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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: Opportunity

General David

I just wanted to drop you a note and let you know I was thinking about you. Your lovely wife gave me your address and I have been trying to find time to write. It’s now 06:15 and I thought I would simply take the time. I’m sure you’re relaxing and catching up on some shut eye since it’s so early.

Things are going well here in Dawg country unless of course you are a Braves fan. Seems there aren’t that many around here lately. Any way things at church are getting interesting. I’ve been blogging on the book “The Goodness of God” by Randy Alcorn. Every since Tom asked us to reconsider our mission statement of “Helping people experience God” I’ve been doing that exact thing. It’s funny, but you pop into my mind during this entire exercise, especially recently. Let me tell you why.

I have been reading a book by a pastor in Oklahoma, Craig Groeschel. “Chazown”. It’s the Hebrew word for vision. This book challenges the individual believer to take risks for God. He poses a series of questions that I put on a business card (one enclosed for you). Here are the questions:

Chazown (pronounced khaw-ZONE)

Passion: What do you absolutely love to do?

Impact: What do you do that has significant impact on others?

Secret Belief: What do you secretly believe you can do but never tried?

What gifts do you have that you have never put to use?

Here is where you come in. You took a big risk for God. While I am sure you’ve asked yourself “What was I thinking” more than once in the last few weeks, still, you searched out God and you took the steps. What an inspiration that is for me personally. What I admire about is that you had the guts to do it and trust God to take care of your family. You and I haven’t spoken much in recent months. That’s my loss and I am sorry I haven’t taken the time to be more available. But I wanted you to know what I believe the Lord want’s me to say to you.

I want you to read Luke 4:1-30. This is where Jesus announces who He is and what His mission is. Then he proceeds to talk to everyone about 2 incidents in the old testament. The widow at Zarepath (1st Kings 17) and Naaman the Syrian (2nd Kings 5). When the congregation heard what He said, they exploded with rage and wanted to kill him. They were going to pitch Him off the cliff but Luke tells us he simply walked away. While there are months of sermons in here just a couple of points for you to consider.

Read the stories Jesus referred to in the passage. They are remarkable. The widow woman was in the midst of a three year drought. You can bet water and meal were at premiums and very scarce. She had no resources to draw upon and things are so bad, she is getting ready to make a biscuit or two and then die. Along comes Elijah and asks her for the first biscuit and drink. She says ok and does it. She risked EVERYTHING she had for God and God came through for her in a big way, the meal and oil miraculously never ran dry. Then after that experience was over, her son dies mysteriously. Elijah again calls on God and He comes through with another miracle.

Naaman on the other hand was very wealthy and yet had a disease no one could help him with. He took a risk and did the simple thing God asked him to do and washed in the river Jordan and he was healed.

You’ve stepped out in faith and God will honor that big time. Tom spoke last Sunday of Oral Roberts and his faith. Bob Tuttle described Oral as a man who would lower his head and run at a brick wall expecting God to move it before he hit it. You know what? God always did.

The actions you’ve taken are tough. You’ve had the faith to do what you believe God has called you to do. He will honor that for you David in many ways. There will be many times when you will ask yourself “What was I thinking?” Yet don’t’ despair and don’t give up. NEVER NEVER NEVER give up (Sir Winston Churchill). Remember, Jesus had things to do for God as you do. When they were going to kill him He simply walked away. He hadn’t fulfilled what he was called to do. It wasn’t his time yet.

Lord: Keep my friend David in your arms. Keep his lovely wife and his two wonderful sons and protect them while David is away enjoying the leisurely life of the military. Encourage him Lord when things look horrible as they often do in military training. Let him know you love him and we love him Lord.

Oh and Lord please let the Holy Spirit awake David in the morning and not allow him to oversleep. He needs to get to breakfast on time so he can have strength for the day!

(He he he he ha!)

Today, the Lord taught me a lesson I hope I NEVER forget.

I went to the doctor this morning to figure out what was wrong with my shoulder.  I was sitting in his office when they called me to sign in.  I went to the window and paid my $40 co-pay.  I was grumbling about it but when I went back to sit down I saw a vision of Frieda in Sunday school class saying "Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you".  I knew immediately I was caught in the sin of un-thankfulness and being un-grateful.  I recognized the sin and as I sat down, I spent the better part of the next 10 or 15 minutes apologizing to the Lord for being un-grateful.

I told the Lord I don’t want to exhibit these sinful patterns in my life.  I thought about what I have and how fortunate I am to have a good job with good insurance the $40 bucks for the co-pay.  The more I thought about what I have, the more apologetic I became to the Lord.

I also thank God for Frieda and her faithfulness to teach our Sunday School class.  She and the Lord chose a book that is stimulating in discussion and provides me with much thought and discussion with the Lord.

It seems like this is becoming a habit lately.

I was at the home office for a week’s meeting. I stayed until Thursday and while I normally would leave early in the morning (6-8 AM) I was unable to get out of town until around noon. I was planning to make the entire drive that day and it would have put me in Athens around 10:30 PM. But it didn’t work out that way. It was hot and I was in my business attire rather than my "travel" attire, so I was uncomfortable for the drive. Lexington is only 3 hours down the road, but I was so hot and tired I simply couldn’t make it past there comfortably. So I stayed in Lexington.

Later I got a call from the pastor indicating his lovely wife’s niece’s husband was in the hospital in Lexington after suffering brain surgery. Would I go see him? Sure I said so I get the particulars of the situation and away I go. I decided to ask for directions rather than GPS the address. It took 45 minutes to find something I could have GPS’ ed in 10 minutes. I wasn’t in a hurry and I decided against the technological answer. (This is actually key to the story!)

I arrived and met with the patient and had a wonderful 20 minutes or so of fellowship. I prayed and left. As I got on the elevator, a rather haggard looking woman got on with me. She looked really beat down. As I closed the door I asked her if she was ok, because she looked like she had a rough day.

She told me it had a been a horrible week. She came to do a brief visit with her dad and he had a stroke while she was there. There were some rather serious complications that developed and they had to put him in the hospital. His wife was in bed at home with severe depression. To top it off, her husband was at home and not available to help her. I told her I was just passing through and my pastor had asked me to stop and pray for someone. "Oh, are you a pastor?" I assured her I wasn’t but I was the lay leader of my church and I asked her if I could pray with her when she got to her car. At that she started to choke up and she said that would be a wonderful idea.

As we got to the car, I prayed using a model given to us at our last prayer training. I don’t remember exactly what I prayed but I do know I asked God to bless her and give her encouragement. She smiled at me and said she had asked the Lord that morning for some encouragement today and that I was it!

I smiled and as I left I thought about being an answer to someone’s prayer. What happened was a real encouragement for me in several ways:

First of all it tells me God is using the everyday elements of my life and speaking to me through them. I don’t normally get tired yet this time I was so tired I decided to stop at Lexington for the evening. Then when the pastor called, I was willing to go pray. I decided to take my time for once and skipped the whole technological thing and did the old "manual GPS" methodology we used in 70’s and 80’s. I asked directions and plowed my way through town to the hospital.

The folks I went to see are strong Christians and as such were armed with faith and gratitude for God’s goodness. While I was there several people came to see him and they too were strong in faith. As the crowd started to grow we held hands and prayed and I excused myself.

I assumed the people I was there to pray for was the purpose of my trip, but I don’t think it was. Meeting the lady on the elevator was the real reason. God is so meticulous about His timing, that he had me bag my GPS equipment and pursue a course that took just enough time for me to be there when the lady got on the elevator. Had I used the GPS I would have missed her.

We don’t know what impact a simple decision may have on others lives. My decision to stay in Lexington and my decision to go to the hospital and my decision to pray for a lady I had never met all came together in God’s timing to bless someone that so desperately needed it.

Isn’t God good!

I had an experience yesterday that I find to be utterly amazing. I’m not at all surprised about God’s part in it, I’m just surprised He used me.

Tuesday as I was eating dinner, two Muslim women cut in front of me in line. They were fully garbed in Muslim dress and I just stood there. As I think back on it, I am sure I was glaring. As I “glared” at them, I had the most horrible series of thoughts go through my mind. The thoughts were simply right out of the pit of hell. I immediately told the Lord I was sorry, I hated the fact I thought those thoughts and worse, that they represented what I actually thought inside. I repented but I don’t think I asked for anything. I was really too ashamed to ask for anything. I just shook my head and moved on.

Fast forward to yesterday. I am on my way home and buzzing through Atlanta traffic. I had just talked to a friend for quite a while concerning prayer and a number of other church related issues. I hadn’t eaten and thought I would stop at one of my favorite restaurants to eat. I jumped off 85 and went there to eat. As I walked in, two Muslim women were in front of me in line. I stood there looking at them, not really thinking about anything. The taller of the two looked at me, smiled and told me to go ahead. I did and as I went by them, I sensed something about them that was stirring my spirit. I didn’t know what, but something. I ordered and as I walked down the line and started to pay, I looked back at them and I immediately saw a $20 bill flash in my mind. I was shocked and looked back at my tray and paid. I looked back at them again (thinking I might get a 10 or two 5’s) and again the $20 bill was there. I turned to the little Chinese lady running the cash register and gave her a twenty and told her to apply it to those ladies bill. She smiled and nodded.

I grabbed my food and split as fast as I could because I wanted to get out of line to avoid the ladies. I didn’t think it would be prudent to be there. I went to the farthest part of the dinning and room and sat purposely behind a post so they couldn’t see me. I made sure they couldn’t see me. I thanked the Lord for what He did, although I wasn’t sure of what He did. I looked up from my prayer and there was the little Chinese lady standing in front of me waving a 20 and pointing towards the cash register where two clearly confused Muslim women were standing and looking directly at me. The Chinese lady asked me if those two ladies were who I was talking about and then pointed directly at the two women. I was mortified but I said “Yes, that’s them”. She said (honestly she did) “Okray Dokrey” and smiled and walked off. The next thing I knew a very tall Muslim woman was standing beside me and said (with a huge smile) “Thank you”. I told her she was welcome and turned to finish lunch. I then heard as clear as a bell “Tell them you did that because you are a Christian”. At this point, I realize I haven’t eaten much because I lost my appetite about 5 minutes ago. So I got up, went over to their table and pulled out a chair and sat down. I had no clue what I was going to say. But as I opened my mouth here is what I told them: “I am a Christian and I wanted you to know that not all Christians hate Muslims. I believe the Lord told me to buy your lunch to let you know that He Loves you.” I don’t have words to describe their smiles. I asked their names. “I am Esra said the tall lady” “I am Wreeim” said the shorter lady. I asked her where she was from, she smiled a smile that was one of the most engaging smiles I’ve ever seen, “I’m, from Jerusalem!” Oh really I said. You know Bethlehem is close by don’t you. Her face kinda scrunched up with a bit of a confused look and Esra put her hand on my arm and said “I will explain to her” with a big smile. I smiled back and left.

Isn’t God good!!!!!!

“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.

the_clipper_ship_blue_jacket_on_choppy_seas-large_3

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!

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!