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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: Praise

Matthew 6:19-21 (ESV)

19  “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20  but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

I am on a business trip at the home office.  The meeting is all day Thursday and part day on Friday.  Last night we had a meeting at a local restaurant that I’ve eaten at numerous times in the last 15 years.  It’s in a really nice section of town.  We were finishing up dinner when one of my coworkers received a phone call.  “Hey it’s you” he said and gave me the phone.  I picked up the phone and listened but there was nothing there.  They asked me why my phone would be calling him.  I told them android phones do that at times, just ask my wife!

We get ready to leave and I saw it.  Someone had taken a bat and broken my passenger side window and stole my phone.  It was like my phone was calling the guy across the table and asking for someone to save it.  Of course, no one did!

I asked the Lord for help.  A plan came to mind and I pursued it including getting a replacement phone.  I borrowed my bosses phone and called Julia first thing.  We had what I would call a vigorous discussion about my leaving the phone in the car.  She has warned me repeatedly about it.  I wasn’t worried about it though.  I knew right where it was.  It was right by my ipod.  Oh by the way, did I mention that I can’t find my ipod either?  She was right and I was wrong.  That’s not the issue here.  The issue is she is my God given partner in life.   By divine right She has a say in my life.  The Lord speaks to her just as surely as He does me.  He just speaks to her differently than me. 

As I worked through the evening issues with insurance, and car window repairs many thoughts came to mind.  Forgiveness was one.  So I asked the Lord to forgive the little tattooed, skin headed weasel that stole my stuff.  Before I said amen, I asked the Lord for painful boils, razor burn on his head and infected tattoo’s and other physical afflictions as well.  I wanted to make sure I did the “Christian” thing and forgave the little thief!

As I am prone to do, I asked the Lord what was the lesson here?  What is there for me to learn through this?  There are a number of obvious lessons.

First of all, stuff doesn’t matter.  I am a stuff’s kinda guy.  I have a lot of stuff, although not as much as I had when I left home yesterday.  The scriptures tell us not to put our trust in rust (my version).

The second lesson is forgiveness.  Clearly I understand that (see my above prayer for forgiveness).

The next question was a bit more complicated.  “Where was the protection we prayed about before I left home?”  I truly wasn’t upset, but I thought it was a legitimate question.  Well the Lord protected me by not allowing me to go outside and catch him.  I would have gone after him.  I know I would have.  Then the Lord spoke to my heart about being 60, being overweight with a bad shoulder and arm and attacking a 25 year old thief that just used a baseball bat to break into my car.  I got the picture!  (Thanks Lord.)

Part of that question was why didn’t you warn me?  Well the answer is simple.  He did warn me.  Many times through Julia he warned me.  I chose to ignore it.  I will not ignore her again!

Through God’s mercy and grace I’m simply out a phone and an ipod that my insurance will most likely cover.  But I am also a much wiser man.

Lord: Thank you so much for your grace and mercy.

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

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

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

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

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!

As I began my trip this week I am flying for the first time in many years.  I don’t like flying anymore for a number of reasons, but this week, I fly.  So while I was at the Atlanta airport I prayed and asked the Lord to show me someone today I could minister to or pray with.  Fast forward to Houston airport.

I was wandering around waiting on my connection when I walked past a shoe shine place.  My shoes needed a shine so I saw a guy on the end and went over to his chair.  He didn’t say a word and immediately left.  A young lady was taking his place and I asked her if she could do these shoes.  “Sure, please sit down.”  So I did.  I noticed she had a smile from here to there and I was immediately caught by her joyful personality.  Then I looked down and saw a small, leather Bible.  I asked her if this was her’s and she said it was.  I opened it and noticed a ton of underlining in it.  I also noticed she was a big reader of the prophets, Samuel, David and old testament history.  I asked her about her reading and what was her favorite scripture.  At that point God took over and I simply sat there transfixed as I believe God spoke to me while He shined my shoes!

Her name is Tina and she is from Nigeria.  She told me her favorite Scripture was John 5, the story of the beggar being healed at the pool of Bethesda.  Then she told me of her journey to the US.  She and her husband went to Nigerian embassy to get Visa’s to come to US in 2003.  They were rejected for no reason, but she told me when they stamped her application rejected, it was a final action, there was no appeal.  Her husband was crushed, but not Tina.  Tina told her husband that they were not rejected until God said they were rejected.  She pointed out to me that as she read John 5, the Lord showed her that she and the beggar and been rejected because the process had broken down.  The process for healing the beggar broke down because people would not take him to the pool when the water stirred.  Jesus bypassed the process there and He would bypass this process too.  She told her husband who immediately told her she was nuts.  She told him she was not nuts and they were going to an Assembly of God camp in the mountains to pray.  They went to this camp for 5 days and prayed about this and read scriptures.  When they came back it was new years eve 2003 and she had not looked at e-mail for a long period of time so she checked her e-mail.  There was an email from a person she didn’t know but when she opened it there was a letter she was to print out and take to the embassy giving her authorization for a Visa.  What did Tina do?  She grabbed her husband and went back to the Assembly of God camp for a full week of fasting and prayer over this letter before she took it to the embassy.  She told me they didn’t even drink water until 6 pm in the evening.  She went back to the embassy with the letter and was sent to the exact person that had rejected her the first time.  She gave him the letter and (as much as is possible for a Nigerian) his face turned “white” and he started mumbling about “why didn’t you tell me you knew this person”.  She was given a Visa and is now an American citizen as is her husband.  She is in school to be a teacher and as she told me this, they called my flight and I stood up.  She looked at me with a smile only God could give and said “Andy, with God NOTHING is impossible!”  I was overcome with the emotion of the moment and as I started to leave I asked her if I could pray with her.  She said yes and I prayed with her and I left assured of God’s wonderful provision.

There is a lesson here for both Gateway churches.  Our’s in Athens and our sister ship in Shreveport.  That is the overwhelming importance of prayer.   This little lady just grabbed God and said I need a Visa and God said “Well ok, you’ll get one!”  As we move forward under the Gateway team leadership, we will see God do miracle after miracle if we dedicate ourselves to prayer.  Steve Brown’s book “Approaching God” has given me some real encouragement about how to be a person of prayer and I hope to finish the book while I am on this trip so I can get the information down on paper for us to review.

God answered my simple prayer to provide me someone to pray with.  He answered Tina’s prayer by providing a way for her to get a Visa.  He will answer our prayers for souls for the kingdom as well.  We simply have to make it a priority above all things.  He’s just waiting on us.

Lord: Give us the courage and perseverance Tina showed as she waded through her Visa application “process”.  Thank you for her and her husband coming to America and I pray for her schooling and ask you to bless her studies and her faith.  Give us a heart to pray for those who like Tina want to come to America but are blocked by the process.  Show us how we can help those you lead to us understand that “with God, NOTHING is impossible”.

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.