Na Eric Simmons

How do we discern “gray matters”? Maybe we should ask, “What are gray matters?” Eric Simmons did an excellent job unpacking this topic in some clear and practical ways. He gave us a list of gray matters, though not comprehensive, it helped us to think about the right categories. Here is a partial list:

Smoking, tight clothes, music, debt, sex in movies, TV, My Space, Facebook, Drinking, bars, gay people and more. How do we think biblically about these things? What does God say about things that are not black or white?

His outline was simple:

1. Groundwork for thinking about gray matters
2. Process for thinking about gray matters

He began with two assumptions (1) Being transformed into Christ’s kingdom radically redefines our identity in Christ. (2) There is no such thing as gray matters; we assume Scripture is silent, but it is not.

Keys to the sermon

Key #1: Let our default assumption be that God has something to say

Key #2: When discerning gray matters always ask the question “Why” when you want to know about this or that

Key #3: Find somebody ahead of you in your walk and seek their counsel and not somebody who you already know will agree with you. Find the person who you think will not agree with you, but they are spiritually mature

Key #4: We are made to seek socialization. We are social creatures. Therefore, ask yourself who do you want to imitate, be like, join-up to? Hint: Eph. 5:1

Good questions to ask when discerning gray matters

Will this reveal God’s glory?
Will this set me apart from sin?
Are we bearing the family image? (Christ)
Am I orienting my life around my Father’s pleasure?

This was a very practical message with immediate application today!

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Na Joshua Harris

Joshua preached the opening message on Saturday night. Each speaker has about one hour to speak. This year’s topic is Discernment. Joshua gave us a working understanding/definition of discernment, which served as the framework for the other messages.

Two examples of future messages are Mark Dever preaching on “Discerning our Doctrine”and Al Mohler preaching on “Discerning our Culture”.

Joshua said discernment is the ability to judge well. The Latin definition would be to “separate apart”. This was an outstanding message that has served so many of our singles as they are now applying the other “discernment messages” in Community Groups and their personal time together.

Joshua said he had two concerns regarding the need for this message:

1. Discernment is not always easy
2. To have discernment is a matter of life and death.

His text was 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 But test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.

His application text was Romans 12:1-2 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

His application outline was as follows:

1. Resistance: Do not be conformed to this world
2. Renewal: Things can get old. We need to remind ourselves again and again
3. Action: Do what God is calling you to do
4. Gospel: Only by being free can we be transformed

Just awesome!

New Attitude…we arrived!

We arrived in Simpsonville at the Enterprise location at 5 AM and were off toward TR by 5:25. It looked like we were going to be running ahead of schedule for this trip, sweet. We arrived at the Spinx in TR at 6 AM. Katie Crumpton and Kaise Cassell were at the Spinx in TR along with Heidi and I was informed that the Spinx I told everyone to meet was actually in Taylors not TR.

I called Katie and Heidi brought them to the Spinx on 290 and we were all settled in. Several of the folks brought goodies for the trip. A couple of the girls brought some small bags for their particular rooms. Cinda Pratt brought enough goodies for everyone. …and off we went up 290 to 25 to 26 to 40 …

We pulled out at 6:30 and within the hour Sarah Payne was on the phone asking for a restroom break, unbelievable. I’m thinking this is going to take two days to get to Louisville. I’m now praying we can make it by the last session on Tuesday morning.

We were all refreshed and prayed for new attitudes and off we went again wondering when Sarah would call again, assuming it would be within the next hour. Fortunately we made it two hours before the inevitable call came. We pulled over and created the worlds longest restroom line to the ladies room of some rural BP Station.

The bladder gods prevailed and as we approached 12 noon I put in a call to the other van and the two cars in tow and asked if they wanted to push through to Louisville. At that point we were 70 miles away. Everyone wanted to push through so we did and we made it to Louisville at 1:15 PM, amazing. God is kind. We were all almost checked-in by 2:30 and the guys registered for the conference by 3 PM. There was one small hitch. They had six of our seven rooms ready. It took another two hours for Sarah, Christa Hobbet, et. al. to get to their room.

Laura Paradis and Christa Hobbet drove up in their car because they have to go back on Monday. Courtney was sleeping in their backseat. Rick and Patty Patrick was in the other car. Rick and Patty attend our Titusville, FL church. They came with their son, Justin, after spending a few days with the Britts. Justin rode in the van.

The conference begins at 7:30. Joshua Harris will be up to bat first.

May God surprise us…

49% Bad, Don’t Push It!

A few years ago I had the privilege to spend some time with some friends in NYC. It was Queens actually. Their church was planted many years prior and was going strong, but thought it would be good to have some guys come in to serve them evangelistically.

I was immediately exhilarated by the ease and opportunities for evangelism in New York. People were everywhere. It was nearly overwhelming the first time we went. And there was so much freedom in telling people about the Savior. Not only were people everywhere but they were mostly un-churched with very little idea of what it was all about. It was a most unusual place for me to be. It was comparatively different than my religious South. God opened my eyes to so much and allowed me to step out of my hermetically sealed world into a real world. Things were all of a sudden not safe. Yes, it was exhilarating.

One day before the church meeting on Wednesday I was making my way to the meeting at the American Legion Hall and there was a couple sitting on the park bench just across the street from the Hall. The couple was not talking to one another. They had carry-out Chinese. They were focused. She was overweight. He was slightly overweight. He had reddish hair that was a bit greasy and long. He face was acne covered. They were probably about 27 to 30 years of age. They had just got off work, stopped somewhere for some rice and whatever and were eating on the park bench. This was normal. There were many people milling around them in the smallish park.

He had a T-shirt that said, “51% Good & 49% Bad: Don’t push it”. That was a welcoming sight. I approached them hoping not to push it, but yet a desire to tell them about Jesus. It was a bit surreal. They were sitting, eating, focused simultaneously downward and most certainly in no hurry. I began the small talk, which led to the deep talk. I had 30 minutes before the meeting started. He was not a Christian and knew very little about it. He was either interested or didn’t have anywhere to go so he listened to this weirdo from Greenville, SC. I’m sure it was non-threatening to him. In his own laid-back, semi-interested coolness he talked to me as did his wife.

I asked him about heaven and hell and whether he believed in either and whether he knew how to get to either. He believed, but didn’t know the course to take. I invited him to the meeting. He said he couldn’t come because we would not accept him. That might be true in Greenville, SC, but not in NY and praise God I was in NY and it didn’t matter what you looked like. He also had a six pack or more of beer at his side. I told him to come on in that he was welcome here. He was taken aback by that, in a positive kind of way. We talked some more and then I told him I had to go. It was a pleasant conversation. I did plead with him to come to the meeting.

I hung around the inside entrance for a long while. He never showed. About 20 minutes into the meeting he and his wife came in. I was so encouraged. He told me later that he got saved and the reason he was late for the meeting was because he went home to pour his beer out. He wanted to walk a new way. The truth is he was 100% bad, but God changed that.

Sitting on a park bench…in Queens

Once upon a time while in NY we all were out walking around checking things out and on the prowl to witness to someone. I approached a lady who was sitting on a park bench. I walked up to her and said something like, “Excuse me ma’am, may I sit down?” She began hollering at me like there was no tomorrow. She was loud and very rude. She was shouting at me telling me to go back home and don’t come around here anymore. To go away and never come back, she kept on saying. It was another in a long list of surreal moments.

I sat down and began talking to her anyway. She was talkative in her NY kind of way. She was old, probably 60. She had lived in Queens most of her life, I think. After awhile I asked her why she was hollering at me when I approached her. She said she thought I had just moved up here or was planning to move up here. I had told her by that time that I was up here on behalf of the church to tell people about Christ and that I would be going back in a week. She was relieved. She began telling me how difficult and, at times, horrible it is to live in NY. She didn’t want me to make that mistake if I had a chance of living anywhere else. She assumed by my accent that I had a choice and if I did that I should not screw up my life by choosing to live there. In reality she was being nice to me. She was being kind. It was an odd style of kindness, but she was and I appreciated it. One of those odd interactions, but amazingly the norm in such a place as NY. The people are lovable, eccentric and always adventurous.

I think on the same day I had met another lady earlier who was hanging out of an apartment window on the first floor. It was hot and she was cooling off. Since they didn’t have air conditioning it was not unusual for folks to be lined up hanging out of their windows talking to folks on the street. I caught the eye of this elderly lady and she seemed engaging. I had never witnessed to a lady hanging out her window while I was walking up the street. However, in NY there are always these types of opportunities. You just have to have an awareness and desire.

We began to talk and I was trying to connect someway, somehow. She said something, I said something back and the conversation took off. At one point I was going to reference a verse from the bible, but couldn’t remember it. I shouted at one of my friends and asked him if he had a Scofield (meaning Scofield Reference Bible). She heard the name Scofield and in light of our conversation about angels she thought Scofield was an angel. So she questioned me about this. She was Catholic, like everybody else, and thought there was another angel out there that she was not aware of. She didn’t want to miss out on something. She did see Mary (Jesus’ mother) in Brooklyn one time.

Foreigners at Micky D’s

One of the more common statements I heard repeatedly while in NY was “You are not from around here are you?” It was apparent. As one lady said, “I don’t know what you said, but could you say it again? I like the way you said that.” It was quite humorous.

One time I walked out of the church meeting at the America Legion Hall and out on the sidewalk was a small boy about 3 or 4 years of age. He had a stick in his hand and he was tormenting (or playing with) some ants that were scurrying in and around the cracks in the sidewalk. I got down on my knees and began to poke at them as well. He never once looked at me. He didn’t look to see who I was, where his daddy was or anything else. He never broke stride so to speak with what he was doing. I engaged him in conversation and he talked back to me. We carried on a conversation while both of us played with the ants. It was sort of odd. Finally I asked him if he knew where I was from because I spoke different from him. He said, “I think you are from Texas.” That was funny. I told him I was from South Carolina. We chatted a bit more and then I told him goodbye. I don’t think he ever looked up at me.

Another time we were going into McDonalds. Brook Sutters (I think his name was something like that) was from the mountains of NC. He had one of the more “hick-a-fied” voices you would ever want to hear. He was a hoot to talk with, listen to. The folks in NY loved to hear him. He sounded something like what they thought the Beverly Hillbillies would sound like.

One evening we went into McDonalds and Brook was ahead of me. He was at the counter ordering something. I walked in the double-doors while he was ordering. There were about two registers between him and a lady who was about to order. When Brook opened his mouth the lady two registers down turned to look to see where that sound came from. It was my friend. Apparently she had never heard anything like it before. She froze, trancelike as she stared at him. She never turned her body, which was still facing the counter. However, her head was turned and it was facing Brook. It was a 90 degree sort of thing from her shoulders to her head. I stopped and savored the moment at the front door. She was mesmerized by it all and everything became sort of surreal and frozen in time.

I walked to one of the middle registers, between the two of them. Brook had no idea she was staring at him. I stood there, then turned and faced the frozen lady. She never saw me though I was impeding her view. I said, in my most drawn out Southern voice, “He ain’t from around here.” She said “Yes” before she realized she was talking to another one of them. Then she snapped out of it all and realized there were at least two of them in the building.

New York Street Gang

We were staying in Queens on one of our trips. It was Vivian Williams’ apartment. It was a very nice neighborhood as far as those kinds of neighborhoods go. It was clean and family oriented. It was not as rundown as Jackson Heights for example. It was old, but had a family flare to it. There were bushes on the sidewalks and some small trees as well. Not many, but one of the few places where there was some greenery.

I remember one night when I walked out in the street in my pajamas and began talking with all kinds of people. All the people hung in the streets because the air conditioning either didn’t exist, or was too expensive, or didn’t work. In the evening you just hung in the streets. I would walk up and down the street around our apartment talking to all kinds of folks in the streets. These were not apartment buildings that were stacked. They were all connected, but were not high-rises.

One evening Brook Sutters was coming back to the apartment with me. We got off from our ride, whatever that was, I don’t remember and we were walking down the street toward our apartment. There were about five kids or so leaning, sitting on/around a car. They were talking smack. For some reason I began talking smack with them. They were talking real big like they were going to beat somebody up or destroy this or that. I jumped in there and began mocking them, threatening them and talking smack as well. Brook was freaked out. He was not raised on the street. He didn’t know they were not serious. Though my language was different and my accent was really different and they knew I was not from NY we were all in there talking it up. I took a stick away from this boy and began telling him that I would beat him with it. I jacked him up against the car. It was a surreal scene for Brook. He had no idea which way was up. I had to tell him after we left that we were goofing off.

During that week, maybe that night, we were walking down the street, Brook and me. There was a gang at the end of the street and I walked up to them unannounced and began talking a similar smack. Brook was really scared at this. He had no clue. It was frightening. We jawed around for awhile, threatened one another and then begin talking about where I was from and what I was doing in NY.

It didn’t matter that we were from different “streets”. We were from the street and it was discernible between two guys raised on the street even though my street was Olive Branch Road in the country of Monroe, NC and theirs was somewhere in the maddening world of Queens, NY.