Being Filled With The Fullness of God
From Rev Dr Tom Nibbe
A Happy, Blessed Thanksgiving !!!
NOTE: Here are QUOTES to make our celebration of Thanksgiving a truly Spiritual one...
"...for God didn't give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-disciple..." 2 Tim.1:7
"...be joyful always...pray continually...give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus..."
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
"...the very fact that we praise God...and not some unknown fate...also means that we are accepting
the fact that God is responsible for what is happening..." Merlin R. Carothers
"...a mind not be changed by place or time...the mind is its own place, and in itself can make---
a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven..." John Milton
"...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..." Philippians 4:11-13
"...one single thought of gratefulness raised to heaven is the most perfect prayer..." G. E. Lessing
We honor and praise you on the occasion of our Thanksgiving celebration. We pray for those we know and love, but we also pray for those who are less fortunate than us. We ask that they may be blessed with good food and with hope. This year our recognition will be akin to the situation the Pilgrims faced. We remember the Pilgrim example and the choice they made to give thanks even though the average man or woman of their time would have cursed their lot. Although this American occasion comes once each year, we pledge to celebrate thanksgiving with a grateful heart at the beginning of each and every day. No matter our circumstance in life, we will honor you, your unconditional love, and your perfect plan for our lives. Amen.
After years of revolution in the remote areas of Peru, the "Sundero Illuminoso" ("Shining Path") finally made their violent, revolutionary way into the outskirts of Lima, San Isidro and Miraflores, in Peru, in the spring of 1991. It was a challenging, violent, horrible time in Peru's history. Meanwhile, our family had packed our bags and settled in by September of 1991. Shama preceded us in order to start school in Peru on time.
But...something else emerged in my heart and mind. The Lord had sent us down at this particular time in Peru's history to do a "unique work" for both foreigners and Peruvian citizens alike. We had already experienced four years as missionaries in Pakistan, also a difficult time with lots of adjustments, so that we really were much more "fully prepared" for the challenges of this extraordinary time than we thought.
EXCUSE ME, PASTOR, YOU STEPPED INTO SOMETHING
After our arrival...things changed rapidly and radically...nobody in the entire nation was safe...no one really knew if this would be their last day. It put a "shadow" over all occasions and over all endeavors.
We heard rumors of the slaughter of complete villages of Peruvian farmers. By the time we arrived about half the population of Peru had come into the area of Lima. The population arose from 280,000 to eleven million souls. The urban problems were unbelievable. The mighty Rimac River of Francisco Pizarro's day had become a trickling cesspool and stunk to high heaven. Eventually the Peruvian government fell.
THINGS GET WORSE
Childless couples who had come to Lima to adopt children by the hundreds were stuck in Peru. There were no Peruvian adoptions because there were no "Certification of Adoptions" available. There was no Peruvian government. There were no Peruvian judges to approve and certify adoption of Peruvian children.
Pretty soon it was impossible to buy food from the local super market. One day I noted two women in the store fighting over one box of breakfast cereal. Eventually, farmers and fishermen would literally come into Lima to sell on the streets at great risk to produce and their lives. Their presence and sacrifice out of need was a great blessing for us, our neighbors and the members of our church, the Union Church of Lima!
Talk about inconvenience...the "Sendero folks" blew up the water-works down the street time and again. Anna Maria--my secretary--and I would go through yet another series of days without bathing...before we came to the office...because there was no water available. When an medical-related emergency would come up at the American Hospital during the night-time, the Embassy staff would pick me up in an armored vehicle. The Shopping Center a number of blocks away was blown to pieces by a Volkswagen bus loaded with aluminum explosives. The impact caused the street to roll up and down like an accordion. There were body-parts everywhere on the street just blocks from us. It was a very scary time.
Shama and I were fired upon by rebels as we were going up the street walking Toby, our dog...I thought to myself that, indeed, it was time for my daughter to return to the States...I suggested to Priscilla that she go back; she refused...the bodies of CEOs heading up American companies were showing up at their family doorways in body-bags...things were getting desperate.
Ambassador Anthony Quainton and Susan at the American Residence decided before bedtime to go down to the kitchen for a snack. At that exact time, their bedroom was blown to bit. They were saved by going downstairs for a simple glass of milk at just the right time. I heard the explosion and called to make sure they were okay. What an experience! You could never really know when it would be your time to die.
In the midst of all this, there remained hundreds of adopting parents there. They found they could meet at our church to pass along information and receive encouragement and get Spiritual help. Many women and men who had not attended church for years or decades became regular worshippers.
THE EMBASSY OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA IS DESTROYED
The time came for deployed American personnel with the American Embassy to evacuate the country. Our congregation was diminished by more than half. It was time to go to the "highways and byways" to reach out to other foreigners and English-speaking Peruvians. Among our first converts at this time were the official ambassador representing India and a Chinese business-woman from Beijing...
[Before our departure I had received a powerful "word of knowledge" from the Lord that my family and I would return to the United States with two arms, two legs and a head on our shoulders. Had I received
the wrong message from the Lord? Had it been the Lord who delivered this message to me? I held on
to that sense in the Lord that my family would all return safe and unharmed. Fortunately, Ayesha and Yasmin remained students at the University of California at Berkeley.]
THE CONCEPT OF PRAISE IS RECEIVED AND ACCEPTED
To keep going on a daily basis I employed the Biblical model for dealing with incredible stress and uncertainty. One Friday, in meeting with a group of over two-hundred of these prospective adoptive parents, including American doctors and German business people, etc., at our church...about half of the crowd received the Lord Jesus as a personal Lord and Savior, upon an informal invitation. It really really paid off in terms of dealing with terrible times. Without a government in operation, these unfortunate people were stuck in Peru...or had to give up their children the ones they were intending to adopt. I remember one young single women from Madison, Wisconsin, who just could not stand what she had to go through...after a year...she gave up her prospective son and returned back home. She was completely spent.
A powerful notion continued to inspire and guide both Priscilla and I during these challenging times. I noted an entry in my diary for December 9, 1991: "Praise is based on a total and joyful acceptance of the present as part of God's loving, perfect will for us...You cannot be a person of faith in Christ and not understand this essential of the Christian faith. Praise is not based on what we think or hope will happen in the future. It means living in a hope that will not disappoint us. This understanding is an absolute principle of what praise is for us..." Without that challenge to the "reasonable me" I would not have survived myself.
So, why is it, that, when we encounter situations in which we are truly challenged...we think---what we are
experiencing---is something we shouldn't have to go through and something we do not deserve.
Some of us go to the limit! We get the idea that we are being punished for something unknown that completely knocks us off our feet---or---that it's the penalty for some very painful, remembered sin or indiscretion? Is God in the business of gleefully punishing faithful, though imperfect, Christian men and women? The Bible tells us this is never true.
Dear friends, not my God, not my Savior!
Saint Augustine was right...put your faith in Christ...do all you can...no more...the Lord will do the rest. Just live abundantly as free men and women in His love! He will eventually bless us even though we sometimes dont' recognize it and we don't think we deserve it! It has to do with a powerful concept in a single "four-letter word" --- and that word of blessing is...love.
Divine, Unconditional, Love
We recall the Scripture which reminds us, "...and we know that in all things God works for the good of
those who are called according to His purpose..." Romans 8:28.
We pause for a minute to wonder what Saint Paul was thinking when he wrote those words. We may think..."Well, Paul never had to go through anything like I am going through...".
For this reason, we go back to the New Testament to note further clarification from Paul: "...as servants of God, we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance, in troubles, hardships and distresses, in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger..." 2 Corinthians 6:4-5. Paul knew suffering and pain to the maximum, but he never complained, nor had a "fall-through" of faith, because he came to know what he wrote about in Romans 8:28, above. It is a verse all of us need to memorize...and more important...live in confidence.
HUMAN SUFFERING HAS A DIVINE PURPOSE FOR A FALLEN WORLD
It is such a blessing for me, also, to know that Jesus suffered the way He did. On one hand, it suggests
to me that when I suffer, I share my suffering with Christ's suffering for the redemption of the world...
Being fully human, even though I know I am not God, I share in the fellowship of "being filled with the measure of the fullness of God", as Paul would say. We are made complete through all experiences
in life, not just the pleasant ones. We are reasonable beings, but faith extends that limitation.
Second of all, it means to me that God understands us when we suffer. In and through the humanity
of the Lord Jesus Christ we know that God totally comprehends the our nature and human suffering.
He comprehends times when we are tempted to do something that is wrong. He can empathize when
we go through physical, emotional, and mental suffering. He understands our feellings of shame,
guilt and regret. Through Jesus --- God becomes "Emmanuel", "God with us". Therefore, our suffering is not in vain. It has definite purpose and meaning for our lives. Paul stresses...rejoice in the Lord always!
"...we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.
We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not
abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed..." 2 Corinthians 4:7-10
Why is it, that, when we are experiencing inconvenient, or unfortunate, or painful situations in life we sometimes or often question the providence of God in our lives. Our vision in life needs to be expanded
to the extent that we know (for certain) that in all things God works for the good of those He loves.
CONTENTMENT IN LIFE GOES BEYOND OUR KNOWLEDGE OR REASON
"...and I pray that you being rooted and established in live, may have power together with all the saints to grasp how wide and long and high is the love of Christ, and to know the love that surpasses knowledge---that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God..." Ephesians 3:17b-19
Now how does an account of what happened to the Nibbe family in the 1990s have to do with what we are experiencing these days in 2020. As our pastoral family prospered in desperate times in Peru, we are definitely experiencing terrible times in our country, as well as around the world. You can't go anywhere in the world without practicing the safety measures we are practicing here in America. There is reasonable and unreasonable fear. There is terrible uncertainty. There is a degree of political upheaval, but not to the extent we experienced in South America. Anybody can get sick. Any infection can lead to death. If Auntie Betty in Ladysmith, Wisconsin, can be infected by Covid-19, anybody can. Everybody knows it is totally reasonable to be concerned in this situation.
GOD'S PERFECT LOVE DRIVES OUT FEAR
The difference for those of us who have placed their faith in the Savior is that "perfect love drives out fear"
1 John 4:18...we play it safe...we remain healthy...we do good as we shelter...but most of all...in Christ
we know that we are well. This time of pandemic and other serious insecurities of the age are something
God calls us to live in...and live through. We pay attention to what's going on, but we are nonetheless knowledgeable that we are called for this present challenge.
We are not fearful because we are meant to live in this time, stand up to the challenge, and not only survive, but prosper.
That we do in Christ...who gives us confidence and strength to stand...
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Rev Sue Ann Yarbrough