Supreme Ambition Ministries

To Know Christ and to Make Him Known – Philippians 3:10

MY JOURNEY 7

A GIFT IN A BROWN, PAPER-BAG!

dave8-yrsthumbnail.jpgAs a young child one of my favorite things was a picnic.  For the kids in our community a picnic consisted in whatever our mothers put in a brown paper bag.  One of the most exciting parts about the picnic was opening the bag to see what was in it.  More often than not I was delighted with the sandwich, chips, and dessert that my mother provided.  However, there were those occasions when what I found in my brown, paper-bag was less than appealing, perhaps due to the fact that one or more of my friends had something lots better than I had.  It was then that the bartering began.  I would talk, manipulate and trade till I got just what I wanted.  Truth be told, what I ended up with was probably no better than what I started out with, but the joy was in the thrill of the chase…Know what I mean?  Forrest Gump summed it up fairly well.  “Momma says, ‘life is like a box of chawclits’.  You never know what you’re gonna’ get.”

The next sixteen years of our life were to be just that.  I think I failed to mention in the previous blog, when we left Racine First Baptist Church, we had nowhere to go.  I mean nowhere, folks.  I was a 29 year old preacher with a wife and three (3) young children had been branded within the American Baptist Convention as a man with ‘doctrinal difficulties’ and I had no prospects for the future.  There was a non-denominational Church about an hour from where we lived.  We had met the pastor at series of special meetings he was having at his church, and I had travelled to Israel with him a few weeks previously.  I trusted him as a brother in Christ and called to pray with him concerning direction for our life.  He thought I was desirous of a position in his Church.  I really wasn’t.  I just needed some spiritual guidance.  During our conversation he said, “Dave, you bring Kathi and the children and we’ll put a roof over your head and food in your stomach.”  Thank you, Brother!

And so…the ‘picnic’ began, and I began to open my bag.  The first few items I had in the bag were really good and made picnic.jpgme want more. The church provided us with a two-bedroom trailer and a small salary initially and I began to help with whatever needed to be done: ministry, construction, etc.  Within a few months it seemed good to the pastor and to our family that we become a permanent addition to the staff of this successful church.  I and another pastor became youth pastors.  The church had a vibrant youth group with a number of them really excited to follow Jesus.  Our youth meetings consisted of playing together for one hour and then having a time of worship together in which one of the two of us leaders preached to and challenged these kids to a closer walk with God.  A great number of those youth are continuing their quest as adults to follow the Lord Jesus, and have led their children to do the same.  PTL!

As I have alluded to, the emphasis of this church and her ministry was following Jesus.  An emphasis was placed upon obedience to God that is missing is many churches today.  The Sermon on the Mount is concluded by our Lord with a parable concerning the proper place to build a house.  His conclusion is that for a house to withstand the bombardment of the elements it must be built on a solid foundation.  Jesus’ own application to this parable indicated that the wise man is one who ‘hears these words of mine and DOES them’.  Apparently, Jesus saw the importance of obedience to God.  Unfortunately, preaching a steady diet of obedience without also preaching the balance of a passionate relationship with Christ lends itself to the creation of people who are vulnerable to legalism.  As you might conclude that is exactly what happened.  A visiting minister with whom we travelled and, who came to our church frequently, even did a missionary tour of churches he had helped establish, preaching on the carnal nature.  Somehow he came up with 200 to 300 characteristics of the carnal nature.  By the time he got through that preaching assignment even the Baptists were losing their salvation.  LOL!  The picnic was starting to go south and some of the food did not taste very good.  But, you know, once you have tasted something good you are willing to move some moldy bread aside to get back to the good stuff.  I kept eating.

pirate-pastor.jpgThe message on obedience to Christ degenerated into the importance of following the ‘man of God’.  In our movement we were associated with a very precious and gifted man of God.  The senior ministers of our churches gladly submitted to and obeyed this man, because he exhibited a unique love that could only come from God.  Unfortunately, the senior ministers began to desire the people under them to be as faithful to them as they were to the ‘man of God’.  This led to a misguided messianic complex among the churches, and an inflated view of who we were compared to others within Christ’s church.  Before long the unspoken version of truth was that our ‘man of God’ was the greatest of all, and we needed to sacrifice everything for his calling and ministry.

There were numbers of people committed to this cause, and I was one.  I have always tried to be a 100% kind-of-a guy.  If I am into something, I’m into it lock, stock and barrel.  What could be greater than to be a part of an end-time ministry?  So, I was whole-hearted in my effort.   The ministry became the most important thing in my life.  It was more important than my wife or my children.  Don’t get me wrong?  I loved them, but I thought the best thing I could do for them was to serve my ‘man of God’.  And serve I did!  Following is a partial list of the jobs I had concurrently for 16 years at that Church: Associate Pastor, Christian Education Director, Day Care and Pre-School Director, Athletic Director in a Christian School (K-12), Vice Principal, Bible Teacher, Physical Education Teacher, Basketball and Track coach, Pastor of a Sunday School Class of about 60 people, Visitation Leader two nights each week.  In addition to that I was one who stood ready 24/7/365 for any and all personal help the senior pastor needed.  As you might imagine, those 16 years took quite a toll on my health and my family.  Even writing about it makes me really tired.  During those years it was not uncommon for me to work nearly 60 hours per week.

Not all of our experience there was negative.  Our children were able to grow up there and have a place they can think of as home.  We have many friends both in and out of the church that are treasured.  We had some wonderfully, anointed spiritual experiences and were exposed to some of the greatest in Christian and classical music.  Being there was not a ‘picnic’…or maybe it was.  It’s just that…well…I didn’t know all  that  was in the brown, paper-bag. 

By this time the desire for preaching and discipleship was welling up within me.  I felt the desire to…as we preachers say…‘get back in the pulpit’.  I remember one day saying, ‘Jesus get me out of here’!   It wasn’t long after that when I was sitting in my office and I received a phone call from a pastor in Sarasota, Florida.  He asked if I had ever considered leaving the ministry in West Virginia.  I told him I had not seriously considered it.  He asked for permission to speak with the senior pastor and the ‘man of God’ about me coming to Sarasota to assist him and then to take over as pastor, since he wanted to retire.  This was in October, 1992.  I did not hear another word from anyone until around the middle of December of that same year.  It was a Sunday afternoon.  Kathi, the children and I had just returned home from seeing a presentation of The Nutcracker Suite.  We had gotten home just in time to get ready for the Sunday evening service.  The door bell rang.  It was one of the associate pastors and right behind him was the senior pastor.  When I saw them, I knew.  The senior pastor said, to the children, “Well children.  I guess we better tell your parents they are going to Florida.”  As I said, I knew immediately what was going on.  Kathi didn’t have a clue, nor did the children.  I had not told them about the phone call from the pastor from Sarasota.  Kathi was shocked.  At first she thought we were going for vacation and she was excited.  However, it was soon apparent to her that such was not the case.  The pastor then clarified that we were moving to Florida to become an associate and then later become senior pastor.  Kathi’s face turned white as a sheet.  I thought she was going to die…Truly…I thought my wife was dying right before my eyes.  Then more quickly than I can tell you, she jumped up off the couch and ran over and stood in front of that senior pastor and said, “Pastor, I’ve been praying right here on this couch for years and I’m ready to go.”  I think I mentioned before that I can never figure her out. Smile!

 On March 1, 1993 Kathi and I pulled away from a 16 year ‘picnic’ and a gift in a brown, paper-bag.  We were scared, scarred, and glassy-eyed…but off we went….in obedience.  Little did we know that the ‘School of Brokenness’ had yet another picnic and another gift for us. *

*When I use the terms ‘gift’ and ‘picnic’, I do NOT do so with tongue in cheek as if God were some kind of sadist.  I do so with the full knowledge that his blessings are often wrapped in unusual packages.  His blessings often come with a crushing.  At the last supper our Lord inaugurated, what we know now as communion, by passing the cup and the bread.  Prior to this sacred meal he had asked an impetuous James and John, if they could drink the cup he was to drink?  They responded that they could.  This cup is called a cup of blessing.  Within that cup, however, are all blessings; some are negative and some are positive, but all blessings.   Anything which we allow to draw us nearer to the glorious crown of intimate fellowship with Christ is a blessing.  Life is a picnic. That is, life is lived out in the flesh as people live together, laugh together, and rub one another raw.   Christ intends for it to all be blessing.  Whether it is or not depends on our responses to the negative and the positive.  Not all that happens to us in our life is God’s will, but He, the Divine Yes, speaks into each circumstance and will use it to draw us into deeper fellowship with him, if we allow. 

STILL MORE TO COME…Hope you’re not weary…

August 20th, 2008 Posted by | Biographical | 4 comments

4 Responses to “MY JOURNEY 7”

  1. Dave: I KNOW the Lord is helping you to journal through your journey and even though it may be hard on you, it’s helping me. Praise the Lord! May you be strengthened and encouraged to stay at the task…He is revealing and telling His story. Blessings on you, brother.

  2. Weary? Not at all. Bring it on, brother.

  3. I agree with both of the comment writers- I can never grow weary of hearing about journeys, especially those in the kingdom. There are many of us that were in a ministry up north that are reconnecting through a web-based site and so much of what you are writing about is echoing through the kingdom. You are loved and appreciated- please continue to open your heart to us- it is ministering!

  4. Not at all weary! I look forward to each segment. Jesus is helping you to help us! I trust He is bringing help and healing to you and your family as you share this story of your journey.