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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: Encouragement

Friday night at 6 pm is an important night for Gateway and Mison Latina. We are meeting to have our second prayer and healing services. This one is a bit different. Our dear brothers and sisters at Mison Latina have been going through some really tough times recently and we are gathering to fellowship with them and encourage them. I think it is important that we show our strong support for our brothers and sisters in Christ and use this time to pray for them and encourage them.

There will be praise music prayer and food! Dinner starts at 6 pm. I will be there around 5 pm to start setting up tables so if anyone can come and help then I’ll see you there!

Also, don’t forget Saturday the 5th at Mike and Claudia Woodruffs!  Bring your  bathing suit and fishing pole and lets eat some hot dogs and burgers!  Maybe we can get sun burned at the same time!

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Tom called me the other day and told me he wasn’t going to be able to be in class on Sunday. We talked about going over the last chapter of the book but he basically told me to do whatever the Lord and I decided on. So I’ve been thinking about it and mulling over Sunday and suddenly, a thought came dancing across the fertile fields of my mind. Get people’s input and feedback on the class by giving them a couple of questions to ponder.

Good idea Lord, bet you wish you would have thought of it first huh?

So I have some questions for you to ponder. The goal here is to pick one and plan on sharing on Sunday your answers.

  1. How has your life been touched by the class?
  2. How has your life been changed by the class?
  3. Were there any tough places the class touched in your life? (Did the Lord touch some really sore areas)
  4. What is the one thing you took away from the class that you will remember the most?

I personally am going to answer question 4. I thought about doing it here, but I’m going to wait until Sunday. In order for this to work, we all need to be there and start on time. If you are late, come in anyway, you are among friends! I plan on starting at exactly 09:30, give or take 15 minutes. That will ensure we have time for all to speak. For example, let’s say there are 15 people there. Then each would get about 3 minutes. We all know it won’t be this structured, but humor me and let me think it will until Sunday.

Personally, I want to thank Tom Crane for his faithfulness in teaching this class. He has been a faithful friend and servant of the Lord whose heart reflects the Love of Jesus and a desire to be the best he can be for Christ. It was a wonderful class full of challenges and the love of Christ.

I will see you all on Sunday!

The Lay Leader

There was a time in my Christian faith when my goals were lofty and my confidence was high because I KNEW what God was up to and I KNEW He was going to use me to accomplish great things. I KNEW it. Boy, what was I thinking!

I spoke recently with a good friend in Tulsa and asked him this question:

If you were in a Sunday School class with a young couple just married and full of Christian zeal, what one thing would you tell them that you KNEW when you were their age that has changed with your advancing years (he’s a couple of years older than me)?

Jim is a wise man and has been through many wars. He is a veteran whose wisdom I highly prize. His answer was clear and precise. “I don’t have as many answers or responsibilities as I used to have.” Translation: He doesn’t know it all and he is no longer taking responsibility for things that are really none of his business anyway. David says he doesn’t bother himself with things too great for him.

Ps 131:1 O LORD, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty; Nor do I involve myself in great matters, Or in things too difficult for me.

I have a confession to make. I’ve committed the sin of worry. Worry is really getting involved in things you have no business being involved in. I’ve worried about oh so many things. I’ve worried about work. If I don’t get the crisis of the moment solved, will I get fired? Will I get a bad review? If I get fired, what will I do? What would I say to Julia? What about Gateway? What have I not done to help us grow? What about my internal failings? What will I do if something happens to Julia? I’ll be alone. What then? What about this and what about that and is God mad at me because I didn’t do this or because I did do that. What will the boss think and so forth and so on. I stand before you and confess this mess right now. I’m embarrassed because I’ve not operated in the very venue I encourage people to operate in. I want to operate in faith. I want to be what God wants me to be. I want to be helpful to Gateway. I just can’t help anyone while operating in fear. (None of you can either!)

God’s not mad though. That’s the good news here. He’s not mad at me. Actually I think we are both somewhat relieved because it is finally dawning on my lightening quick mind that I don’t have answers to most of the questions I have and in many cases pursuing some of the answers is a waste of time. God knew it. Julia knew it. Andy seems to be the late bloomer here. Again though, that’s not a bad thing. I am learning.

I experienced a real jolt of faith today. Mison Latina and the Hispanic community in our area have been devastated with the new immigration law passed last week. I spoke with Efrain and Haydée and they explained to me how it has affected Hispanic congregations. I’ve been thinking and praying for them. I love them so dearly and want to help them so much. I worry about them, all of them. (Do you see a pattern here?). Well I told Haydée that I wanted to come over Sunday and worship with them. She readily agreed and I made plans to go. Well, I just got a sense that I needed to ask Roque to go with me. So we headed over to worship with them. Of course, I KNEW the Lord was going to use me and my superior knowledge of three Spanish words to speak some words of encouragement that would uplift everyone. Boy, what was I thinking?

During the singing, Roque leaned over and told me that he felt the Lord gave him something to share with them. I told Efrain and when Roque got up and started to speak, I watched the congregation. They were captured by his testimony. I watched as they kept their eyes glued to every word he spoke. Some of my good friends there were wiping tears from their eyes. They nodded their heads in approval. I was getting nervous about the time. Then the Lord quickened to me to cool my jets and let him be. It was obvious Roque was the reason we were there, not Andy.

Oh Lord: PLEASE forgive me for my arrogance and pride. Thank you for men of wisdom and experience like Roque. His simple act of obedience brought words of encouragement to a group of people that so desperately needed it. Thank you Lord.

Two Sundays ago I taught a Bible study at church talking about living in faith and walking by faith and not by sight.  The Lord convinced me I was to teach this.  I spoke to Tom about it and He agreed, it was the right thing to do.  This week I had abundant opportunity to practice my new found truths

This has been a week of extremes for me.  Extreme pressure, extreme hours, more extreme pressure and of course, travel.  A couple of days ago, I had responded poorly to a challenge I had been presented with.  Quite frankly, I responded in a not so Christ like way.  I remember thinking almost aloud while sitting in the car at the hotel: “It’s like I am two separate people.  There are times the good Dr. Jekyll is speaking and other times it is the evil Mr. Hyde.”  There is the good Andy and the bad Andy, but there is definitely two Andy’s.  I didn’t give it much thought as I had a lot of training to do.

The next morning (Thursday morning) after an allergy riddled night, I stepped out of the shower and suddenly I remembered a document I received at Onsite last November.  I was so caught unaware, that I simply stood there almost speechless.

An old Cherokee Chief was speaking to a young warrior.  He told him there were two wolves that lived inside of him.  A good wolf and a bad wolf.  They were constantly fighting.  The young warrior asked him, “Who will win?”  The wise old chief answered “The one you feed the most.”

I got goose bumps galore and in a flash, I saw something I had been told, but it didn’t sink in until this morning in the shower in a hotel in Asheville NC.  I am a task oriented person for sure. I want a formulae to work with, something I can do that makes me feel like I am accomplishing something.  I’ve not been able to overcome things in my life that are driving me batty!  I’ve tried and tried and tried, but to no avail.  Gritting my teeth and trying harder produces less results and more frustration.  That clearly isn’t the answer.

But here, in a lonely hotel room under all kinds of pressure, the Lord in his infinite kindness gave me an answer to a question I asked just the day before.  The answer came at the right time, in the right manner for me to understand.  My problem is, I’m feeding the wrong wolf.  Suddenly pieces of the puzzle of my life just plopped into place.  I had a key to my life.  Well, at least the key to a door I couldn’t seem to get through.  Stop feeding the bad wolf and feed the good wolf!  Simple yet profound.  Profound yet something I can do.  Simply stop feeding the bad wolf!  Wow!  My heart was full of hope.  I sensed the Lord smiling as one of his kids “gets it”.

I finished drying off, got dressed and logged on to prepare for my day by reading Small Straws in a Soft Wind by Marsha Burns.  This was for 5-12-2011:.

Haven’t I said that I would give you the treasures of darkness and hidden riches in secret places?  Stop and ponder.  You will find that I have brought the light of revelation in areas of your life that you didn’t even expect.  Rejoice that you are growing in understanding because this understanding will make you more effective in My kingdom, says the Lord.  I have given you a taste and a glimpse of My glory, which will make you desire even more.

  Isaiah 45:3 I will give you the treasures of darkness and hidden riches of secret places, that you may know that I, the LORD, Who call you by your name, Am the God of Israel.

Oh most gracious Lord …. Thank you for your patience and kindness.  Thank you for teaching me in a way I can understand.  Forgive me for being so slow Lord but thank you for your secret places.

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.

What a wonderful meeting we had at Gateway last night.  The weather didn’t hold us back from meeting with Mision Latina to discuss going forward with our joint healing and praise service on February 13th.

In attendance for Gateway was Roque, Nancy, Andy, Tom A & Tom C and Rusty, with Frieda in the bullpen praying for us.

In attendance for Mision Latina was Alex, Carlos, Angela, Haydee and Efrain.

Tom A opened with prayer and we opened discussion with how to proceed with our Feb 13th prayer, praise and healing service.  We discussed other points of common interest such as children’s Easter egg hunt, homeless ministry and common interests.  There was such a wonderful spirit of love for each other that I simply can’t find the words to describe how I felt.  Haydee prayed to close and Efrain translated.  This is the second time I have been in Gateway when Haydee prayed with me.  The Holy Spirit shows Himself strong when this lady prays.  Tom C spoke to me last night and commented on the power of her prayer.

I sense as I haven’t sensed before this is where Gateway begins a new phase of ministry.  2011 will be a year of wonderment at what God will do.  People are going to be healed, saved and delivered from demons.  This is what we are called to do.  All of the work Jerry and Beverly did built a strong foundation for us.  They got us ready to go forward and now, as a group, as a team we go forward to fulfilling that which God called us to do, “Helping People Experience God!”

It is vital that we pray for the Feb 13th meeting.  The enemy will do all he can to stop this joint effort.  I believe the Lord is going to use our partnership with Mision Latina to begin to heal the rift between the Anglo and Latina communities.  God is in the healing business.  I believe this will be the start of a work in the Athens area that will spread to Atlanta and other communities as a model of how to work together in Christian love to honor God, each other and overcome cultural barriers that have long separated us.

Efrain and I were talking the other day.  He told me the Lord laid a specific scripture on his heart and he wanted me to look at it.

Revelation 5:8-13 (ESV)

8 And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9 And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, 10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” 11 Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” 13 And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”

He pointed out to me that the prayers of the saints are being presented to God in golden bowls that are FULL.  That means they have been going on for a while.  He also pointed out that Jesus’s blood ransomed EVERY tribe and tongue.  That would include Latina and Anglo as well as German, Russian, Abyssinian, Arab and anyone else in the world!

I believe the Lord is giving us an opportunity to do something special.  We are going to walk hand in hand with the Latina community to worship God and to love and help one another to become the people of God He desires us to be.  We as a body will experience God as we reach out to others who are different and realize they worship the same Lord we do.  They are not different from us nor we from them in the crucial elements of the faith.  Oh there are differences for sure.  I am excited to experience those differences under the banner of the Lord Jesus Christ.  I am even more excited to see people in the community come for healing and be healed as Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the risen Lord and Saviour does in 2011 what he did in the new testament, “destroy the works of the devil!”

Lord: We love you and each other.  Help the love we feel for one another grow.  In areas where we don’t love one another, give us courage to bring those areas to you for healing.  Thank you for what you are doing in our community.  Help us to go forward together as one under the strong banner of the Lion of Judah!