Wednesday, May 29, 2013

J. David Panther & how I got here

A few weeks ago, I wrote a brief overview of my story, about how I enjoyed serving and how God had worked in my life over recent years, and how I wanted others to join us in being "Boldly Compassionate."

Senior Pastor, Rev Dr. J. David Panther, or just Pastor Dave to most, has been the single most influential person in that transformation, and one of the most influential people in my whole life. If not for David, I very much doubt my family would be taking a mission trip this summer. I doubt I'd have had my kids in serving programs, giving out dinner to others on Christmas Day or thinking up ways to show kindness in secret to others. Or looking forward to each Sunday as the best day of the week as we got to hear David's stories, wisdom and his relevant and easy guidance on the Word of God; when you felt like he'd thoughtfully prepared that sermon just for you and what you needed to hear that week.


Pastor Panther launching
The Discipleship Pathway
David is an amazing man of God, a remarkable example of how to live a life of faith. Having been pastor of our church for 21 years, he has touched the lives of many thousands of people - his current & past congregations, the thousands he has fed through community meal, the hundreds he has helped with addictions, the lives transformed through his prison ministry, the lives saved eternally through his discipleship, the thousands inspired to become better and more faithful servants - to "Be The Church" to others, the daily lives changed as Dave helped us recognize the difference between God's "Upper Story" and our "Lower" one. David preached at 5 services every weekend - various styles of service to meet people wherever they were at in life - a treasured gift to each one of us. Under Dave's guidance and influence our church has more than half of its members in disciple classes and serving in over a hundred ministries.


David spent the past year battling lymphoma. Last October, more than 100 people walked through Pittsburgh in his honor at the Light The Night event. We were led by David himself, standing strong and courageous on a Segway, just hours after being in a hospital bed.

Jeremiah 29:11
 For I know the plans I have for you,”declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you
and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future
Even in sickness, he taught us well. How to have strong faith and surrender in all things to God. How to be a loving husband, father and adoring grandfather. How to still reach out to others even during those times - even from his hospital bed, after a life-flight to Pittsburgh, he called our family to ask of our son's health and our well-being.

This Memorial day weekend, David lost that battle with cancer and he returned to our heavenly father. I am completely assured of where David is today. I am completely assured that when he stood at the throne of God for his accountability, God was well pleased with this servant. As I listened to his words from past sermons about heaven, I know how excited he was to one day meet his Savior, to hold on to him and to marvel and rejoice.

Still, for me, I am heartbroken at this loss, as I know are so many more. It seemed like David still had so much more of God's work to do, and oh so much more to teach us! And of course, the bigger the impact of the blessing, how much more we feel it when it's taken from us! What an ache I feel in my heart. I am calmed by what he explained many times: this is God's plan. And David taught me to trust God's plan and promises as a rock to stand on.

I am so thankful for the few years I have known David. God led us to David, and if I was only allowed to know him for a short while, I know God picked which years they would be for excellent reason.
He has left a legacy in our family of BOLD COMPASSION but so much more too. I turn forward to see where the Lord will be taking us all next. Our church is strong, David made sure we knew that he wasn't the head of our church, Jesus was and still is. David was led completely by the Holy Spirit, which is exactly why he was so effective and genuinely loving in what he did. I will miss him tremendously, but his vast impact on my life won't be lost and I am eternally grateful for knowing him.

God bless. In Christ, Danielle



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