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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

The week of November 5th through the 12th I experienced a truly marvelous, life changing event at Onsite workshops.  I shared with our adult Sunday school class about how the Lord used that week to change my life and give me a new identity.  I even found my tie and wore it to church with my sport coat.  I did that to represent to everyone I am a new man.  Well sort of.

Last Thursday and Friday I became embroiled in a very nasty fight between a chapter of the boys and girls club and our neighborhood over (of all things) a soccer field.  Their neighborhood is next to ours separated by a buffer of trees.  Well it turns out they have acquired all of the land and started tearing out the trees and exposing us to the vandalism, gang violence and sexual misconduct of this particular neighborhood.  This is not a trivial issue.  Over the years the police have become good friends with us as they help us combat the crime coming from this particular neighborhood.  We had it under control.  Until last Thursday.  When all of this started happening I got involved with my neighbor and we went to talk to the people to find out what is going on.  The “discussion” escalated to the point of threats being made and much anger was expressed on both sides.  The police are again involved.  The planning commission is involved.

This is where the two Andy’s get involved.  The old Andy showed up to the meeting and the new Andy left the meeting.  The old Andy was like an F4 Phantom strafing a village with verbal napalm and guns blazing.  Not a nice picture.  The new Andy realized there was a real problem so as he turned around and left.  As he left he prayed: “Ok Lord ..  Now what?”.  It was at this point the Lord showed up and I recognized him.  In no way did I sense condemnation or guilt.  I just knew I had screwed up and wanted to know what to do to try to fix it.  It was like He walked with me through the mess and on the way home he gave me two visions.  I literally stopped in my tracks for them.

The first one was to apologize to everyone I had yelled at.  I have been married for 35 years so that’s not a problem.  But the second one bowled me over.  I got a picture of this neighborhood, the kids involved, and my home, and a picture of Gateway.  I can connect the dots pretty well when I have a clear picture.  The Lord clearly showed me there was an opportunity here for me to do what I had been asking Him for concerning Gateway.  I believe He was saying to me to get involved with this neighborhood and help them with the kids.  I also believe this is an opportunity for Gateway.

I was stunned but I went back home and made apology’s to everyone and I drove to the neighborhood to find the lady who was the primary target of my verbal strafing attack.  She was walking into her dilapidated “office” and when she saw me she stopped.  I told her why I was there and I asked for her forgiveness for being a complete jerk.  She smiled and thanked me and said she would.  We talked a bit and as I looked into her eyes I saw her and the whole neighborhood as God did.  I was humbled to say the least.  I was reminded of a saying I had heard before but one that simply bypassed my mind and my heart:

“If you want to go places you’ve never been, you’ll have to do things you’ve never done.”

I realized that for the “new” Andy to accomplish his heart’s desire to fulfill all God want’s me to be and do, I was going to have to walk places I’ve never been and do things I’ve never done and it was going to take a lot of faith to do it.  I’ve fought this neighborhood tooth and toenail for 21 years.  I’ve done everything I could to minimize their presence and I’ve fought them every step of the way.  Now, I believe the Lord is asking me to go there, help them and work with them.  He wants me to become involved in their lives.  I saw the vision and I recognize when the Lord is giving me an opportunity to do as Henry Blackaby said.  I have an opportunity to see where God is working and get involved.

In addition, I think as the Lay Leader of Gateway, the opportunity is for Gateway to reach out as well.  I believe this is a door for us to enter that will lead to ministry opportunities and community impact we have never considered or had the opportunity for.

I don’t know how it is going to play out.  I don’t know how I can possibly contribute to this mainly Hispanic immigrant neighborhood.  I have no clue.  But I do know someone who does know.  His name is Jesus.  As I left the neighborhood with a sense of awe I was reminded of Romans 4:18-20.  I don’t have the whole picture.  I do have a picture and I know a starting point.  I don’t know everything I will need to do to accomplish this, but I do know something.  So I am going to step up to the starting line and begin this race. 


Last Sunday, Frieda announced that Dr. Rudy Baker will be appointed as our interim pastor.  It is imperative that we prayerfully support Dr. Baker as he leads us during this critical time in the life of our congregation.  As such the church leadership has sent Dr. Baker a memo showing our support for his appointment.  I wanted to share the memo with you.

Dr.  Baker:

As you well know, Gateway has undergone some extreme changes in the last year.  After 25 years of pastoral stability, we’ve undergone 2 changes in a matter of months and we don’t have a permanent replacement in sight.  Dr.  Whetstone has been a tremendous ally in helping us work through these changes.  We are experiencing the strength of the connectional system as the district is helping us work through financial difficulties with our mortgage.

We have placed our confidence in the Lord and the proper authority structure of our district.  It is through prayer and careful consideration that you have been asked to serve as our interim pastor.  I believe I can speak for the leadership at Gateway we look forward to working with you.

A quick word about our congregation.  While our numbers have dwindled over the last couple of years, those that are left are committed to completing the mission God has given us: “Helping people experience God!”  We stepped out in faith to build our building.  We were able to complete our obligations for 3 years before things became unmanageable.  We do not understand why people chose to leave our congregation, but that is in the past.  We look to the future with hope and confidence that God will fulfill Phil 1:6 in the life of our congregation.

Our leadership is strong as we keep our eyes focused on Jesus.  You will be in our prayers as we believe the Lord has chosen you for the faith and unique set of skills you bring to Gateway in this time of need.

I look forward to meeting you and working with you.

In Christ,

Andy Hines
Lay Leader
Gateway Church

Recently I read an article in the USA Today called: The game-changer: spirituality.  The article is an attempt to prove that in order to be “spiritual” you don’t have to be religious.

As I read the article I was struck by two specific thoughts.

The first thought was this is designed to confuse people and make them “feel” good about life without having to deal with God.  Dennis Dennet (so called “new atheist”)  was quoted in the article: “I have times when I am just transported with awe and joy and a sense of peace and wonder at, whether it’s music or art or just a child playing or some other wonderful thing off of my sailboat, being amazed at the beauty of the Ocean.  I think people make the mistake of thinking that spirituality, in that sense, has anything to do with either religious doctrines or with immateriality or the supernatural.”  Romans address this very thing in chapter 1:

Rom 1:19-22 For that which is known about God is evident to them {and} made plain in their inner consciousness, because God [Himself] has shown it to them. For ever since the creation of the world His invisible nature {and} attributes, that is, His eternal power and divinity, have been made intelligible {and} clearly discernible in {and} through the things that have been made (His handiworks). So [men] are without excuse [altogether without any defense or justification], Because when they knew {and} recognized Him as God, they did not honor {and} glorify Him as God or give Him thanks. But instead they became futile {and} godless in their thinking [with vain imaginings, foolish reasoning, and stupid speculations] and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools [professing to be smart, they made simpletons of themselves].

Mr. Dennet and his ilk miss the point so badly.  God is all around them and showing himself strong on their behalf, yet (as Jesus said concerning Jerusalem) “Ye would not!”  This is sad not only for Mr.  Dennet, but for those who WANT the truth, yet in searching for it are led astray by this “spiritual” type of thinking.  That leads me to the second thought.

This is exactly the position Gateway was designed for.  We can be that safe harbor for people that are desperately in need of finding God.  Our mission is to help people experience God.  People are in a mess and need to find help in the storms of life.  Gateway understands storms.  Gateway and the people that worship God as members of Gateway are storm tested veterans that know how to negotiate difficult waters.  Our position is unique among most churches.  Gateway is not the Church you go to “feel better” about yourself.  Gateway is a church you go to to meet with God, get healed and wrestle with life changing issues.  Gateway is a shelter in a time of storm.  The people of Gateway model John 13:34-35 I give you a new commandment: that you should love one another. Just as I have loved you, so you too should love one another. By this shall all [men] know that you are My disciples, if you love one another [if you keep on showing love among yourselves].

As the storm rages and the winds of discouragement, doubt and unbelief blow with hurricane force, it is our assigned task to stand strong and be on the lookout for those who are caught in the ravages of sin and the worlds system.

Lord: Help us to keep our focus on you.  Help us to keep our eyes open for all who need shelter from the storms of life and welcome them with open arms!

2 Kin 5:8-14 When Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had rent his clothes, he sent to the king, asking, Why have you rent your clothes? Let Naaman come now to me and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel. So Naaman came with his horses and chariots and stopped at Elisha’s door. Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean.  But Naaman was angry and went away and said, Behold, I thought he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place and heal the leper. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? May I not wash in them and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage. And his servants came near and said to him, My father, if the prophet had bid you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much rather, then, when he says to you, Wash and be clean? Then he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, as the man of God had said, and his flesh was restored like that of a little child, and he was clean.

I think one of the most frustrating things for me is when I think I have God figured out and then when I’m not looking, He jumps out of the little box I’ve so carefully crafted for Him.  I can give you a great example.

I knew when we welcomed our new Pastor that God was getting ready to lead us into the promised land.  I knew we were going to grow and that the mortgage would be taken care of and we would grow to a strong congregation of 300 dedicated warriors for Christ ready and able to take the devil’s territory and hit him in the eye with a very sharp stick.  I knew it.  Boy, what was I thinking?

The story of Naaman should have been a tip off. 

The selection of David as king should have given me a clue.

I should have picked up on it when God said in Isaiah 55:8-9 For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, says the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.

God simply doesn’t see things like I do and He doesn’t think like I do.  Yet, He always gets it right while I struggle with the most basic of things.

Who would have thought that our Mission Statement “Helping people experience God” would have applied to our helping a fine man and his family experience God under the most stressful of conditions.  I sure didn’t see it coming.   When we prayed and asked God to provide the right guy for us, we all believed He did.  We simply didn’t have a clue that we were to help them experience God.

The prophet Jonah was provided a shade tree for a short period of time to help protect him from a difficult situation.  Gateway was a shade tree for a short period of time.

Now we regroup in faith and thankfulness.  We move forward in faith that God will continue to guide and lead us into the fulfillment of the ministry He’s called us to do, “helping people experience God”.

We move forward in thankfulness that we have such a creative God that meets peoples needs in the most wonderful ways!

Lord: Thank you for your creative wonder!  We look to you for sustenance, comfort and guidance as we move through the selection process again.

I was on a trip this week and had to pick a colleague up at the airport.  While waiting on him, I engaged in one of my favorite past times, watching people.  I noticed a young man with a t-shirt that had a slogan in bold on the back.  “Engage the culture” and then there were a couple of scriptures backing it up.

When I had the chance I asked him “Engage the culture, what does that look like?”.

“Huh?” he mumbled in surprised response.

“I noticed the back of your shirt and I wondered what engaging the culture looked like.”

“Oh that was a slogan from our church conference.”

Then he went on about his business and I went on about mine.  But I couldn’t shake the incident.  Here was a young man that boldly wore a shirt proclaiming the more than noble goal of engaging a corrupt culture for Christ and when asked about it, didn’t have a clue what it meant, let alone what it was.  To him, it was a shirt from a church conference.  Now I don’t want to be too hard on the young man and base opinions about him on one chance encounter in an airport.  Yet there is something about the encounter that disturbs me.  It’s not about the young man either.  It’s about me.

I hope that I don’t represent to God that I am willing to engage our modern culture for Christ and when an opportunity to do so arises, I miss it.  If I am going to “wear a shirt” proclaiming my willingness to engage, I better be ready to engage, or don’t wear the shirt!

Over the last couple of days my colleague and I have had ample opportunity to discuss Christ (he’s also a Christian) and I listened to his testimony.  He had a great statement that I think is worth holding on to.

He starts his day with this simple prayer: “Lord, I invite you to be a part of my life today.”

With that simple prayer he launches into the stress of corporate life, (no easy task I might add).

I think that’s a great prayer for me and I intend to use it each day as I launch out in my little boat into the deep waters of daily life.

Lord: I invite you into my life today.  Help me to be ready to engage the culture when the opportunity is presents itself.   If I am not ready, help me to get ready.