with you and ourselves. Often---we feel there just aren't enough resources or motivation for us to be confident enough to get on with Jesus' promise for us of "full life". Sometimes we are tempted to just give up. Lord, it seems like we've got a clear choice to make. We can complain about "what is", or more so about "what is not"---or---we can claim in you that we have all we need today to meet the challenges before us---to give you praise in advance---and convince ourselves that you are equipping us all to have a resourceful and successful day. Help us to focus in on what we think in our hearts is right for us...and follow through.
Help us to let go of our fears about not being successful, not having the ability to do the right thing at the right time. Help us also to have the motivation to step outward to make someone else's life easier. Help us to "turn the burden over to you" so we can carry a reasonable load. Take away our self-made barriers to happiness in life. Thank you for this life of faith to know that you will meet our needs this day. We pray in your name, Jesus. Amen.
The year was 1982. We were five then...there was my wife, Priscilla, and three great daughters, Ayesha, Yasmin, and Shama---and there was me. Our little family had spent the last four years as missionaries in Pakistan. I had sent a letter back to the States letting church administration know of our return. Arriving back in the States, I had the mistaken notion that the local synod had been thinking about us and had made provisions for us to adjust to life as a pastoral family in California.
There was no provision whatsoever. The fantasy I had had about being warmly welcomed back by a joyful group of fellow believers vanished quickly. Basically they had not only forgotten about us, but I was no longer officially rostered as an ordained pastor. I literally had to fight my way back into the visible church, go before a vocations committee, and in the process, be accused of being "too evangelical"---and almost dismissed---except for one very special committee lady who stood up for me.
Moments like this should never happen. At this particular time there were evidently no congregations open for us to interview at... according to the administration, (not the bishop). Was it actually because we were a racially mixed couple? I didn't think it was because I was generally thought to be "unfit" to be a pastor. I knew there were indeed vacant positions open in the area. The question became...not what the church was doing...or not doing.
The question in my mind increasingly became...What is God doing? What kind of refinement is taking place in my life and in the individual members of my family? At this time I was actually beginning to think more appropriately (spiritually speaking) about priorities. Was I going to be suspicious about other peoples' unknown, unspoken motivations in the Church...to try to "outguess" the church authorities...and in the end poison my heart and mind...becoming a disappointed and bitter old man in the end.
In all truth, I had to ask myself:
IT WAS THE LORD...or I move on to greener pastures...
I'm not suggesting that folks in the Church are always going to be short-sighted and short-change those in their charge. I'm not suggesting that Church authorities are always going to be wrong, and you have to set them straight. I am saying, however, that each of us has a Call from God to serve Him...and we need to "stand our ground" with the vision the Lord has given us...about what our destiny in the Lord Jesus is...
"...humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time...cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you..." 1 Peter 5:6-7
It's important that I express my commitment to others in the Visible Church that I must respect them, do well by them, enhance their sense of call from God, and anticipate that they will fulfill their ministry and bless me and those I know and love, but, I want to make myself crystal clear sharing what I have learned over fifty years in the ministry...ultimately...trust only in the Lord. In the process, do not judge others when they fail you. Do not revile them. Forgive them. Pour hot coals over their heads "by your kindness" after they have wronged you. Keep you focus on the Lord. Trust only Him. (Back to my story...)
Meanwhile in Berkeley, our family kept tightly together. The girls went to school and did exceptionally well. We shopped at local rummage stores and garage sales for jeans and other essential items. The jeans had holes and tears in them and I was afraid the girls were going to be laughed at and teased---but no, all the well-to-do girls in Berkeley wore expensive jeans that had holes and tears in them. (Be it noted: God is good all the time! As a family of five we stayed at first with my former classmate in his one-bedroom house and then were invited to live for two weeks with a Godly lady who lived in a spacious home in the Berkeley hills. We ended up being there with her for a year or so. It helped as an Episcopalian that she thought I should start (then) today as the Assistant to the Bishop in Grace Cathedral. What a morale-builder! I kept getting odd jobs along the way. Meanwhile we prayed together earnestly that God would provide supper for five for that day at morning-time, sometimes for breakfast shortly after we awoke in the morning. The Lord always provided on time. We had lots of prayer support from sincere Christians who were pulling for us. The girls were magnificent along the way. What great kids they were! Just love them! Priscilla was a source of peace, love, and family confidence.
There were tremendous needs that went unmet. In one sense, we never had enough, and yet, in another sense, we had each other, and therefore, we had everything. It was tough. Nothing came easy. Secretly, daily, I felt I had let my family down. Somehow, however, deep down inside, in a very deep place, I sensed that my direction and that of my family was secure in the midst of all the uncertainty. At one important moment along the way, I remembered Professor Keith Bridston at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary saying to me (long before) when I was a seminarian, "Underneath it all, Nibbe, I can tell you have a powerful sense of God's destiny in your life working in your behalf."
I became suspicious of what was happening---and not happening---as far as the Church was concerned. I contacted the local bishop. He was supportive. His words were a huge bandage wrapped around my wounded heart, "We've got to do something about you, Tom. We need you in the Christ's Church!" He suggested three locations to interview. We interviewed at Holy Cross. We definitely decided that Pacifica was the place for us. Pastor and people just seemed to fit. We stayed for eight-and-a-half years. We then accepted a call to serve at the Union Church of Lima in Peru. Four years later we returned to the States. Pacifica called us back again. We've been here for another twenty-five years up to the present.
So, am I holding on to a grudge against the Church folks for certain things that have happened---and things that didn't happen---practically forty years ago? No. Am I still hurting after making my poor kids and my beautiful wife suffer in those times? No.
(I could have returned to my old job at the U.C., Berkeley, but resisted the thought because of my call to ministry in the Lord Jesus Christ.)
I followed my vision, not based upon personal excellence or goodness, but rather, that promise the Lord wrote on my heart way back then and confirmed inside of me through all these years.
Sometime back I was reminding my oldest daughter, Ayesha, of those "horrible, terrible times" in 1982-83. Ayesha replied, "What terrible times, Dad? You mean when we used to pray together 'all the time' as a family for all our needs, sometimes, practically all day, because the needs were great...but the Lord provided according to our needs...and we knew He was the Great Giver...You played around with us...You were home with us every day...You did creative stuff with us all the time...We laughed together when we were supposed to cry...We totally depended on each other in the Lord-----Terrible times? What terrible times, Dad...?"
I don't know all the things that went through the hearts and minds of the members of my family...but I do know this about myself...I was too dependent upon the visible church and the leaders to provide a provision for us---God was right in there with us. He's the one who affirmed us and we discovered in the shambles of our situation who we really were, in Him! We needed to learn the way it happened.
Saint Paul said in Romans 8:28: "...and we know that in all things God works together for the good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose..."
God is a gentleman. He will not force religion upon you...
If God seems not to be providing for your needs, it is because you are not letting him do so...He will provide according to His wisdom...and not yours...and it will be sufficient for all your needs. He wouldn't provide for you because of your fabulous personality, your great intellect, your good-looks, or your fantastic pocket-book. He will provide for you because He loves you...without condition. That thought will take some time for it to set. He loves you much more than you could ever be fully aware of. If He doesn't seem to provide for you, it's not His fault, it's your fault. Perhaps you are not aware of what great value you have to the Lord.
I had idolized my bishop in my seminary days and in my first years of ministry. I changed my denomination because of him and his leadership. In retrospect I think I regarded him more highly and liked him more than he liked me. He turned against me at one point, not remembering that I had told him two years prior that I would leave my parish after two years to prepare myself as a pastoral counselor. In retrospect, he had "black-balled" me...according to a reliable source. The lesson here is (was)---you don't put your ultimate trust in any mortal...presidents, senators, the Secretary General of the United Nations, archbishops, your pastor, especially your favorite uncle, or even your business partner.
That ultimate trust belongs in placing your confidence in God Almighty and only He. Nobody else. The Lord will never let you down. It will seem at times He has. You will become impatient at times. You will become untrusting. You will wonder if God even exists. You may even have to go through what the Nibbe family did. He will teach you how to live right---and confidently---no matter what the circumstances happen to be. What was true for my family in the 1980s goes for what happens in 2020, even in the midst of a world pandemic...you can always trust in the Lord! Everybody else in this life will ultimately let you down sometime or the other. Just shake it off. Forgive them and trust God. In the process you will grow spiritually....
"Forgive us our trespasses...AS WE...forgive those who trespass against us..."
Sounds familiar...these word have a ring to them...who was it that prayed these words...???
What the Lord has started in your life will be made complete within God's good time...without fail!
No half-hearted, doubtful commitments, please! Become a genuine follower of the One who is worthy of complete trust! Heartaches will follow those who ultimately trust other human beings.
"...being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it on to completion until the day of Jesus Christ..." Philippians 1:6
It will not happen if you are comforted and coddled and babied time after time in a life in which you think you have control and you can do whatever you please! The expression is---Let go and let God! Once you let go of control in life, a dead-end, you need to let the Lord lead you through what may seem like one storm after the next. It's all part of the process. The Lord will prove His faithfulness when all has taken place!
These have been extremely trying times for us. I have kept your families and each one of you in prayer. We go back some time and love and appreciation has grown. We need to be there for each other. Thank you for your kindness in praying for my family in response. With the daily challenges we are all aware of--- the confinement and the pain and the loss of life---there are those precious moments that God gives us to experience the deep and rewarding things about living this life. We are grateful to the Lord that He has brought us thus far. We will continue to trust in Him. He is worthy.
P.S. Thanks for sharing this message.