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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

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

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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!

While I wasn’t there to actually hear Joseph’s sermon Sunday, I’ve read it and my good friend did as he always has every since I met him: delivered the Word of God faithfully.

The plight of King Jehoshaphat and his response has always been a great encouragement to me.  A modern version of his prayer is “Lord, we don’t have a clue, but we look to you!”  I have to say that I’ve personally felt that way in the last couple of months.  More than once I’ve played the what if game.  You each know the game and you know the rules.  It’s an unusual game though because no one ever wins, yet we play it all the time.

But as Joseph asked us to do, let’s take a new perspective on this and let’s play “What if” going the other direction.

What if: We had not left the old building and Mision Latina did not have that building.  Would they have been able to minister as they have now?

What if: Jerry Varnado hadn’t heard the Lord concerning his retirement and would have stayed at Gateway.  Would Joseph and Becky have been able to get things worked out with the Lord?

I like Joseph’s emphasis on repenting, truly turning around and changing direction.  Lets take that advice and look at things from a bit different perspective.  Lets look at Mark 4:35-41 for a bit of guidance in negotiating storms.

Notice verse 35:  On that same day [when] evening had come, He said to them, Let us go over to the other side [of the lake].  They responded to the Lord’s direction and went over to the other side.  They did exactly as he directed them.

The next verse clearly states:  they took Him with them, [just] as He was, in the boat [in which He was sitting].  Jesus was with them.  Then all hell breaks loose:

And a furious storm of wind [of hurricane proportions] arose, and the waves kept beating into the boat, so that it was already becoming filled.

They did what they were told, Jesus was with them and they find themselves in a storm of hurricane proportions.  How many times have you said “Boy if only I could see Jesus physically.  Then I would be ok.”  Well not only could they see him physically, HE WAS ASLEEP IN THE BOAT!!!!!  The storm hit anyway.

Jesus response has been discussed many times, but I want to ask a question that is pertinent to our situation.  What is the appropriate response to a storm when you are in it and waiting?

Do you bail water waiting?  If you take this approach, you might see an Angel standing there and saying, “Why stand ye here bailing?”  (Sorry couldn’t resist.) 

Do you simply sit in the boat and wait for your wazoo to get wet?

It’s obvious these professional fisherman who made their living on the water were in a bad way.  Do you just let the thing sink?

These are questions I have about this story.  Jesus calmed the water and the wind and then asked them where there faith was.  I don’t know what they were supposed to do in that situation.

In our case, I take great encouragement and faith from Joseph’s word.  I think there is more good news coming.  I’m excited about  our upcoming study on Nehemiah and Jack Hayford’s book, Rebuilding the Real You.  I think there are timely words of encouragement there as well.  I think it fits well with the new direction Joseph has asked us to consider.

I encourage you to read the book of Nehemiah this week.

Julia and I will be gone this Sunday so we are going to miss our adult class and the council meeting on Monday night.  I was going to try to have something prepared for handing out that will give you some guidance in the upcoming overview of Jack Hayford’s book “Rebuilding the Real You”.  But since I can’t do that, I thought I would blog it for you.

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The first class (Sept 19th) will set a background for the book.  I am going to give a brief testimony to tie together why I think this book is so powerful.  It is a very powerful book.  The concepts Jack brings forth are life changing and I want to give you a brief backdrop about why it is so important to me.  It will be very important for you to read the book of Nehemiah before you come to class.  If you are really ambitious, you could also read Ezra.  If you haven’t read these two books recently it would be a  good background for you.  Ezra will provide background for Nehemiah.  Depending on what type of Bible you use, you may have a good introduction about the book of Nehemiah.  If you don’t have a good introduction, then here is a link to a good overview of Nehemiah.

http://www.valleybible.net/Youth/Nehemiah/Summary.pdf

The reason I like the book so much is simple.  Jack Hayford addresses questions I’ve had and not been able to adequately answer.

If I’m saved, then why am I having so much trouble with issues from the past that seem to defy solution?

What is my responsibility in dealing with past issues and what is God’s responsibility?

Nehemiah has been a favorite book of mine for many years.  Charles Swindoll wrote a definitive management study of Nehemiah  “Hand Me Another Brick”.  His book made a very good analysis of Nehemiah’s management style.  (This is still one of my favorite books by Swindoll).  Jack Hayford however goes in a completely different direction.  Jack Hayford sees Nehemiah as a Holy Spirit “type” and the book is a picture of how the Holy Spirit works to rebuild your life after you experience the new birth.  This book is some 25 years old.  Evelyn told me last week that she was a member of Jack’s church for 8 years and she heard him do this teaching.  Talk to her on Sunday and ask her for her input.  She has a set of tapes that she says is completely worn out of Jack’s teaching on this.

I will have two weeks to communicate what’s in my heart about this important subject.  Join with me in prayer and ask God for guidance and an anointing beyond the normal for this very key study on September 19th and September 26th.

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.

I have been very busy this week, “back on the road again” so to speak.  I had a an interesting experience that I wanted to share though.  I think it is rather pertinent to our discussion on the “Secrets of the Vine”.

As I was headed towards Greensboro on I 40 and I saw a sign that said “RayLen vineyards and winery – tours this way.”  So … I went “this way”.

What a great experience.  It was exciting to shut off the phone and do something I wanted to do.  Especially since it was associated with our Sunday school class.  I stopped on the road as I went in and took this picture.  This was a row that hadn’t been pruned in a while as far as I could tell.  It was in need of pruning.  I was excited wondering if I would be able to see one in the mud on the ground but no such luck.

The Vineyard 007

I went up to the main office area and low and behold there was a wine tasting going on.  I walked in and met 4 of the friendliest people you could imagine.  They were delightful.  I told them I was there to learn about vineyards and that our class was studying John 15.  At that point I learned the make up of our little group.  There was a Baptist pastor and his wife, a Catholic lady that moved in from California and the man serving the wine informed us all that he was a reformed Presbyterian!  So add a Methodist and you have the makings of a fun wine tasting experience.

The Vineyard 005

I must admit I did taste the wine and I will also admit it was very good!  But the interesting part was the answers to the questions I asked.  I asked about vines growing along the ground.  I was told that wouldn’t happen there because they simply wouldn’t allow that to happen.  However he did tell me something interesting.  He told me that from the time things start happening in April until the harvest time in August/September they have problems all the time.  Insects, mites, fungus, rain and on and on it goes.  I think there is a good lesson here and I would love to talk about it in class on Sunday.

The Vineyard 011

Here you see the results of pruning.  I was quite interested in this because of the contrast with the first picture of the un-pruned first rows I saw coming in the vineyard.

The Vineyard 013

Here is a close up of the pruned branches.  (I wondered if it hurt when it saw the foliage on the ground?)

The Vineyard 009

Here is a section of grapes (can you see them there?) that hasn’t been pruned.

The Vineyard 008

Here is a section that is growing fruit and still to be pruned.

The Vineyard 013

Here is the closely pruned branch with grapes clearly showing.

Before I left I mentioned I was from Athens and they told me that Chateau Elan would be a great resource for us to talk to.  I spoke to Tom and I think it would be a great idea for us as a class to plan a Saturday trip to Chateau Elan and find out about growing grapes from the people that do it for a living!

What think ye?????