August 2, 2017
Isaiah 30:20, 21
(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)
I chose this title, A Loud Big Voice because Elijah, on Mount Horeb, encountered “…a still small voice…” in I Kings 19:12.
Campmeeting is still in progress at Patterson Grove, the 149th campmeeting since moving to the old Headley Grove in 1868! But I will take you back 30 years to the campmeeting of 1987. The year before, 1986, had been a great highlight in my life! I had been asked to be the evangelist and Bible study leader for the 15 days of campmeeting. I preached in the old tabernacle each night and taught Bible study weekdays in the dining hall – a total of 27 times in those 15 days! I felt ‘on top of the world’ as God used me!
But the next year, 1987, was very different! I had been pastor at Oxford Baptist Church in southeastern Pennyslvania for only two years. But those two years were filled with hectic ministry! The three churches I pastored before Oxford had all been of the kind where to get anything done, I pushed, and pushed, and pushed! But this church didn’t need pushing! The folks were very ready to be involved in ministry! In two years the church grew by 50%. We, by necessity, went to two services on Sunday morning. Other ministries were started and grew – a ministry to those recovering from addiction, another was an ecumenical effort reaching out to unchurched youth in the area. Today, 32 years later, that ministry, called The Lighthouse, is thriving with an annual budget of over two million dollars!
The church did not need to be pushed, they needed guidance! But the only style of ministry I knew was to push! I was burned out in less than two years! That February I tendered my resignation. I had been considering and training for a business in insurance and securities, but I soon knew that was not what God wanted me to do. The church let us stay in the parsonage until June so my daughter could finish the school year. Then we put most of our belongings in storage and moved 130 miles north to our cottage at Patterson Grove.
I remember the year before that, because I loved the grove so much, I envied those retired folks who could spend the whole season at Patterson Grove – from mid-April when the water was turned on, until mid-October when it was turned off for the winter. Now I and my family were there for the rest of the season – but only until mid October! After that, we had no place to go! God had been silently showing me that I was to return to the ministry – but where and when? I had no prospect for a church, no income, no house to live in, no school for my twelve-year-old daughter to enter for her high school freshman year! Being part of American Baptist USA denomination, I counseled with our northeast Pennsylvania area minister. He told me that there were no prospects open, and if there were, it would take six months to year to go through the placement program! We didn’t have six months to a year!
In the midst of all this, there were some encouragements. I will be forever grateful to Judy. This very opinionated woman who often voiced her preferences, and so was not in favor with everyone at the grove, came to me and pressed a fifty dollar bill in my hand! She told me, “God wants me to give this to you.” I felt like it was a thousand dollars! Judy, ever since, has been very dear to me!
Campmeeting that year was almost over. It was Thursday, August 13th. I was to leave the next day for the American Baptist Men’s Retreat, attended by over 400 men from across Pennsylvania and Delaware. Because Oxford Baptist was growing and active, the year before I was asked to give my testimony at the next men’s retreat. Now all I had to offer was brokenness!
I trudged across the grounds of Patterson Grove to the youth fireplace circle in the woods nearby – my faithful dog Kinky at my side (her name referred more to her fur than her personality!) That fire circle was known as The Chapel on the Hill or Sunshine Mountain. I walked up the path and knelt at one of the benches facing away from the fire pit and the large wooden cross behind it. I prayed. I let God have it! I knew He wanted me back in the ministry, but when and where? I and my family were running out of time and money! My daughter was suppose to start school – somewhere! – in just five weeks! We only had two more months until the grove shut down for the winter! I was desperate, and I was angry!
It is ok to be angry with God! He is our Father – so much so that we can call Him “Abba” (see Mark 14:36; Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6). Abba can actually be translated, ‘Daddy’! As children, we can (and do sometimes) get angry with our earthly fathers. They still love us! God knows our inmost thoughts! (See Psalm 139:1-4). And He is big enough to take our anger! He never stops loving us! (See the 26 times “…His steadfast love endures forever….” in Psalm 136 – and many other verses in the English Standard Version of the Bible).
As I knelt there, pouring out my heart, I heard a voice….
That’s why I have chosen Isaiah 30:20 and 21 for the featured Scripture:
And though the LORD gives you the bread of adversity and the water of
affliction…your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the
way, walk in it.” whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you
turn to the left.
I will share more about The Loud Big Voice I heard in the next blog.