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Wit and Wisdom of Gateway Church Athens GA

As we begin our new church life … so too a new blog!

Category Archives: Daily Living

It seems like this is becoming a habit lately.

I was at the home office for a week’s meeting. I stayed until Thursday and while I normally would leave early in the morning (6-8 AM) I was unable to get out of town until around noon. I was planning to make the entire drive that day and it would have put me in Athens around 10:30 PM. But it didn’t work out that way. It was hot and I was in my business attire rather than my "travel" attire, so I was uncomfortable for the drive. Lexington is only 3 hours down the road, but I was so hot and tired I simply couldn’t make it past there comfortably. So I stayed in Lexington.

Later I got a call from the pastor indicating his lovely wife’s niece’s husband was in the hospital in Lexington after suffering brain surgery. Would I go see him? Sure I said so I get the particulars of the situation and away I go. I decided to ask for directions rather than GPS the address. It took 45 minutes to find something I could have GPS’ ed in 10 minutes. I wasn’t in a hurry and I decided against the technological answer. (This is actually key to the story!)

I arrived and met with the patient and had a wonderful 20 minutes or so of fellowship. I prayed and left. As I got on the elevator, a rather haggard looking woman got on with me. She looked really beat down. As I closed the door I asked her if she was ok, because she looked like she had a rough day.

She told me it had a been a horrible week. She came to do a brief visit with her dad and he had a stroke while she was there. There were some rather serious complications that developed and they had to put him in the hospital. His wife was in bed at home with severe depression. To top it off, her husband was at home and not available to help her. I told her I was just passing through and my pastor had asked me to stop and pray for someone. "Oh, are you a pastor?" I assured her I wasn’t but I was the lay leader of my church and I asked her if I could pray with her when she got to her car. At that she started to choke up and she said that would be a wonderful idea.

As we got to the car, I prayed using a model given to us at our last prayer training. I don’t remember exactly what I prayed but I do know I asked God to bless her and give her encouragement. She smiled at me and said she had asked the Lord that morning for some encouragement today and that I was it!

I smiled and as I left I thought about being an answer to someone’s prayer. What happened was a real encouragement for me in several ways:

First of all it tells me God is using the everyday elements of my life and speaking to me through them. I don’t normally get tired yet this time I was so tired I decided to stop at Lexington for the evening. Then when the pastor called, I was willing to go pray. I decided to take my time for once and skipped the whole technological thing and did the old "manual GPS" methodology we used in 70’s and 80’s. I asked directions and plowed my way through town to the hospital.

The folks I went to see are strong Christians and as such were armed with faith and gratitude for God’s goodness. While I was there several people came to see him and they too were strong in faith. As the crowd started to grow we held hands and prayed and I excused myself.

I assumed the people I was there to pray for was the purpose of my trip, but I don’t think it was. Meeting the lady on the elevator was the real reason. God is so meticulous about His timing, that he had me bag my GPS equipment and pursue a course that took just enough time for me to be there when the lady got on the elevator. Had I used the GPS I would have missed her.

We don’t know what impact a simple decision may have on others lives. My decision to stay in Lexington and my decision to go to the hospital and my decision to pray for a lady I had never met all came together in God’s timing to bless someone that so desperately needed it.

Isn’t God good!

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I had an experience yesterday that I find to be utterly amazing. I’m not at all surprised about God’s part in it, I’m just surprised He used me.

Tuesday as I was eating dinner, two Muslim women cut in front of me in line. They were fully garbed in Muslim dress and I just stood there. As I think back on it, I am sure I was glaring. As I “glared” at them, I had the most horrible series of thoughts go through my mind. The thoughts were simply right out of the pit of hell. I immediately told the Lord I was sorry, I hated the fact I thought those thoughts and worse, that they represented what I actually thought inside. I repented but I don’t think I asked for anything. I was really too ashamed to ask for anything. I just shook my head and moved on.

Fast forward to yesterday. I am on my way home and buzzing through Atlanta traffic. I had just talked to a friend for quite a while concerning prayer and a number of other church related issues. I hadn’t eaten and thought I would stop at one of my favorite restaurants to eat. I jumped off 85 and went there to eat. As I walked in, two Muslim women were in front of me in line. I stood there looking at them, not really thinking about anything. The taller of the two looked at me, smiled and told me to go ahead. I did and as I went by them, I sensed something about them that was stirring my spirit. I didn’t know what, but something. I ordered and as I walked down the line and started to pay, I looked back at them and I immediately saw a $20 bill flash in my mind. I was shocked and looked back at my tray and paid. I looked back at them again (thinking I might get a 10 or two 5’s) and again the $20 bill was there. I turned to the little Chinese lady running the cash register and gave her a twenty and told her to apply it to those ladies bill. She smiled and nodded.

I grabbed my food and split as fast as I could because I wanted to get out of line to avoid the ladies. I didn’t think it would be prudent to be there. I went to the farthest part of the dinning and room and sat purposely behind a post so they couldn’t see me. I made sure they couldn’t see me. I thanked the Lord for what He did, although I wasn’t sure of what He did. I looked up from my prayer and there was the little Chinese lady standing in front of me waving a 20 and pointing towards the cash register where two clearly confused Muslim women were standing and looking directly at me. The Chinese lady asked me if those two ladies were who I was talking about and then pointed directly at the two women. I was mortified but I said “Yes, that’s them”. She said (honestly she did) “Okray Dokrey” and smiled and walked off. The next thing I knew a very tall Muslim woman was standing beside me and said (with a huge smile) “Thank you”. I told her she was welcome and turned to finish lunch. I then heard as clear as a bell “Tell them you did that because you are a Christian”. At this point, I realize I haven’t eaten much because I lost my appetite about 5 minutes ago. So I got up, went over to their table and pulled out a chair and sat down. I had no clue what I was going to say. But as I opened my mouth here is what I told them: “I am a Christian and I wanted you to know that not all Christians hate Muslims. I believe the Lord told me to buy your lunch to let you know that He Loves you.” I don’t have words to describe their smiles. I asked their names. “I am Esra said the tall lady” “I am Wreeim” said the shorter lady. I asked her where she was from, she smiled a smile that was one of the most engaging smiles I’ve ever seen, “I’m, from Jerusalem!” Oh really I said. You know Bethlehem is close by don’t you. Her face kinda scrunched up with a bit of a confused look and Esra put her hand on my arm and said “I will explain to her” with a big smile. I smiled back and left.

Isn’t God good!!!!!!

One problem in talking about faith is actually using it. Don’t go to God and discuss faith issues with him unless you are willing to put YOUR faith on the line. I know what I am talking about because I speak from experience.

The last week, was a week of tests for me. I was involved in several business related issues that didn’t go as I had expected them to go. In fact, they went south. I might add, they went south in a hurry. I experienced being “thrown under a bus” by someone I had trusted. This was a good old fashion sneak up behind them and stick them in the back when they aren’t looking kind of thing. My beloved happened to be with me on the way to dinner when I got the unexpected back stabbing.

I would love to tell you I stopped the car, jumped outside and threw my arms in the air yelling “praise God for this opportunity to suffer for you Lord.” I would love to tell you that, but then I would be adding lying to the whole sordid mess. What did I do? I swore. Loudly I might add. My beloved didn’t say anything but I knew she was concerned. As we ate dinner, I thought about what had just happened. Normally, I would sulk and pout and whine about it. I didn’t do that this time. Well at least I didn’t do it as long as I normally do.

I kept quiet and when I got home I asked the Lord what to do? The distinct impression I got was to do nothing. Don’t dig into it until the morning. My beloved asked me a question after we watched Gibbs, Kate, Ducky, Abbey and Denozo work through another sticky situation on NCIS. (Boy, wouldn’t it be nice to work through every situation in 45 minutes with time for several commercials as well thus stretching the problem out to an hour with a neat and tidy bow on it at the end.) I told her I didn’t want to deal with it until tomorrow.

When the morning came I sat down refreshed and ready to do digital combat with the former friend turned villain that so treacherously stuck me in the back when I wasn’t looking. As I started, I began blasting out an e-mail worthy of John Steinbeck, John Ludlum or Margaret Mitchell. It was awesome. When I was ¾ of the way through it, I asked the Lord to comment, and He did. I began to see scripture and how it tied to this situation. I saw 1st Corinthians 13 in a new light. I saw how the Lord wanted me to respond. Here are the distinct impressions I got:

 

  1. First of all don’t return evil for evil. Galatians tells us that.
  2. Love doesn’t keep track of wrongs suffered. 1st Corinthians tells us that.
  3. Jesus, when confronted with wrong doing, kept his mouth shut not responding to his opponents.
  4. Jesus relied upon God to respond for him. He didn’t respond on his own.

 

Well with this in mind, I asked the Lord to help me write a professional response that dealt with the issues raised without attacking or trashing the person involved. It took 4 hours, but was worth the struggle. The final document accomplished the goal of alerting everyone to the problem at hand, but did not respond in kind to the person involved.

This faith thing is tough. I’m determined to get it right though. In the process I sense the Lord making progress in my life. That’s a good thing.

Lord: Help me to respond to situations like this one consistently in a way that honors you and helps me to grow in Christ.

Hebrews 11:1 Amplified Bible

NOW FAITH is the assurance (the confirmation, the title deed) of the things [we] hope for, being the proof of things [we] do not see {and} the conviction of their reality [faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses].

​Over the last several months, I’ve been looking very closely at Biblical faith and what it means.  I’ve always been one to read something and then try to figure out how it applies to me.  So it has been with the subject of faith.  I’ve really been trying to get my arms around Biblical faith and what it means for us to operate in faith.  I want to please God.  I want to do what He wants me to do.  I want to be what He wants me to be.  But in order for me to fulfill these lofty goals, I better understand faith.  Hebrews 11:6 adds a bit more fuel to the fire so to speak:

Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please {and} be satisfactory to Him. For whoever would come near to God must [necessarily] believe that God exists and that He is the rewarder of those who earnestly {and} diligently seek Him [out].

I believe the Lord has given me some guidance on this topic and I felt so strongly about it I asked Tom if I might have some time to discuss it with the class. He graciously agreed and so this Sunday during our class in the “blue room”, I want to dive into this subject and see how we can make it applicable to our daily lives.  It’s clear that faith is vital to our walk with God.  I wonder if we give it enough due consideration for it to be a force in our lives.

Take some time today or tomorrow and read the 11th chapter of Hebrews, the “hall of faith” and then meditate on it.  We are going to look at some very practical things and attempt to tie them to our daily lives at Gateway.

I look forward to seeing you on Sunday!

​Andy

PS:  Right after I posted the original blog, I received this timely “Small Straws” update:

SMALL STRAWS IN A SOFT WIND by Marsha Burns — 4/29/11:

I saw the letters “TGH”. What does this mean, LORD? “To Greater Heights!” It is time for you to go forth with a sense of action, adventure, excitement and expectation. If you stay where you are spiritually, you will miss out on one of the greatest moves of My Spirit that has ever been. Watch for opportunities to launch out in faith and do what I’ve given you to do. Be courageous, and refuse to allow fear to keep you from My HIGHEST and best, says the Lord.

Luke 5:4 When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”

If you don’t know about “Small Straws in a soft wind”, it is a prophetic ministry that has been so timely and uplifting in my life.  I encourage you to check out Marsha Burns ministry as well as sign up for the daily word she sends out.  Ms. Missy was the first person to tell me about this wonderful ministry. 

Here is the link to sign up:  http://ft111.com/

On Feb 6th I was the guest speaker at Mision Latina in Athens.  My good friend Roque and my “should-have-been-my-daughter” Claire came along for the ride.

The entire experience was enchanted.  From the moment I walked into the building I was warmly greeted and I felt as if I belonged there.  A little more than 22 years ago was the first day I stepped into this ancient edifice.

Sunday represented a full circle for me, and I might add a very emotional one.  Mision Latina has taken this building and done about all they can with it.  As my good friend Joseph Slife once said, “It’s hard to do 21st century ministry in a 19th century building”.  Yet, Mision Latina is doing just that.  As the service opened, there were testimonies of God’s faithfulness and love.  One particular testimony stood out to me.  (I will get back to this testimony in a little bit.)

As the singing opened, the Holy Spirit touched my heart and I simply drank in the love and worship these brothers and sisters in the Lord offered to God.  The more they sang, the deeper I was drawn into their lives.  Since I don’t understand Spanish and I don’t sing well I was able to enjoy the worship time in a special way.  I closed my eyes and began to sing in the spirit.  It sounded a bit like Spanish, so I blended right in.  As they progressed through the songs I watched each participant as they played their instruments and they danced and worshiped and sang to the Lord.  I was so overwhelmed by the love and mercy of God that I understood why Peter said at the Mount of Transfiguration, “Let’s just build a house and stay here.”  It was that good.

When it came time for me to speak, Haydee introduced me and Efrain was the translator.  While I don’t speak Spanish fluently, the 4 years of Spanish 1 I flunked in school has left its mark on me.  I can read Spanish and not do too bad a job of pronunciation.  Using Google translator, I developed some phrases that spoke of the desire of my heart.  We prayed and I launched into my talk.

I spoke of Mark 4:35-41 and Acts 12:1-8.  The term that developed from this talk was “La Pista de la vida” or the “Life track”.  Basically the idea is in the book of Mark, Peter saw Jesus asleep in the back of the boat during a life threatening storm.  In the book of Acts Peter had learned how to be peaceful in the eye of the storm as he slept soundly the night before he was to be executed.  I wanted them to experience this type of peace in the storms of life they face.

I told them how there were issues we needed to deal with up-front.   They are my born again brothers and sisters in the Lord and they have documentation problems.   How do we deal with it?  Not all of them have documentation problems, but many do.  So the question is what do we do as Christians to walk in God’s love and help one another?  I saw how these dear friends live in constant fear because of these problems.  What do we do?  I told them I didn’t care what the democrats say or what the republicans say.  I want to know what God says about it.

One of the basic elements of the Christian faith is to put yourself in someone else’s shoes.  When I do that, I see things in a completely different light.  As I said earlier, one man spoke of how he came to the United States.  He was from El Salvador.  He was working there and making $270 a month.  He wanted to send his kids to college and needed a better job, so he came to the United States.  When I heard his testimony I was cut to the quick.  He was making $270 a MONTH!  I reflected to the Lord quietly my shame.  I am quite capable of going into Best Buy and blowing $270 on some electronic gizmo I don’t need simply to have a “new and improved” version, and to my eternal shame, I wouldn’t think twice about it.  Oh God forgive me please!

1st Samuel 18:1 As soon as he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. 

This is what has happened to me.  Efrain Diaz is as Jonathan unto me.  I love this man and I thank God daily for bringing him into my life.  I thank God for bringing the plight of my Hispanic/Latino brothers and sisters in Christ into my heart.  There is nothing I can do at this time more important than to help them alleviate fear and walk in peace.  This will be a tough road though, yet I am in the boat with them.  Where their boat goes I go.  Their storms are my storms.  Their victories are my victories.

Lord: I have no answers to the difficult questions we need to answer, but you do.  Help me to listen oh so carefully as we move forward.  Give me courage to act on what you tell me to do and go where you tell me to go.  Bring across our paths the resources and ideas you want us to pursue.  Help my brothers and sisters in Christ and use me anyway you want to help them Lord.

As I began my trip this week I am flying for the first time in many years.  I don’t like flying anymore for a number of reasons, but this week, I fly.  So while I was at the Atlanta airport I prayed and asked the Lord to show me someone today I could minister to or pray with.  Fast forward to Houston airport.

I was wandering around waiting on my connection when I walked past a shoe shine place.  My shoes needed a shine so I saw a guy on the end and went over to his chair.  He didn’t say a word and immediately left.  A young lady was taking his place and I asked her if she could do these shoes.  “Sure, please sit down.”  So I did.  I noticed she had a smile from here to there and I was immediately caught by her joyful personality.  Then I looked down and saw a small, leather Bible.  I asked her if this was her’s and she said it was.  I opened it and noticed a ton of underlining in it.  I also noticed she was a big reader of the prophets, Samuel, David and old testament history.  I asked her about her reading and what was her favorite scripture.  At that point God took over and I simply sat there transfixed as I believe God spoke to me while He shined my shoes!

Her name is Tina and she is from Nigeria.  She told me her favorite Scripture was John 5, the story of the beggar being healed at the pool of Bethesda.  Then she told me of her journey to the US.  She and her husband went to Nigerian embassy to get Visa’s to come to US in 2003.  They were rejected for no reason, but she told me when they stamped her application rejected, it was a final action, there was no appeal.  Her husband was crushed, but not Tina.  Tina told her husband that they were not rejected until God said they were rejected.  She pointed out to me that as she read John 5, the Lord showed her that she and the beggar and been rejected because the process had broken down.  The process for healing the beggar broke down because people would not take him to the pool when the water stirred.  Jesus bypassed the process there and He would bypass this process too.  She told her husband who immediately told her she was nuts.  She told him she was not nuts and they were going to an Assembly of God camp in the mountains to pray.  They went to this camp for 5 days and prayed about this and read scriptures.  When they came back it was new years eve 2003 and she had not looked at e-mail for a long period of time so she checked her e-mail.  There was an email from a person she didn’t know but when she opened it there was a letter she was to print out and take to the embassy giving her authorization for a Visa.  What did Tina do?  She grabbed her husband and went back to the Assembly of God camp for a full week of fasting and prayer over this letter before she took it to the embassy.  She told me they didn’t even drink water until 6 pm in the evening.  She went back to the embassy with the letter and was sent to the exact person that had rejected her the first time.  She gave him the letter and (as much as is possible for a Nigerian) his face turned “white” and he started mumbling about “why didn’t you tell me you knew this person”.  She was given a Visa and is now an American citizen as is her husband.  She is in school to be a teacher and as she told me this, they called my flight and I stood up.  She looked at me with a smile only God could give and said “Andy, with God NOTHING is impossible!”  I was overcome with the emotion of the moment and as I started to leave I asked her if I could pray with her.  She said yes and I prayed with her and I left assured of God’s wonderful provision.

There is a lesson here for both Gateway churches.  Our’s in Athens and our sister ship in Shreveport.  That is the overwhelming importance of prayer.   This little lady just grabbed God and said I need a Visa and God said “Well ok, you’ll get one!”  As we move forward under the Gateway team leadership, we will see God do miracle after miracle if we dedicate ourselves to prayer.  Steve Brown’s book “Approaching God” has given me some real encouragement about how to be a person of prayer and I hope to finish the book while I am on this trip so I can get the information down on paper for us to review.

God answered my simple prayer to provide me someone to pray with.  He answered Tina’s prayer by providing a way for her to get a Visa.  He will answer our prayers for souls for the kingdom as well.  We simply have to make it a priority above all things.  He’s just waiting on us.

Lord: Give us the courage and perseverance Tina showed as she waded through her Visa application “process”.  Thank you for her and her husband coming to America and I pray for her schooling and ask you to bless her studies and her faith.  Give us a heart to pray for those who like Tina want to come to America but are blocked by the process.  Show us how we can help those you lead to us understand that “with God, NOTHING is impossible”.

Julia and I are in snowy Albuquerque enjoying a relaxing Thanksgiving morning.  We are now two hours behind Athens.  We crossed Mountain time last night and didn’t calculate travel time correctly (that is my responsibility) so we had an extra hour in the car with each other.  Can you say … Tired!!!!!

I wanted to share with you about our time in Shreveport with our former pastor and his wife.  Richard Exley was our pastor in Tulsa for 7 years.  He retired from pastoral ministry years ago and has been working as an evangelist and traveling pastor for many years.  He was recently called back into pastoral ministry at a church in Shreveport named “Gateway”.

Julia and I met with him at the church and while he was on a phone call, I made myself at home and I “explored” (snooping is probably a more appropriate word) the church.  As I did, I talked to the Lord about the real “Gateway”.  I shared my desire to see our wonderful church fulfill our destiny.  As I walked around I saw a huge church.  One that was split under the previous leadership team.  They had a huge debt and a very small congregation.  Yet under the right leadership, they have bounced back.  They have grown from 200 to 300 in under a year.  Their children’s ministry has gone from 11 small kids to 58 last week.  Their homeless ministry has grown.

Richard bought our lunch and we left.  On the way to Dallas, I thought about our ministry in Athens and their ministry in Shreveport.  This is the second church the Lord has entrusted to Richard’s care that was in financial difficulty.  Christian Chapel in Tulsa was the other one.  Both churches were in desperate financial conditions.  The Lord used different methods for deliverance, but deliverance indeed came to Christian Chapel and is now flowing through Gateway in Shreveport.

There are a couple of lessons here.  The first one is that with God NOTHING is impossible.  So lets set that as our foundation.  NOTHING is impossible.

The second lesson is with the right leadership, a church grows and begins to flex her strength.  Gateway will grow and will flourish as the Lord brings the right leader to us.  I believe that leader is on the way.

God is sending us a man that I believe will enable us to fulfill the calling God has given to us: “Helping people experience God”.

As the lay leader, I’m going to make a plea to all of us.  I am asking everyone to enter into extensive prayer for Gateway church of Shreveport.  Julia and I will be on our way back from Vegas a week from this coming Sunday.  We are going to attend Church in Shreveport at Gateway church.  We are going to ask them to become our “sister” church and join us in prayer for our ministry.  I am also telling them we will join in prayer for them.

I am very encouraged about how God is leading us.  We’ve been through some storms for sure.  Yet, the boat is still floating and regardless of the wind and waves we are beginning to get some positive direction and leadership.

Julia and I are sitting in a hotel in Albuquerque awaiting the roads to clear of ice and snow.  She told me before we left that we would run into snow and ice.  I told her no way.  She wanted to go through El Paso.  I told her no way.  I would rather fight snow and ice than drug dealers, but, I assured her, it won’t snow and we’ll be fine.  So much for my ministry as a prophet!

I hope all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. 

Don’t forget to pray for Gateway of Shreveport!

One last word though …

I had seen a show on TV about a hamburger joint in Amarillo Texas that served a “burger from hell” with every kind of pepper and hot sauce you could imagine.  Well we were  going through Amarillo and I thought .. hmmmm  … lets take on this particular burger and see what she’s got!

 

Well I found the place I told the creator of the “burger from hell” to “bring it on!”.  They did!

burger from hell

And the deal was on as we dove in …

captivate pictures 085

So much for the “burger from hell”!!!!

Buger from hell handeled

I just wanted you to know, we were spreading the Gospel and attacking Hell’s gates and Burgers where ever we travel!