A Tribute to Larry Lambert, 1928—2006
By Dr. Steven Lambert
Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men. For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.1
Lawrence (Larry) Lambert was born August 11, 1928 in Meigs County (Jackson), Ohio, and was reared in the townships of Wellston and Springfield, Ohio. He was the eldest of fourteen children born to his father Donald Lambert (b. 1900), who passed away in 1989. His birth-mother was Helen Grimes, who passed away from complications giving birth to his brother, Dwight. Donald’s second wife, Anne, who passed away in 1987, birthed the other twelve siblings.
Lawrence and Elaine (Cox) first met in 1944 while attending Moorefield High School. After a year of separation, the two were reunited in 1947, and after a brief courtship were engaged and then married in 1948. The couple began their new life together residing in Springfield, Ohio. Over the next twelve years, the family also lived in the Ohio towns of Ironton, Haverhill, and Xenia until migrating to Fort Myers, Florida in 1960. During the tenure in Ohio, Larry was employed with International Harvester (assembly lineman), Edison Ohio Electric Company (field operations), Omar Bread Company (Home Delivery Route Rep), and Western Southern Insurance Company (Agent). Elaine held positions as a loan company office manager as well as a bookkeeper with several companies.
On November 6, 1948, their first of five children, Steven, was born. Four years later (1952), their first daughter, Becky, was born, followed by Marsha (1957), Thomas (1958), and Judith (1963).
In 1960, the family relocated to Fort Myers, Florida just in time to be greeted by Hurricane Donna, which wreaked historical devastation across much of southern Florida, the eye passing through the then small township. That year, the Pittsburgh Pirates, who then spring-trained in Fort Myers, became World Champions by defeating the New York Yankees in game seven of the World Series off Bill Mazeroski’s, ninth-inning, leadoff, home run over the left-center wall of Forbes Field.
Professionally, from 1960 through 1976, Larry was engaged in insurance, automobile, and motivational sales. For seven years (1977-1984), he was a scheduling coordinator for Festival of Praise (Thurlow Spurr, Concert Ministries, Inc). For the next entire year Larry and Elaine ministered deliverance out of their home for which they received love-gifts, while attending Calvary Assembly of God in Winter Park, FL, and leading a cell group from the church. The following year they answered the call to enter into full-time ministry (pastoral initially, then itinerant), relocating to Jupiter, FL.
As he approached his 48th birthday in 1976, a broken and despondent Larry Lambert, lying prostrate on his second-story apartment floor under conviction of the Holy Spirit, reflected soberly and sullenly on the substance of his life. With rivers of tears soaking the carpet under him, from the inner recesses of heart, he called out to the God and Savior his spirit-filled grandmother had so often talked to him about and joyfully represented forty years and more ago. He asked Him to forgive him of his squandered life of sinfulness and self-centeredness and to come into his heart to abide forever. That day, a defeated, battered and bruised, shell of a man was genuinely Born Again and radically transformed inwardly! The man who got up from that floor was not the same man who lied down there a few hours before—Larry Lambert was a new creature in Christ Jesus!
The subsequent thirty years would be a spiritual journey filled with “joy unspeakable and full of glory,” leading ultimately to Beulah Land, passing nevertheless through many wildernesses fraught with trials, troubles, tempests, and tumults. The pathways traveled were lined with intermittent frustrations, detours, dead-ends, denials, and some ostensible failures. But, those temporal circumstances were but “momentary light afflictions” compared to the glory inherited the instant his spirit was at last liberated from its carnal sarcophagus, when the corruptible was consumed by the incorruptible, the perishable by the imperishable, the imperfect by the perfect, the mortal by the immortal—when the last enemy, Death, was swallowed up in victory! “O Death, where is your victory? O Death, where is your sting?”2
What a day that will be when My Jesus I shall see
When I look upon His Face, the One who saved me by His grace
When He takes me by the hand and leads me through the Promise Land
What a day, glorious day, that will be!3
In that Fair Land, the one known and loved by many—as husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, brother, friend, adopted father, spiritual father—has now been united with the God and Savior who saved him by His grace, and reunited with a host of souls who preceded him there: his daughter, Marsha Jayne; his mother, stepmother, and mother-in-law; father; grandmother; closest brother, Dwight; friends and acquaintances; all of whom he loved and missed so very much.
Following his radical transformation, Apostle Lambert, as prophetic words spoken over him over the final ten years or so of his life described him, had a profound passion for Jesus and the biblically revealed purposes and plans of God for the Church Jesus said He is building. A frequent touchstone scripture of his was Mark 16:15-20, in which Jesus delineated the “Great Commission” to the Church, which Larry often lamented was the “Great Omission” because the elements Jesus listed that believers should be doing was not being practiced or advocated in most churches.
Nevertheless, anyone who knew Larry Lambert would testify that he himself passionately practiced and adamantly advocated for the practice of all five of the elements of the Great Commission. Indeed, his passion and adamancy for the “things of God” made him a proverbial thorn in the side of some church leaders. He was an anointed “stirrer upper” in places where complacency prevailed, and a spark of fire in dry places. In some places, he was a John-The-Baptist — crying out from the dank dungeon to which the elite ecclesiastical aristocracy relegated him against the hidden sin or impure motives of the Herods and Herodiases in authority in those places. He preached unabashedly polemically about the essential of believers simply doing precisely what Jesus taught in the Great Commission and other soliloquies recorded in the Gospels.
All his life, Dad hated to be alone. He was gregarious, in some ways, to a fault. Before and after he surrendered his life to the Lord, he loved to “party” — which to him, was people gathering together to interact and simply enjoy one another’s company.
He loved to laugh…even more so when circumstances prevailed in his or others’ life that were neither fun nor funny. He was a master of one-liners—quick-witted commentaries or comments that would often make people howl laughing, which they often never forgot, and which would cause them to laugh just as hard years later in retelling the story as when it happened. He could almost always find something amusing in just about any scenario — it was his way of attempting to do something to lighten the load a bit in people’s lives, because he really hated seeing people in pain. Apparently, Dad somehow passed that quick-wittedness on to his children, the two males especially. Over the years, despite my most fervent pledges not to, like many sons, I’ve found myself plagiarizing some of Dad’s sayings. In his youth and “BC” (Before Christ) years, his quick-wit was sometimes a bit sarcastic and caustic, reflecting the “ornery streak” he always admitted to have lurking within, even after being saved. But, progressively, through the years, as his heart was being changed by the indwelling Holy Spirit, the wit became more “sanctified,” though it never ceased, right up to the final hours when he was lapsing in and out of consciousness, as reflected in a few of his “last words,” many of which were recorded by family members.
Though his overt opinionatedness sometimes obscured it, Dad had a deep and abiding love for all his children and grandchildren, and desperately wanted them all to be “saved” and come to know the Lord, and thereby experience, as he had, the Heavenly Father’s lavish lovingkindness, mercy, and grace. Yet, that fixation was by no means limited to his family. Literally to his final days, he was nearly obsessed with “getting somebody saved!” as he would often put it. He was notorious among all who knew him personally, (oftentimes to the chagrin and aggravation of family members and friends) for his unashamed and incessant distribution of “Smiley Tracts” (mini-booklets containing a simple evangelistic message) to all with whom he came into contact—from waiters/waitresses, who always got one as a money-clip for their tip money, to grocery store baggers, to medical personnel, and everyone in between. Some fondly tell tales of him planting them in the darnedest places, such as in mannequin’s hands in the show windows of apparel stores, bank teller windows, phone booths, elevators, and various other peculiar public places.
Like every human who ever lived, Dad had his flaws, “flatsides,” faults, as well as failures, concerning which he had no illusions or delusions. In occasional moments of self-assessment he lamented with obvious regret about having not always been the man he wished he had been. Moreover, an unarticulated but palpable inward pain of an inability to manifest the affection he unquestionably possessed for his children and “Ms. Lambert,” as he sometimes endearingly referred to his wife, seemed ever-present. As with so many familial relationships, more physical and verbalized affection certainly would have been better, yet we all knew he loved us…deep down. Like so many others, growing up he never saw fatherly or familial affection modeled, so there was no image to emulate. (Let the reader not feel bad that these things are being said, for you see Dad himself often talked about his own shortcomings, because he wanted people to know that, though fervent in faith to the point of being considered fanatical by many nominal believers, he was a real person, filled with the same humanness and carnal nature as everyone else, as he decried the phoney piety and self-righteousness displayed by so many mere religious people who really don’t have a viable relationship with God but only “a form of righteousness,” i.e., religion.)
In his final months, knowing his time here was drawing to a close, Dad initiated a solemn time of conciliation with each of his four living children in which he requested forgiveness for those aforementioned shortcomings and any hurt, harm, or pain he may have caused as a result, which he followed with the question, “Will you forgive me?” After telling each one he truly did love them, he then prayed for them and their future, and pronounced a patriarchal-like blessing over them, and their children, and their children’s children—three generations of offspring. It was his final benediction upon his children and his posterity.
When Dad had this time of conciliation with me during my Thanksgiving visit with Mom and Dad in 2005, just before he prayed for me and blessed me, he looked me in the eye, and made a point of saying, “I have prayed for all these years for all my children and grandchildren and their children to be saved, and I believe God will honor my prayers.” At that moment, I really did not quite understand what or why he was saying this with the emphasis that he did. But, on May 3rd, 2006, the beginnings of the answering of his three decades of prayers transpired with a phone call at 8:56 PM from his and Mom’s first grandchild who had been suddenly snatched away from us all nearly thirty-eight years before, which wrought unspeakable pain and unfathomable void. In that phone call this father was reunited with his thirty-eight year old daughter, Angela Marie, who he had not known or had any contact with for all those years. The next morning when Elaine told him the incredible, emotion-jarring news as he was bringing a spoonful of hospital oatmeal to his mouth, he literally dropped the spoon and burst into tears that continued flowing for more than fifteen minutes before he could regain enough composure to say, “Now I can go home to be with the Lord!” Thirty-three days later…he did.
“Life is but a vapor,” Dad quipped to me at several funerals we attended together over the last ten years or so. On the other side of June 6, 2006, it seemed like such a long time he was with us. Now, on this side, it seems like but a vapor indeed. Time…where did it go? Fleeting it is indeed. Yet, we must resign to the Wisdom that there is a time for every purpose under Heaven—a time to be born and live, a time for the cessation of this life.4
A spiritual warrior fought the final battle and was called home to a victor’s welcome. The final passing from this earthly realm into the Heavenly came peacefully at 6:38 AM, Tuesday, June 6, 2006, attended by his devoted wife, eldest son and daughter, and her husband at his side. The Lord’s Presence was palpable. Several medical attendants were significantly moved by the Spirit- and love-filled atmosphere that prevailed in his room as well as by the various special occurrences that transpired during the final days and hours. Some of the last written words of another soldier not long before his home-going seemed to hang in the air:
For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing. Make every effort to come to me soon….5
To one, he was a husband; to two, a son; to five, a father; to fourteen, a grandfather; to twelve, a great-grandfather; to thirteen, big-brother; to an uncountable number of others, he was a friend and spiritual imparter. As with Abraham, to God, he was a friend. Like the Apostle Paul, he fought the good fight, finished his course, and kept the faith…now come the rewards. For those who remain, we all are obliged by his wishes and life to make every effort to come to him soon, where he now abides — in eternal presence of the God-Head in Heaven.
His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’6
Larry’s home-going was preceded by his second-born daughter’s, Marsha Jayne, on January 13, 2001. He is survived by his wife of fifty-eight years, Elaine, two daughters, Becky, Judith; two sons, Steven and Thomas; and his ninety-nine year old father-in-law, John W. Cox (d. 2008). God blessed him with thirteen siblings, fourteen grandchildren, twelve great-grandchildren, and numerous nieces, nephews, and other relatives.
A Memorial Service was held on Saturday, June 10, 2006 at Restoration Church in Spartanburg, SC, attended by more than a hundred family and friends. A eulogy was delivered by the eldest son, Dr. Steven Lambert, several friends and family members gave testimonials, and Dr. Jim Davis, President of CIAN, rendered a special tribute, and Dr. Tony Cribb, Senior Pastor of Restoration Church, delivered the closing message.
Another Memorial/Interment Service was held on Monday, June 12, 2006 at Trinity Memorial Gardens, New Port Richey, FL, where he was laid to rest beside his daughter, Marsha Jayne. Steven Lambert delivered the eulogy and officiated the burial ceremony. Several family members and longtime friends presented testimonials, and Dr. Shirley Arnold of Tree of Life Ministries (Lakeland, FL) delivered a special tribute and closing message.
Per his request, both services were conducted in the mode of a celebration of Pastor Larry’s life and home-going.
|I can just see them,
Walking on the shores together.
They’re talking with Jesus,
Safe and secure in His love.
Friends and loved ones
Walking in Heavenly peace.
And, I know if they could talk to me now,
Here’s what they’d say to me –
Wish you were here;
It’s such a beautiful place.
Wish you were here,
Nothing but clear sunny days.
It never rains, and no one complains,
And we haven’t seen a tear.
We’re having a great time,
Wish you were here.7
1 Titus 3:1-7
2 First Corinthians 15:54,55
3 What A Day That Will Be; Words/Music by Jim Hill, ©1955, 1983; Ben Speer Music
4 Ecclesiastes 3:1,2; paraphrased
5 Second Timothy 4:6-9
6 Matthew 25:23
7 Wish You Were Here, Words/Music by Michael C. Williams, ©Four Iron Publishing