Service Video Message Video Message Audio The service video is unavailable at this time. The sermon video is unavailable at this time. The sermon audio is unavailable at this time. Scripture Verses Acts 10:1-43, Acts 11:1-18 Downloads & Resources Revolutionary Problem Solving Dr. Jon Morrissette - 6/13/2004 Problems are as much a part of life as anything else we encounter. Problems are inevitable. We are fond of saying to one another, "So what’s your problem?" This past week I was trying to change the toner in our copier. I’ve done it a dozen times. But for some reason the cartridge got turned sideways and toner rained everywhere. I went to look for a vacuum with a wand, but had no luck. So I tried wiping up the toner with paper towels. Then I tried wet paper towels. The more I tried to clean it up, the worse things became. The toner smeared everywhere. What a mess! Eventually I took the front panel off the copier and washed it in the utility room. We also located a vacuum with a hose and that helped immensely. If you are wondering why your newsletter had big black specks and pok-a-dots, now you know why! I had problems earlier this week. Problems are the spice of life, aren’t they? Most problems can be resolved in time, with a little patience, creativity, or ingenuity. Some problems get resolved with cold hard cash. We just pick up the phone and say "help!" and a professional comes and fixes the problem. Some problems, such as health problems, may never fully be resolved. Instead we adjust and make the most of life. But when you consider the vast spectrum of problems we face, there is one set of problems that aren’t so easy to resolve. These are the problems involving relationships. If you have a car problem you can grab a wrench. You can run down to Auto Zone and get replacement parts. You can take your car to a mechanic and have it fixed in a day or two. You can go to a used car lot and trade your problems in for someone else’s problems. Or you can run out and get a brand new vehicle. One way or another, the problem is going to get fixed. Relationship problems are not so easy to fix. But relationships are quite a different issue, entirely. It's not like there are a few screws loose that need to be tightened or a part needing to be replaced. People are infinitely more complicated than a machine. We are human beings. We have unique personalities and temperaments. We have histories, differing backgrounds, and baggage. We have differing thoughts, ideas, feelings, emotions, hopes, dreams, aspirations, fears, preferences, values, genders, and biases. And as if that weren't enough, the sinful nature further compounds our troubles. The Bible says our hearts are deceitful above all else. There is no one righteous, not even one. We all fall short of the glory of God. Our sinful nature continually creates new problems for us each and every day. Even as the Holy Spirit transforms us, we are prone to flashes of selfishness, envy, pride, greed, lust, and covetousness. We get angry. We become anxious. We lose our patience. We stubbornly dig in our heels. We grow bitter. Whatever. By far, people problems are the most difficult problems we wrestle with on a daily basis. How do we go about resolving relationship issues? The early Church was faced with lots of turbulence. Fortunately for us, we find encouragement in the example of the early Church. If ever there was a web of relationships to be endangered by people problems, it was the early Church. It can be a lot for two people, say a husband and wife, to work out their differences with one another. Imagine the challenge of resolving differences between hundreds or even thousands of people! The early Church had to survive extraordinary relational turbulence as it flourished. How did the early Church do it? How did they preserve harmony and peace? How did they restore unity after divisions arose? How did they solve problems? The Problem: In Acts 10 a huge problem emerges in the early Church. It all began when Cornelius, a centurion within an Italian regiment, receives a vision. In the middle of the afternoon an angel of God appears to Cornelius and gives him the following instructions in Acts 10:5-6 (NIV). "Send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter. He is staying with Simon the tanner, whose house is by the sea." This doesn’t seem like a big deal to us. The Bible says Cornelius and all his family were devout and God fearing. They gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly. Their prayers and gifts were pleasing to God. But you have to realize that Cornelius and his family were Gentiles. By Jewish standards they were impure. They ate unclean, forbidden foods like meat sacrificed to idols. They did not abide by the Jewish laws and traditions. They had not been circumcised according to custom of Abraham and his descendants. Jews and Gentiles were not to associate. It was against the law. Gentiles were to be avoided. To compound matters there was this belief that salvation was just for the Jewish people and that no outsiders like Cornelius and his family should participate. But Cornelius the Gentile has this vision. He was to send for Simon Peter, a Jewish man in Joppa, and bring him back to Cornelius' home. The following day Simon Peter is in Joppa. It is the middle of the day and he is waiting for a meal to be prepared. His stomach is growling with hunger. Simon Peter goes up on the roof to pray and falls into a trance. Acts 10:11-16 (NIV) says, "He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles of the earth and birds of the air. Then a voice told him, 'Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.' 'Surely not, Lord!' Peter replied, 'I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.' The voice spoke to him a second time, 'Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.' This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven." As Peter contemplated the meaning of his vision, a band of "unclean" Gentiles sent by Cornelius stop at the gate in front of the house where Peter was staying. They tell Peter about Cornelius’s vision. Peter invites the men into the house to be his guests. The next day Peter sets out for Caesarea to meet Cornelius. Peter goes to Cornelius' house and tells everyone gathered there in Acts 10:28 (NIV), "You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or visit him. But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean." Peter presents the gospel to the Gentiles. Peter then preaches the good news of Christ to them. Acts 10:34-43 (NIV) says, "Then Peter began to speak: 'I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right. You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. You know what has happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached— how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him. We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name." As he was speaking, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. Acts 10:45-48 (NIV) says, "The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. Then Peter said, 'Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.' So he orderd that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ." Well the fireworks start when brothers in Jerusalem get wind of what Peter has done. They were stunned that Peter had compromised himself. They were disappointed. They questioned his judgment and discretion. They wanted answers. In Acts 11:3 (NIV) they criticize him and call him to account, "You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them." The Resolution: In Acts 11 Peter seeks to resolve this problem. Acts 11:4 (NIV) says, "Peter began and explained everything to them precisely as it had happened." This is one of those verses in which every word matters. Notice that Peter did not wait a second too long. He tackled the problem immediately. When problems surface our tendency is to retreat and lick our wounds. We want to avoid the problem. So we talk around the issue dividing us. We avoid those we have a dispute with. We procrastinate, hoping everything will just go away. By not dealing with the issue at hand, the problem festers and multiplies out of control. Spilt milk becomes the Exxon Valdez. Why not begin where Peter began? Dealing with the problem quickly. Good communication is the path to healing relationships. Communication is two way. It first involves understanding where the other party is coming from. Peter listened as his brothers criticized him. They told him exactly how they felt. Peter knew they were in the wrong, but he still listened anyway. He was mature about it. Again, good communication first involved seeking understanding from the other party! But good communication also involves helping the other party understand where you are coming from. After listening Peter explained everything to them, "precisely as it had happened." Peter told them the complete truth from start to finish and left no stone unturned. He was transparent about the problem. This past week a twenty-nine year old girl called the church asking for food. She was at a local motel, didn’t have transportation, and hadn’t eaten all day. She didn’t want money, just food. Naturally I began asking questions about her circumstances. To my surprise she told me precisely why she was stranded in a motel without food. She mentioned names, dates, places, and phone numbers. She gave me whatever information I needed. Instead of giving a story her attitude was, "This is who I am. This is my circumstance. This is how I got here. If you can help me, great. If not, I understand. I’ve spent my life lying and running and I’m through doing those things, sir." This is in contrast to a man who showed up at our doors a few weeks ago pretending to be interested in our church. He had an elaborate story about who he was and how he ended up in Springfield. When I left him in the lobby to get a piece of paper to take his name down, he spotted some change in our coffee donation box and tried to break into it. Both individuals probably had similar stories. One was completely honest and forthcoming. They other was deceptive. One was helped by us. The other was not. For those seeking to resolve problems, why not just tell the complete truth precisely as it happened and without embellishment? Peter explained everything precisely as it happened. The result is in Acts 11:18 (NIV). "When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, 'So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life.' " Humility is needed when relationship problems develop. There is something else worth mentioning here, especially when it comes to solving problems. It's called humility. In this situation Peter was in the right and the Judean brothers didn’t have all the facts. As the facts became clear the Judean brothers showed humility and acknowledged the truth about what God was doing. Often times pride gets in the way of resolving problems. We want to be right and we see it as a sign of weakness that we could be in the wrong. A mark of true character and strength is being able to say, "I was wrong. I didn’t have all the facts. I didn’t understand fully. I shouldn’t have criticized you. Please forgive me." Pride inflames the tension. Humility dissipates the tension. In the case of the early Church, the very same problem would again erupt in Acts 15. Let me just share a few more insights into how the church solved their problems. Sometimes it is necessary to seek godly counsel or even arbitration. In Acts 15 the dispute is between Paul and Barnabas and some brothers from Judea. Unable to defuse the situation, the Church sends Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders. The apostles and elders listen carefully, objectively weigh the issues, and seek God’s guidance. In the end the apostles and elders write a letter to the Gentile believers, accepting them as brothers. Paul and Barnabas are sent off with a blessing of peace. The result was that the gospel spread throughout the rest of the known world. What’s remarkable about this whole ordeal is its application for us today. Extraordinary problems can be resolved in revolutionary ways when we approach them with some basic common sense. Here are some questions we need to ask whenever relational problems confront us. First, are you beginning with the problem? Are you going directly to the people involved or are you triangulating through other people? Procrastination. Alliance building. Triangulating. Gossip. Backbiting. None of these things enhance life’s relationships. They are a dead end street. Giving vent and expression to the sinful nature destroys relationships. Tackle the problem. Don’t let the sun go down. Be a man. Be a woman. Second, are you dealing honestly with the problem? Are you seeking the facts? Are you perpetuating misunderstanding? Are you allowing the truth to dictate your feelings? Or are you reinforcing your negative feelings with falsehoods and half truths? Are you truly, honestly, seeking understanding? And as a courtesy to the other party, are you explaining your position precisely with clarity and in truth? Third, are you showing humility in dealing with the problem? Do you have to be right? Do you have to come out on top? Can you admit your mistakes? Can you swallow your pride? Last, are you seeking godly counsel and even arbitration? Sometimes problems grow bigger than what two parties can resolve. Sometimes it takes a third party to bring perspective, to facilitate understanding, to defuse negative emotions, to search for solutions, or to objectively discern God’s will. This is the great thing about the Church. We don’t have to do it alone. We are surrounded by godly men and women who can help us solve problems, no matter how big the problems are. All you have to do is seek the help you need. It's here when you need it. Because of these common sense actions and attitudes, the early Church enjoyed peace and unity. Reconciliation with God and men became a reality. Extraordinary differences were overcome in revolutionary ways.