Author: Mark Roberts

Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.

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What Is Our Purpose? The Cultural Mandate

What is our purpose as human beings? Why did God make us? Why are we here on earth? These defining questions provoke philosophers and theologians to probe the depths of human significance. But, also, they stir within each of us in a personal way. What is my purpose as a human being? Why did God make me? Why am I here on earth?

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You Were Made to Make a Difference

My friend Paul worked hard for decades, achieving considerable success as a leader in education and business. Finally, Paul retired with the hope of enjoying the benefits of the “good life” he had earned through his considerable efforts. In particular, he looked forward to playing lots of golf. That’s exactly what Paul did. Soon he became a superior golfer, winning dozens of tournaments. But Paul was not happy in the way he had expected. Though he had ample time for golf and relaxation, he was not fulfilled. So Paul decided to go back to work, taking up real estate as a new profession. He wanted to get back to making a difference in the world beyond making birdies and accumulating golf trophies. He loved the idea of helping people find just the right house for their needs.

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Working with Divine Image Bearers

In my earlier reflection “Seeing All People in Light of God’s Image”, we saw how the biblical story of each person bearing God’s image stood out in a culture that tended to reserve this image only for people of exceptional power. We began to consider how the fact that all people are created in God’s image might shape our behavior and challenge our own cultural practices.

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How Can I Be Like God?

In the devotion “Astounding Likeness”, we began to consider the astounding truth that we are like God. God made human beings in God’s own image and likeness. Even though sin has tarnished that image, as we’ll see in Genesis 3, we still reflect and embody the divine image.

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God as the Leader Who Defines Reality

One of Max De Pree’s most frequently quoted lines comes from the opening pages of Leadership Is an Art: “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between the two, the leader must become a servant and a debtor. That sums up the progress of an artful leader.” (p. 11).

“The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality.” If you’re not familiar with Max’s work, don’t worry. He’s not some New Age guru who thinks we can create our own reality by thinking happy thoughts. For Max, a faithful Christian, our ability as leaders to define reality is shaped and circumscribed by the ultimate definition of reality by God.

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That’s Pretty Good!

After finishing a major project, have you ever stood back, taken in what you have accomplished, and said to yourself, “That’s pretty good”? I’ll admit that I have on numerous occasions, especially after mowing the lawn.

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God the Worker

Given how familiar I am with the creation narrative in Genesis 1, I find it hard to step back and see it with fresh eyes. Perhaps you can relate. But if I use my imagination, I can gain some perspective. I imagine, for example, how else God might have been introduced to us.

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What to Do When Things Keep on Getting Worse

Psalm 12 begins with a dire description of a culture on the road to ruin: “[T]here is no longer anyone who is godly; the faithful have disappeared from humankind” (12:1). As he continues, the psalmist sees neighbors lying to each other and violence done to the helpless (12:2, 5). “On every side the wicked prowl, as vileness is exalted among humankind” (12:8). The bonds that hold society together are being severed as people lose the ability to determine right from wrong.

Sound familiar? Have you ever found yourself checking CNN online and thinking that the godly are disappearing and the faithful have vanished from the earth?

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Why Does God Love Justice?

Psalm 11 explains God’s relationship to justice in terms of love. Verse 7 reads, “For the LORD is righteous; he loves righteous deeds.” This translation is possible, though it could also be rendered, “For the just LORD loves justice” or “For the righteous LORD loves righteous deeds.” The Hebrew uses the adjective tzaddiq in reference to the Lord and the plural noun tzedaqot to depict that which he loves. Even without knowing Hebrew, you can see the close relationship between these two words, which are based on the tz-d-q root.

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Walking with God, Literally

I wonder if the metaphorical use of “walking with God” might come from the common human experience of sharing life while walking side by side with someone. I have had some of the most intimate conversations of my life while walking alongside friends and relatives. Something about the pace, the surroundings, the movement, the leisure, and who knows what else fosters unusual emotional intimacy. This is one reason why I like to go on walks with my wife. Exercise is good. So is enjoying the beauty of creation. But intimacy with my wife is even better, and walking helps us share life more deeply and fully.

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What Do You Want On Your Gravestone?

I’ll never forget the very first graveside service I led as a pastor. It was in a mausoleum at Forest Lawn in Glendale, California. As I was waiting for the service to start, I studied the walls of the mausoleum, which were covered with epitaphs. Most of them said something like “Beloved Wife and Mother” or “In Loving Memory.” But one caught my eye and sparked my imagination. What did it say? “A Real Character.” Wouldn’t you like to know more about the person with that grave marker?

Have you ever thought about what you’d want on your gravestone? If your identity was to be summarized for posterity in just a few words, what might these words be?

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The Excruciating Result of Sin

Cain said to his brother Abel, ‘Let us go out to the field.’ And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against…

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The Ironic Tree of Life

Genesis 3 ends with a description of the guards God placed at the entrance to Eden, who would prevent human beings from accessing the tree of life. According to Genesis 3:22, if a human being were to eat the fruit of this tree, that person would live forever. But, since human beings had sinned, they forfeited the right to everlasting life, and therefore to receiving the benefits of the tree of life. It was off limits to the first human beings and it remains off limits to us.

Until later, that is, much later in the biblical story.

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When Work is Corrupted by Sin

As we saw in yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion, God kicks Adam out of Eden because of his sin. Yet Adam is still to do the work for which God created him. His experience of work, however, will not be what it was in the garden. Now he will labor in a broken world. He will till the ground, but fight thorns and thistles in the process. He will work hard, but with frustration and fruitlessness.

A recent book lays out succinctly and insightfully what happens to our work because of sin. Every Good Endeavor, written by Timothy Keller, with Katherine Leary Alsdorf, begins by considering “God’s Plan for Work” in light of Genesis 1-2 and other biblical passages.

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Kicked Out of Eden, But Work Remains to Be Done

As we come to the close of Genesis 3, God kicks the man (and, by implication, the woman with him) out of the garden of Eden. The Hebrew verb translated in verse 24 as “drove out” is a strong one (garash). It suggests that the Lord did not play the role of the English butler, showing Adam and Eve politely to the door. Rather, he cast them out of Eden with force and determination, placing supernatural guards at the entry to the garden to make sure the first couple could never return.

I find it fascinating that verse 23 tells us that God “sent [the man] forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken.” The verb translated here as “till” is the standard Hebrew verb for “to serve” (‘abad). Some interpreters of the biblical story have wrongly concluded from this verse that work is divine punishment for sin. They neglect that fact that ‘abad was used in Genesis 2:15 for God’s original intentions for the man, who was to “till” the garden as well as “keep” it.

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