Skip to content

Wit and Wisdom of Gateway Church Athens GA

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

Category Archives: Holy Spirit

As I sit here on a rather balmy new years morning I contemplate 2011 and reminisce on 2010.  Last year was certainly a year to remember.  Think about it: we had one pastor for 25 years and now we are on our 4th pastor in 6 months.  When I look back at Gateway’s progression through 2010 and see a church that has withered storm after storm in leadership.  Yet the core of believers that has stayed has been faithful and even though our numbers were reduced, we are still standing.  God has brought us through event after event.  You each know what I am talking about.

I want to encourage each of you to look forward to 2011 with great anticipation.  There are many good things on the horizon.
To start with, we have a spirit filled pastor as our lead pastor.  We have a very creative team approach to ministry with Joseph Slife, Tom Atkins, Bob Beckwith and Gene Acuff.  All of these men are well known by the members of Gateway and are men of God we have asked for time after time to preach for us.  Our prayers have been answered.  Hallelujah! 

A significant event I believe has been the request by Tom Atkins for us to read “Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire” by Jim Cymbala.  It is a book full of encouragement about God’s faithfulness in difficult times.  I also encourage each of you to review the story of Gideon in Judges chapter’s 6,7 & 8.  If you tie together the prophecy the Lord gave us in 1998 concerning Gideon and Cymbala’s book you can see that God can and will do a lot with a small group of believers that trust Him.  I would remind everyone that Gideon lost over 99% of his church before he was ready to take on the overwhelming odds against him.  “Fresh Wind” shows how God can and will do the same type of things today.

It is with that background that I want to launch into 2011.  We have started our Wed night prayer group.  I want to encourage everyone to join us on Wed night to pray for one another and our sister church Gateway of Shreveport.  Also Latina Mission in Athens.  If prayer is what the Bible says it is, then nothing we can do is more important than praying.

I want to share something I read in “Approaching God” by Steve Brown: “I’m often asked about the purpose of prayer before a sovereign God.  ‘If God knows what I’m going to ask before I ask it, why pray?’  It’s a good question, but it misses the point.  We pray not to get what we want, but to want what God wants, and we do that with the awareness that He is sovereign and that He knows best.”

For me, this puts into perspective why I pray.  It’s not for me to clarify to God but for God to clarify to me.  This means prayer is a two way street: me talking to God and then listening.

Let me show you how I put this into practice. I have prayed about God “fixing” my past.  It sounded something like this:  “Lord, fix this, make it go away, PLEASE!”  (This sounds similar to Paul’s prayer in 2 Cor 12).  I wanted help.  I didn’t know how or what that would entail, but I prayed as best I knew how.  Through “listening” to God in all the ways He speaks to us, I discerned through my counseling sessions that I needed to attend Onsite.  I did and I received much more than a simple “fix” like I wanted.

Steve Brown has a very common sense approach to prayer that I understand.  I believe his approach will help me be a much more effective lay leader and man of prayer.

I also want to mention what I believe is a budding relationship with Latino Mission.  I sense the Lord wants us to engage in dual ministry with them.  I want us to pray about a Sunday night praise, worship and healing service.  If you carefully review the Gospel of Mark chapters 1-3, you will see that Jesus did what He was called to do.  He was a man of prayer.  He was baptized in the Holy Spirit.  As a result, He had more people coming to his services than they could accommodate.  I believe this Sunday night service will have the same effect, IF (NOTE ALL CAPS!)  we diligently pray about it.

I want to add this note.  I spoke to a pastor friend of mine and shared with him about the possibility of a prayer and healing service.  He immediately warned me that all healing wasn’t from God and that many of the healing services aren’t from God.  I nodded and quickly left the conversation.  I felt as if the Lord was telling me the people that will be drawn to the services will not be religious folks.  It will be the exact persons He talked about in Luke chapter 4 18-19: The poor, the brokenhearted, captives, blind, oppressed and to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord!  He came to heal the sick, not the healthy.

I sense God is getting ready to blow the roof off the place (so to speak).

Lord: Give us boldness to speak your word fearlessly and to be willing to go where others are not going and to be willing to do what others will not do.


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.

Tonight we had the first prayer gathering since we started reading “Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire”.  There were 7 people and while we really didn’t have a schedule or structure, we just started praying.  We prayed for our Sister church Gateway of Shreveport first and then the Lord opened our hearts and I started “scribing” the prayers.  It became apparent that no one was going to be able to read my writing so I decided to type the summary and then post it on our blog. 

We have taken some steps to encourage our young prayer ministry.  We have established a  prayer journal at the front of the church on the communion table.  In it will be the summary of the weekly prayer time and a place where you can write prayer requests.  In addition, there will be 3X5 cards you can take and write prayers for us to pray over or use it to copy a prayer request and take home to pray for.

This ministry is just beginning.  As the old saying goes a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.  This is a first step of what will be many steps as we move into the fulfillment of the ministry God has called us to.  Our partnership with Gateway of Shreveport is really important as we have a sister church fighting with the same issues we are and they too need our help and support.

Here is the summary of our first meeting:

I.    Gateway of Shreveport – 5 Things
     .    Finances
     .    Annual Business meeting January 26th
     .    Pastoral Staff Wisdom
     .    Annual missions conference in February
     .    Increase in souls saved
II.    Gateway of Athens
     .    Pastoral team: Wisdom, vision and leadership
        1.    Tom Atkins (Lead Pastor): Both houses will sell.
        2.    Bob Beckwith
        3.    Joseph Slife
        4.    Gene Acuff
     .    Finances
     .    We gave thanks for Dr.  Whetstone and his leadership and sensitivity as we finish this very difficult year of 2010.
     .    Remnant of both congregations: The people that stayed in both churches would find strength and help as they move forward in faith and remain faithful the calling God has laid on their lives.
     .    Tom Atkins: Tom has a heavy travel schedule due to his evangelistic association.  We pray for God to protect him and keep him safe.
     .    Holy Spirit: We pray for a fresh anointing of the Holy Spirit.  We give Him permission to convict us of the things we need conviction of.
     .    Christmas Eve Service
     .    Alex and Audrey and entire music team: We asked the Lord to guide Alex and the music team to minister as He wants them too.  We prayed for special anointing for all members as they play and worship.
     .    Rudy and Martha Baker: We thanked God for their ministry in the role of interim pastor.
     .    Fresh wind, Fresh Fire: We thanked God for guiding us through Tom to this book.  We asked for wisdom and vision for Tom Crane as he works through this book.
     .    Show us how to minister the way you want us to minister Father.
     .    Alton prayed for both churches and their general business needs.
     .    Alton prayed for prosperity to our homes.
     .    We asked God to guide us in Stewardship.
    ♡.    We prayed for the Lord to guide us to opportunities for ministry as we go through our daily schedules.  We asked for boldness to speak when God leads us to new opportunities.

Special Note:

The pastor from the Latina Mission (our old Boggs Chapel building) showed up towards the end of our meeting.  His 37 year old daughter just died from cancer.  Their church needs a much bigger building for the service and through Dr.  Whetstone’s leading, he suggested we offer Gateway.  We agreed and pastor Effriam came over to look at the building.  We invited him in and we started to pray for him.  He sat in a chair and we gathered around and prayed.  Frieda was weeping and asked God to minister as she knows the pain of losing a child of that age.  After a time of prayer, we suggested perhaps we could do joint services.  He was overjoyed with the idea.  So the Lord may well have opened an opportunity for us to have a combined service with the Latina Mission.  How exciting is that!!!!

Last Sunday in our adult class, we discussed the book “Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire”.  We talked about the need for prayer and ministry to those God wants to lead to our fellowship.  Well this Wednesday, we start our prayer ministry.  I will be at the church at 6:30 PM and we will start praying as the Holy Spirit leads us.

I am very excited about where we are at this place in our ministry.  God is providing us pastoral leadership in abundance.  Tom Atkins has a wonderful plan for TEAM ministry with Bob Beckwith, Joseph Slife and Gene Acuff.  These are men we love and respect.  They are familiar with us and we with them.  They love God, and have agreed to join our ministry.  That is good news.

However I want to elaborate on a few points.  I believe God has given us a great start for 2011.  But these men represent one part of the equation.  I believe their joining with us in ministry is a missing key for us.  But now they are on board, we must focus on OUR responsibilities.  God will lead people to Gateway in response to our cries for ministry.  But to be effective the Holy Spirit will be critical.  Our willingness to hear the Holy Spirit as He leads all of us into ministry is a necessary element of our fulfilling our calling.  We are asking God to send us those who haven’t been churched, those who have issues to deal with that aren’t easy.  Please keep in mind that our responsibility is to love them as God sends them.  It is HIS job to clean them up.  But we must all be willing to be “cleaned up” as well.  God accepts as we are, but he doesn’t LEAVE us as we are.  None of us. 

To that end, this Wednesday the 22nd of December will be our first prayer time dedicated to our new direction.  Please come and join us in prayer as we lay our lives before God and ask Him for guidance in “helping people experience God”.

I look forward to seeing you there.

Today is Monday the 6th of December.  Julia and I are on the very last leg of a 4500 mile 2 week trip.  We are literally out of gas.  Yet we are encouraged by the events of the last several days.  By now, everyone knows about our new Pastoral appointment, Tom Atkins.  I have spoken to Tom several times while on the road and I am incredibly excited about his arrival.  Several things have happened to give me great encouragement about our church.

Tom asked us to read “Fresh wind, Fresh fire”.  Since we were on the road I downloaded the audio version of the book.  We listened to it as we were passing through the various moonscapes of Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico.  Like many of you, I read the book years ago, but had forgotten it.  Well as we listened to the book my heart was stirred with passion for the mission I believe God has asked us to complete: Helping People Experience God!

Over the last year I have been asking questions of God, Tom, Frieda, Hope, Missy, Julia and anyone else that will listen to me.  I’ve been trying to see how we accomplish our goals.  Who is our target audience?  Who will lead us?  How do we get there?  I’ve not felt comfortable with the various “program” approaches that have been suggested.  While these were not bad in and of themselves, I knew our growth and success would not be because we did so many mailers to such and such neighborhood with a given response and we would get “X” number of members.

I am reminded of one of my favorite scriptures, 1 Corinthians 2:2 For I resolved to know nothing (to be acquainted with nothing, to make a display of the knowledge of nothing, and to be conscious of nothing) among you except Jesus Christ (the Messiah) and Him crucified. 

My question concerning this scripture has been “What would it look like today if a Christian resolved to do the same thing Paul did?”  As Julia and I listened to “Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire”, I saw it clearly.  The growth “model” I have been looking for is in the book.  It is called Prayer.  Wow, Tom Atkins was telling me that upon our first conversation and as the book unfolded, my heart was saying “yes, yes, yes ..  This is what we’ve been looking for”.

It is 05:30 in Meridian MS as I write this.  Julia and I will be leaving in a few minutes to head home.  I have much more to write and tell you about, especially from yesterday’s meeting at Gateway of Shreveport.   This church is a special church and will be intimately involved with us as we go forward.  In the meantime, please look at their website:

Vegas Trip Home 019

Learn about them.  They are standing with us shoulder to shoulder as we weather the storms and they are praying with us.  Their church is a praying church.   The youth of the church came forward during worship and raised their hands and praised God!

Vegas Trip Home 018

The leadership of the church called Julia and I up on the stage and they prayed for us, anointed us with oil and there were encouraging words of prophecy for us.  More will be coming later this week!

Please read “Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire” as soon as you can!

Vegas Trip Home 024

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.


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.

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.