Summary: Occasionally we all find ourselves in a position where we face a prickly difference of opinions with our peers. When Peter returned from visiting the house of the Gentile Cornelius, his Jewish friends cried out in anger, "You went to the uncircumcised men

Illustration:No great advance has been made in science, politics or religion without controversy.

Lyman Beecher

1. Occasionally we all find ourselves in a position where we face a prickly difference of opinions with our peers. When Peter returned from visiting the house of the Gentile Cornelius, his Jewish friends cried out in anger, "You went to the uncircumcised men and ate with them!" (Acts 11:3)

Example: It is hard to imagine the intensity of the indignation that the Jews felt for the Gentiles in the first century. Most Jewish people thought that Peter had betrayed their trust. They accused him of doing something that was unlawful.

Peter obeyed the will of God but then experienced hostility like he had never known before. When you find yourself in a place of contention remain steadfast, trusting and wise in your Spirit controlled loving responses. The key is remembering to pick your battles carefully so you can respond with a God directed perception of your responsibilities.

Application: Ask the Lord to help you to remain faithful to His responsibilities while being quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to become angry or fearful. (James 1:19)

2. Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to fight your battles for you as He brings conviction to those who are contending with you. Jesus said, "He will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment." (John 16:7,8)

Application: Ask the Lord to help leaders respond to the Spirit’s conviction of their:

a). Misperceptions of how Godâs truth is to be applied by each individual according to God’s directives

b). Misunderstanding of how God is bringing changes, growth and improvements to the church, individuals and its ministries

c). Abuses of power that may be demonstrated by their scoffing, threats or intrigues.

d). Unwillingness to submit to the sovereign will of God in all things

e). Failure to see Christ as the head of His church who controls all things

f). Misinterpretation of the truth of the scriptures g). Failure to speak the truth in love while growing up in all aspects into Him who is the head of the church

h). Political manipulations and dependencies on phony barriers

I). Over reliance on rules, regulations, and man made procedures that may no longer be applicable

j). Carnal practices

k). Their desires for control, authority and power that overwhelm their desire to submit to the total will of God

l). Insecure feelings that may cause them to lose control, influence or a sense of power

m). Prideful desires to be something that God has not intended for them to be

n). Rational explanations that are not responsive to the Spirit’s directives

o). Pharisaical attitudes and behaviors

p). Unwillingness to remain teachable, humble and pliable to God’s directives

q). Failure to remember that we are called to follow His priorities of giving God glory, helping His church grow in quality and quantity and serving the church by helping to fulfill Christ’s great commission

r). Refusal to associate or serve anyone who is different

s). Trust in the idols of position, title and traditions that are barriers to church growth

t). Dependence on their own language, phrases and code words that are designed to communicate their own hidden agendas

u). Low self-image that is built more on legalism than Christ

v). Denial of their own sins, weaknesses or shortcomings

w). Character imperfections "Pride goes before destruction a haughty spirit before stumbling."

3. Resort to God’s truth and leave the detailed explanations alone. Peter used a measure of diplomacy by sticking with the principles of truth instead of getting into all the possible detailed applications and implications of this change.

Application: Ask God to give you the discretion to speak in terms of the principles, themes and abiding truths and leave it at that. Moment by moment the Spirit of God will lead us with the best applications of the scriptures.

4. Remember that some people will try to break you heart but do not let them. Power hungry controllers get a perverse sense of authority when they are able to force other people to submit to their rules. "It is the Lord Jesus Christ whom you serve and not men." (Col. 3:23) Peter learned how to state the facts in love, humility and with the Spirit’s power. Dr. Luke wrote, "They held their peace." Only God is able to engineer a successful outcome of each crisis.

Application: Pray, trust and stay confident that you can do everything God asks you to do with the help of Christ who gives you the strength and power or whatever is needed to work through the contentious times.

Concluding Illustration: James Taylor sang the song, "They’ll break your heart if you let them, but don’t you let them. You just call out my name and you know wherever I am I come running. To see you again. Winter, spring, summer or fall. All you have to do it call. And I’ll be there. Yes, I will. You got a friend."

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