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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: Grafting In

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

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“If you believe in Jesus, you will not spend all your time in the smooth waters just inside the harbour, full of exhilaration and delight, but always moored; you will have to go out through the harbour bar into the great deeps of God and begin to know for yourself, begin to get spiritual discernment.  If you do not cut the moorings, God will have to break them with a storm and send you out!” – Oswald Chambers Devotional Bible February 21st.

I have been called to jury duty this week and while awaiting the selection process I was given a couple of hours for lunch.  I proceeded to Barnes and Noble and as I was eating lunch, I received a vision.  It was a powerful vision that affected my breathing, my posture and I believe my life.

I saw a large three masted ship leaving a harbour at a good clip.

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It was headed out into the open seas.  I was standing on the deck and looking out the starboard side.  I could see the swells starting to build.  I could actually feel the ship moving and I adjusted my position in my seat at the bookstore to accommodate the change in the ships pitch and roll.  I looked over the side and could sense the water beginning to move.  My breathing began to pickup as I looked at the back of the ship and saw 5 “banding lines” of the type used to hold paper goods on a pallet, trailing from the ship and going back to the dock.  They were attached to the dock.  The banding lines were small and quite incapable of holding the ship to the dock.  The Lord then quickened to me the banding lines represented the things that have held me back in life.  I saw the ship was headed out to the deep open sea with an open sky and an unlimited horizon.  What was going to break the lines was the act of leaving the harbour, not waiting for the lines to be broken before I left the harbor.

As the vision faded I realized my heart beat was much faster and I had just seen that my time had come.  My ship was leaving the harbour and I was no longer going to be bound to the dock.  As I started to think through the vision, I began to see some things I hadn’t really understood before.

Things I had experienced over the last couple of months and wasn’t quite sure of why was because my ship was preparing to leave the harbour for the open waters.

I also began to realize I have been in harbour for a long time, trying to get the bands off the ship before I sailed.  I thought I had to get these things fixed in order to sail.  But it was actually the act of sailing that broke the banding lines that entangled my life.  It was in the act of leaving for the open seas that will break the lines.  I don’t have to worry about them, I simply need to look out the front of the ship and not worry about those lines, they will be broken for good, and they will no longer inhibit my ship from moving.  Since I am in a wind driven ship (ie: the Holy Spirit) I don’t have to worry about them fouling the propeller or anything like it. 

Mark 4:35 is the story of the storm and Jesus asleep in the back of the boat.  The whole story started with a command: “Lets cross over to the other side.”  As Paul Harvey would have said, “Now for the rest of the story.”

I’ve heard the Lord say a couple of things to me: “Whom shall I send to the Hispanic Mission field?”  I said “I’ll go Lord.”  “Ok” He said, “Let’s go over to the other side.”  I am in the boat and it’s leaving the harbour, heading for “the other side.”  Yes there will be storms ahead, big storms.  But I don’t want to stay in the harbour any longer.  I sense the Lord’s timing is right.  I’m where I’m supposed to be.  We are headed for the deep.  When I look at the people I have looked up to and wanted to be like in my life, they are people who have accomplished great things.  Lewis and Clarke, Earnest Shackleton, the Apostles Peter and Paul as well as many others.  All left the safe harbour of life and attempted to do great things.  Some made it, some didn’t but they all tried.  Well, I believe God has given me a charge and I’m going after it.

As the Lay Leader of Gateway, I ask you to pray for us as a church and for me as your friend and Lay Leader.  I believe God is getting ready to do a great work in our lives.  My boat is much larger than I can manage on my own and I need shipmates to help.  Anyone want to go for a boat ride????

Lord: I think of the great Irish seaman’s prayer.  Oh Lord, your sea is so big and my ship is so small.  Help me lord navigate to the other side and help mis hermanos y hermanas as they wade through the immigration morass in this country.  Help me to see them and their situation as you do and to keep focused on you and your Word as we sail this sea together.

Thanks Lord.

Now full speed ahead mates!

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!

As I sit here on Christmas day enjoying the bounty God has been so gracious to give Julia and I, I think about 2010 and how it has impacted Gateway.  On January 2nd, we will have our new pastor, Tom Atkins.  Since June 2010 he will be our 4th pastor.  There were times I didn’t know if we would make it.  There were times I didn’t know if I would make it.  Yet, here we are at the end of the year.  The smoke has cleared, the dust has settled and the smoke has cleared and we are still standing.  Praise God!

Over the last year, God has been stirring my heart.  I have sensed the Lord showing me bits and pieces of my personal calling at Gateway and a picture of the impact he want’s Gateway to have on our community.  Let me talk of the last two months and their impact on me.

In November I spent a week at Onsite.  A week in which the Lord gave me courage and delivered me from fear.  A week that forever changed my life.  Then I learned our new pastor would be Tom Atkins.  That filled my heart with hope and anticipation.  Julia and I left for Las Vegas for my company’s annual meeting.  On the way I spoke with Tom and he told me he wanted everyone to read “Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire” by Jim Cymbala.  Julia and I had read the book years ago, but since we were on the road, we downloaded the audible version and listened to it.  As John Wesley stated, “My heart was strangely warmed.”  This book provided the Biblical model I was searching for.  We don’t need a church growth seminar, a church growth program or pledge drives to grow Gateway.  We need the Holy Spirit to move in the minds and hearts of men and women.

I announced at church I would be at the church Wednesday night to pray.  A group showed up and we prayed.  As we prayed we asked the Lord to show us how we can minister and to whom.  “Send us who you want us to minister to Lord!”  This was our prayer.  As we were praying, we heard a knock on the front door and we looked up and pastor Efrin Diaz was there.  His daughter had just died from cancer and we were offering our church to them as a place to hold her memorial service.  As he came in we started praying for him.  Freida prayed with strength for him as she and Alton both know the pain of losing a child.  I agreed to help with the meeting and since it would be a Spanish speaking affair, I grabbed Roque and we went.

Wow is about the only way I can describe the event.   The place was packed wall to wall with every chair we had being occupied and there were still people standing. The service started and I was in the sound booth with the pastor and as the service progressed.  The singing was anointed as none I have heard for years.  The Holy Spirit moved and I was able to see God at work in the life of believers as they mourned the loss of a loved one, yet rejoiced at her grand entry into her eternal home.  I saw the dignity of a family of Christians as they portrayed her life on screen.  I began to weep as I saw them show her at her peak and then as her health and body declined, they showed that as well.  Finally they showed a picture of her in her bed just before she passed away.  I saw how they faced death with courage and faith.  I saw their tears and I wept with them for a young woman I had never met.  Her impact on the world for Jesus Christ was obvious.  I saw the joy of Jesus Christ as they worshiped Him for a life well lived and the victory of the cross.

The next morning Rusty, Caleb and I cleaned up for the Christmas Eve service.  We found a sweater and hat left over from the service.  So we closed up and I went home.  Efrain called me and I told him about the sweater so we agreed to meet at the church.  I got there and Efrain and his wife Haydee came in the building with me.  They expressed a great appreciation for our help and then as we talked, the Holy Spirit hit the place and Haydee shared with me a vision her daughter had that no one understood at the time.  As she shared the vision, it was obvious it had been fulfilled at the service the previous night.  She began to weep and I began to pray in the spirit as did Efrain.  Waves of the Holy Spirit’s love and strength rolled over us as we prayed.

As we left all three of us had an unmistakable impression that the Lord has a plan for both churches working together.  I believe the Lord has been preparing the ground for this relationship for a long time.  He certainly has with me.

I ask you to pray for this relationship.  They have a wonderful worship team (that’s what his daughter did, teach music and dance) and with our music and their music, we could see a Sunday night healing and worship service at Gateway.  With Tom and Haydee praying and ministering to people and the laying on of hands for healing, I can see Mark 1-3 becoming a reality in the life of our church!

Lord: Please keep our hearts open to your leading.  Give us boldness to step out and walk places you direct us with confidence and courage.  I pray for Efrain and Haydee and their family for their loss at this most sacred time of year.  Thank for helping us get through 2010 and thank you ahead of time for the miracles you are going to do in our midst in 2011.

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.

Rom 11:24 For if you have been cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and against nature grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much easier will it be to graft these natural [branches] back on [the original parent stock of] their own olive tree.

In yesterday’s class, we talked about John 15:1-8.  As I began to think about that, I was drawn to Paul’s comments in Romans 11 when speaking of the grafting in process.  I think there is much gold to be mined in this subject.  I went back and read the verses in Romans just to put a framework on my thoughts.  Paul was speaking of gentiles being “grafted in” to the Jewish nation as a wild olive shoot.  The point is that God took a wild olive and grafted it into a cultivated plant to produce fruit.

When I look at the two passages and compare them I notice something striking.  It seems Paul is talking about the process of conversion while Jesus is assuming conversion has already taken place.  Jesus speaks of the plant processes AFTER the grafting in has taken place.  He speaks of producing fruit.

Paul on the other hand is speaking of the process of grafting in of a wild olive.  This is the conversion process.  Without the grafting there would be no possibility of producing fruit.

I have a background and training in growing things.  I understand fertilization and how plants grow.  I’m from Indiana and I understand corn.  I grew up surrounded by corn fields (although I did live in a house … I don’t want you to think I grew up in a field!).  As Gene rightly points out, there is a lot of work in farming corn.  But Jesus addresses an important point about this:

Mark 4:26 – 29 And He said, The kingdom of God is like a man who scatters seed upon the ground, And then continues sleeping and rising night and day while the seed sprouts and grows {and} increases–he knows not how. The earth produces [acting] by itself–first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe {and} permits, immediately he sends forth [the reapers] {and} puts in the sickle, because the harvest stands ready.

The farmer plants and harvests, but God gives the growth.  The growth happens based on God’s time table not because of anything we do.  You don’t’ have to do anything to corn for it to grow. 

This is not so with the vine.  It has to be attended to be fruitful.  Jesus points out that without Him, you can do nothing!  The fruit God wants you to bear is not something you can gin up with your own efforts.  This growth requires effort by the master of the vineyard.

As I think of this I am reminded of Peggy Jo and here recent testimony.  God has been working her vine, pruning and dressing it and helping her to produce fruit.  I know in my life, I’m experiencing some of the same things.  All of us are.  Close your eyes and think back to the last year in our class.  You can see the hand of the master gardener in all of our lives.

Lord: The process of pruning and cultivation of my vine is difficult.  I don’t like it at times.  Then there are times I don’t see any value in the work that has been done.  I don’t see grapes.  I think I should see grapes all the time, but I don’t.  I know you see my life differently than I do.  You know the beginning and the end.  Help me to relax and know that you know what you’re doing and according to Phil 1:6, you will complete the process!