True Confessions

After 45 years of life, countless churches attended, and 23 years of pastoral ministry, I must confess that every church I’ve been involved with has knocked me around. I’ve witnessed pastors who were caught in adulterous affairs, church members who deliberately lied about me to force me out, and suffered a painful church split.

Am I nuts for staying connected to the church?

Probably.

But in today’s reading, we’ll look at what drives this insanity.

TODAY’S READING

Genesis 50:1 – Exodus 2:10
Matthew 16:13-17:9
Psalm 21:1-13
Proverbs 5:1-6

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INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

Genesis 50:3,7. This is pretty amazing: “All Pharaoh’s officials accompanied him—the dignitaries of his court and all the dignitaries of Egypt.” Jacob was apparently given royal honors among the Egyptians.

Genesis 50:15-18. Imagine being in Joseph’s shoes and listening to your brothers make up a story about your father and then watching them throw themselves on the ground begging for mercy. This communicated to Joseph that they didn’t think he was sincere in saving their lives. This also reminds me of the time when Jesus stood in front of Lazarus’ tomb and Mary and Martha doubted him. What did Jesus do? He wept[John 11:35].

Genesis 50:22-26. Strangely missing is the rest of the story of Joseph’s brothers—especially Reuben, the firstborn son. Joseph’s bones were eventually transported to Canaan, but his brothers weren’t. This tells me that Joseph assumed the role of firstborn son.

Exodus 1:10. The Bible Background Commentary explains, “The argument for enslaving the Israelites is that if they are not enslaved they will join the enemy and leave the country…The Egyptians would have wanted to keep the Israelite presence for economic reasons.”

Exodus 1:14. The Bible Background Commentary goes into detail about the difficult life of a brickmaker: “The ancient records agree that brick makers had a filthy job. A work known as the Satire on the Trades attests to an existence that is perpetually muddy and miserable. Houses, public buildings, walls around cities and even pyramids were at times constructed of brick. Literally millions of bricks were needed, and daily individual quotas would vary depending on how many were assigned to a crew.”

Exodus 2:3. The Hebrew word used for Moses’ basket is the same as that used for Noah’s ark.

Matthew 16:21-17:13. Isn’t it amazing how Peter can be so right and so wrong at the same time? Anyone who thinks they need to have their act together before following Jesus hasn’t spent enough time studying the disciples.

Proverbs 5:1-6. Although this section is written to men, I think women could place themselves in here as well. It’s a pretty sobering chapter. Adultery may sound so exciting, but in the end it brings death.

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THE WORD MADE FRESH

Peter’s confession in Matthew 16:18 is significant, but Jesus’ answer to Peter’s confession is equally significant: “On this rock I will build my church.”

The Greek word for “church” means “congregation” or “assembled ones.” It doesn’t mean a collection of Jesus’ followers who do their own thing.

On a fairly regular basis, the organized church knocks me around. In a morbid kind of way, I expect it. And I’m sure some people point to me as someone who has knocked them around.

As a result, sometimes I look in the mirror and ask myself, Mike, why do you stay involved in the church? Just do your own thing. That way people won’t keep knocking you around.

At times I’d like to do my own thing, just me and God. But that doesn’t fit into God’s plans. Jesus said “I will build my church.”

The church is Jesus’ primary means of reaching the world. To walk away from the church, in some ways, means to walk away from Jesus.

I realize this sounds pretty opinionated, but I can’t get around Matthew 16:8.

CONVERSATION STARTERS

  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. In light of Jesus’ promise to use Peter—despite his obvious flaws—what stands in your way of allowing God to use you? Why?
  3. Why would Jesus choose to reach the world through such a messed-up group of people?
  4. If you’ve been knocked around by the church, and still attend a church, what keeps you coming back?

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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.

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