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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Horse and cat in barn window
Mural of horse and cat
This was an advertisement for the Farmer's Museum
near the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.

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"The Blessing Of Confrontation"

"When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong.  Before certain men came from James, he [Peter] used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray" (Galatians 2:11-13).

Do you like confrontations? I sure don't and seek to avoid them if at all possible. But there are times that confrontations are needed and can be redemptive. I feel among the characteristics of good leadership is the courage and willingness to confront.  Sometime back I had a compelling within my spirit to confront an influential Christian brother regarding a matter I felt very strongly about. I am pleased to report that in this case my positions were clarified as I carefully studied Scripture and brought it into focus in addressing the matter. (Note: This did not involve a local church.)

Today's verses records quite a confrontation encounter.  It involved two of the most prominent leaders in the early church; Peter and Paul. The issue spoke to the very heart of the Christian faith.  The Galatian churches had been infiltrated by a false doctrine.  A group known as the Judaizers asserted that salvation was a mix of faith in Christ and keeping the Jewish law.  Reading the text closely indicates that the confrontation itself was prompted by Peter's actions.

First notice the phrase "I opposed him to the face."  Paul didn't seek a backhanded means of confrontation. Direct confrontation can be the most difficult but in reality is usually the best. Paul was certain that Peter "was clearly in the wrong." Now that's conviction. After all, Peter was Paul's senior in regard to church leadership and one of the original disciples of Christ.

The issue was association with the Gentiles. God's plan for the early church (and instructive for each age) is a healthy ethnic diversity. The church was comprised of both Jews and Gentiles. Peter should have learned this lesson from his experience in Acts 10 when he was called to the household of Cornelius. Now rather than entering into fellowship he drew back and separated himself from the Gentiles.

Notice the basis of Peter's actions: "he was afraid."  It's terrible when your convictions are set aside in fear of others and essentially politics!  God had powerfully spoken to Peter earlier on this matter (Acts 10).  He clearly needed Paul's rebuke. 

Yet consider, Peter was one of the original twelve disciples and a member of Jesus' inner circle.  He spoke for the new church on the Day of Pentecost and was the most prominent leader in the church's early years. 

Did Peter react to Paul's words or did he respond?  There is a difference!  I wonder if he thought or even said, "How dare you speak out against me; you weren't even one of the Twelve let alone in the inner circle!" He could easily have brought up Paul's past along with the terror and heartache he brought to the followers of Christ.

Paul on the other hand was the Johnny-come-lately.  He missed all the action during Christ's earthly ministry and then vehemently persecuted the early church.  I wonder if it was difficult for Paul to confront Peter?  What right did he have to confront a senior leader of the church?

Yet today we are all enriched by this encounter. Correct doctrine was preserved in this circumstance.  Peter later wrote a very respectful remark about Paul, "our beloved brother", in his second Epistle (3:15). I find it interesting that his first letter was written to these same churches in the region of Galatia.  This suggests that Paul's rebuke had no lasting harm on Peter's esteem among these churches.

Today, may God help us, like Peter, to receive proper rebuke if needed.  May we also have the courage, like Paul, to stand up for our convictions and truth!  Confrontation can be an opportunity for spiritual maturing when it is done prayerfully, lovingly, and discreetly. If God urges you to confront a person about a matter be obedient to His leading. When doing so remember that you are responsible for the message and the way you deliver it, but the recipient is responsible for his or her response to the message.  

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily prayer: Father, we want to be used of You to bless others and encourage them in their spiritual walk.  Help us to be sensitive to Your Spirit's leading when there are words of guidance, caution or even correction that we are to share with our brother or sister.  Help us to be careful messengers of Your truth, grace, and reproof.  Help us also to be grateful recipients when You use other godly messengers to speak to us about matters which we ignore, misuse, or are blinded to. May we all do our part in building up the body for which Christ gave His life.  In Jesus' name we pray.  Amen.

Obviously much more could be written concerning today's message but a few clarifications are in order:

1) The confronter is not always correct!  We need to listen when confronted and examine the matter, but we may very well be correct in the position we hold.

2) Some people seem to like to confront and are nitpicky about matters of taste and mere opinion.

3) When led to confront we should do so with an attitude of humility.

4) Face to face is good but not always possible.  I also find it helpful to write my position out whether the confrontation is face to face or in the form of a letter.

5) Confrontation should be private as much as possible.

Today I would like to share several more photos of our trip to an Amish settlement in New York state last weekend.

Farmer's Museum, Cooperstown, New York
This is a typical mid 1800's farmhouse and farm at the Farmer's Museum near Cooperstown, New York.

Main barn & entrance to Farmer's Museum, Cooperstown, New York
This huge stone barn (authentic to the site) serves as the entrance and main exhibition hall for the Farmer's Museum. What do you suppose the two silos now serve as?  (see below daily footers for answer.)

Milking the Amish way
The Amish farmer we visited asked Jesse why I was taking pictures of his cows, which I suppose he considered quite peculiar.  I explained that I like to show people glimpses of life not normally seen and especially in light of the severe degree of agricultural ignorance that abounds. I explained that most people only know milk in a jug from the grocery store (some of whom also think spaghetti grows on trees!)  Several years ago I developed an online photo of scenes when I helped out at an Amish farm one evening during milking (see here)

Amish garden New York
I was impressed by the garden!  These folks just moved up to New York state to settle several years ago and built a house and large milk barn on land that had never had buildings.

Amish garden Lancaster, PA
This Amish garden in Lancaster County is a bit farther along but then it has been developed for many years and has a warmer climate!

Amish road sign in New York
Driving through our area we are accustomed to seeing Amish road signs, which are intended to warn drivers of the Amish horse and buggies they will likely encounter (we pass many each week).  We thought the Amish road signs in New York were interesting as it looks like a tractor with a covered cab pulled by a horse!  This page has a photo of an Amish road sign here in Lancaster County as well as some interesting information.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

Click on the link to open and play.
(In some cases you may also need to click again to start the song.) 

"He Leadeth Me"
 Video  Acapella  It was harder today to find music related to today's theme but I like this song and the phrase, "His faithful follower I would be!"

Answer to question about silos in barn: They are used as the restrooms!

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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