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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: Prophetic Word

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.

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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!)

As I’ve been working through Randy Alcorn’s book, I continually remind myself of the target: what is our mission?  What has God called us to be in our community? 

At out last council meeting, pastor Tom gave us a document from the district office, “Vital Congregations Planning Guide” for 2012.  It is a series of detailed questions and guidelines that is required by all UMC congregations in the district.  I bring this document to your attention for a couple of reasons.

The first and most important reason is it points us in the right direction.  The questions we are being asked to answer for the district are the questions we have been trying to answer as church body.  Here is a sample:

1.    What are the current needs of your surrounding community?
2.    What are the strengths of your church?
3.    What are your challenges and threats to your congregation?
4.    Why does your church exist?
5.    If your church were to cease to exist, what impact would it have on the local community?

These are incredibly important questions.  They are tough questions, but we need to prayerfully answer them.  If this sounds suspiciously like work, it’s because it is.  This is tough work.  It will require lots of prayer, time, thought and patience.  In order to effectively answer them, we will have to ask God for his guidance and then listen for His answers.

The second reason I bring it to your attention is because it contains the same set of questions we need to answer as individuals.  By prayerfully considering these questions and talking with each other and the Lord, we can identify who we are as individual members of the body.
       
I want to quote an August 6th blog posting outlining why we are studying suffering and evil:
   
    I think it would benefit us as a body to study this very important subject together. Lets study what God says about suffering. Lets talk to Him, argue with Him and question Him. Lets ask Him for His perspective on this most important subject that affects everyone in the human race. I believe if we take the time to work through this subject together, being guided by the Lord, we will gain some fresh perspective about who we are at Gateway.

This is also applied to us individually.  Who are we as individuals and where do we fit in the body of Christ are questions we each need to answer.

I’m recovering from surgery on my shoulder.  Recovery and rehab will take a couple of weeks and then I should be good to go for a while.  I’ve needed surgery for quite a while.  I put it off as long as I could.  I didn’t want to mess with it.  I put up with the discomfort and pain as long as I could and finally, I couldn’t take it any more so I said ok, lets do it.  Shoulder surgery is like jumping off the high dive.  You either do or you don’t, but there is no middle ground of well maybe I will and then again on the other hand ….

Last night as I was getting ready for bed, I had an ice pack on my shoulder, and was waiting for the pain to ease so I could sleep.  I began reading in 2nd Corinthians.  As I followed Paul’s writings I saw something important.

2 Cor 1:3-4 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of sympathy (pity and mercy) and the God [Who is the Source] of every comfort (consolation and encouragement), Who comforts (consoles and encourages) us in every trouble (calamity and affliction), so that we may also be able to comfort (console and encourage) those who are in any kind of trouble {or} distress, with the comfort (consolation and encouragement) with which we ourselves are comforted (consoled and encouraged) by God.

This is one of the characteristics I see of Gateway as a whole.  We have a vast array of experiences that we can testify the Lord has brought us through.  It is clear we are to be able to comfort those who are in any kind of trouble as we have been.

The other thing I read is directed as a challenge directly to me.  The apostle Paul was fully committed to the gospel.

1 Cor 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.

Paul was fully committed to the gospel.  Every ounce of his being was committed to the gospel.  I believe that level of commitment was one of his greatest attributes and the biggest source of trouble for him.  Paul did what God asked him to do.  The result of that obedience was miracles, healing and deliverance and extensive spiritual combat with satan and his henchmen.  I will have much more to write about this in a later blog, but this presents me with a personal question:

“Am I committed to the gospel of the Jesus Christ with the same level of determination and dedication as the Apostle Paul was?”

No I am not.  I actually want all the good things Paul had in his ministry without having to deal with the bad things such as 40 lashes less one and beatings with rods.  (I’ve been beaten before with leather straps and wooden paddles and shovels.  As you can well imagine, I’m a bit adverse to that type of activity).  The point isn’t the beatings, it’s my attitude.  I want to sail away from harbour but I have one foot in the boat and one on land.  This type of approach to the gospel doesn’t foster an image of “risking it all” for Christ.  On the contrary, it shows a person who is halting, scared and double minded, none of which are positive spiritual characteristics.

I am sending Nancy a copy of the planning guide to be forwarded to all church members.  If you don’t get one, please let either myself or Nancy know and we will see you get a copy.

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!

Two Sundays ago I taught a Bible study at church talking about living in faith and walking by faith and not by sight.  The Lord convinced me I was to teach this.  I spoke to Tom about it and He agreed, it was the right thing to do.  This week I had abundant opportunity to practice my new found truths

This has been a week of extremes for me.  Extreme pressure, extreme hours, more extreme pressure and of course, travel.  A couple of days ago, I had responded poorly to a challenge I had been presented with.  Quite frankly, I responded in a not so Christ like way.  I remember thinking almost aloud while sitting in the car at the hotel: “It’s like I am two separate people.  There are times the good Dr. Jekyll is speaking and other times it is the evil Mr. Hyde.”  There is the good Andy and the bad Andy, but there is definitely two Andy’s.  I didn’t give it much thought as I had a lot of training to do.

The next morning (Thursday morning) after an allergy riddled night, I stepped out of the shower and suddenly I remembered a document I received at Onsite last November.  I was so caught unaware, that I simply stood there almost speechless.

An old Cherokee Chief was speaking to a young warrior.  He told him there were two wolves that lived inside of him.  A good wolf and a bad wolf.  They were constantly fighting.  The young warrior asked him, “Who will win?”  The wise old chief answered “The one you feed the most.”

I got goose bumps galore and in a flash, I saw something I had been told, but it didn’t sink in until this morning in the shower in a hotel in Asheville NC.  I am a task oriented person for sure. I want a formulae to work with, something I can do that makes me feel like I am accomplishing something.  I’ve not been able to overcome things in my life that are driving me batty!  I’ve tried and tried and tried, but to no avail.  Gritting my teeth and trying harder produces less results and more frustration.  That clearly isn’t the answer.

But here, in a lonely hotel room under all kinds of pressure, the Lord in his infinite kindness gave me an answer to a question I asked just the day before.  The answer came at the right time, in the right manner for me to understand.  My problem is, I’m feeding the wrong wolf.  Suddenly pieces of the puzzle of my life just plopped into place.  I had a key to my life.  Well, at least the key to a door I couldn’t seem to get through.  Stop feeding the bad wolf and feed the good wolf!  Simple yet profound.  Profound yet something I can do.  Simply stop feeding the bad wolf!  Wow!  My heart was full of hope.  I sensed the Lord smiling as one of his kids “gets it”.

I finished drying off, got dressed and logged on to prepare for my day by reading Small Straws in a Soft Wind by Marsha Burns.  This was for 5-12-2011:.

Haven’t I said that I would give you the treasures of darkness and hidden riches in secret places?  Stop and ponder.  You will find that I have brought the light of revelation in areas of your life that you didn’t even expect.  Rejoice that you are growing in understanding because this understanding will make you more effective in My kingdom, says the Lord.  I have given you a taste and a glimpse of My glory, which will make you desire even more.

  Isaiah 45:3 I will give you the treasures of darkness and hidden riches of secret places, that you may know that I, the LORD, Who call you by your name, Am the God of Israel.

Oh most gracious Lord …. Thank you for your patience and kindness.  Thank you for teaching me in a way I can understand.  Forgive me for being so slow Lord but thank you for your secret places.

“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.