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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Justice for Orphans and the Oppressed

Psalm 10 begins by wondering why the Lord lets the wicked do their evil deeds and even prosper because of them. The wicked think God is absent or, at any rate, not paying attention to what they’re doing. But the psalm writer knows that God is there and that he is, in fact, watching. Thus the psalmist cries out for the Lord to punish the wicked, to give them the justice they deserve.

The psalm ends on a different, tender note. The Lord pays attention, not only to the wicked, but also to their victims.

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The First Technology Upgrade

Before we leave Genesis 3:21, I want to share with you some fascinating insights into the significance of this verse. They come from John Dyer, author of one of the very best books on Christian faith and technology, From the Garden to the City: The Redeeming and Corrupting Power of Technology. Dyer entitles the section of his book that focuses on Genesis 3:21 “The First Technology Upgrade.” What does he mean by this?

First, we must understand that Dyer does not use “technology” in the narrow sense of our common language. Technology, for Dyer and other scholars who study it, is more than devices powered by microchips. In Chapter 4 of From the Garden to the City, Dyer discusses four different layers of technology, summing up with a surprisingly simple definition: technology is “the human activity of using tools to transform God’s creation for practical purposes.”

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Clothing the Naked

As I reflect on Genesis 3:21 with its picture of God making garments so as to clothe the first couple, I’m struck by something that seems almost too obvious to mention. Are you ready? God provides clothes for those who need them. See, I told you it was obvious. Yet, I mention this because it reveals something crucial about God even as it gives us an example to follow.

In Genesis 3:21, God responds to human need in a tangible, physical way. God reveals his care for those in need, even when their need is a direct result of their own sin, as in the case with Adam and Eve.

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Glimmers of Grace in the Midst of Brokenness

As we have seen, the sin of the first humans leads to multiple layers of brokenness. Brokenness affects personal identity, intimate relationships, the relationship between human beings and God, and the relationship between people and the earth. We will continue to do the work God had assigned to us, but now with greater difficulty and pain. And, at the end of our lives, we will die, returning to the dust from which we were made. Not a pretty picture, to say the least.

Yet, in the midst of this sad scenario there are glimmers of grace. The first, as you may recall, was when God sought out the man and woman, even calling out to them (3:9). Another glimpse of grace appears in Genesis 3:21: “And the LORD God made garments of skins for the man and for his wife, and clothed them.”

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Facing Our Mortality

My friend Tim is a manager of a small company. Because he often hires people for their first full-time job, he gets to tell new employees about their benefits. One time, Tim was trying to explain to a man how life insurance works, but the man seemed unhappy. It was almost as if he didn’t want this benefit. Tim was persistent, nevertheless. “If you die,” he said, “then you’re family will get a lot of money.” The new employee finally was able to verbalize his concern, “But Tim,” he responded somberly, “I don’t want to die!”

I expect most of us feel like this, even if we don’t say it. We embrace life and don’t want to consider death. Many things in our culture keep us from facing the reality of death. We work hard to remain youthful in appearance and healthy in body so as to delay the inevitable. We’d rather not think about the fact that we will die.

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Brokenness Affects Our Work, Part 2

In the Life for Leaders’ post Brokenness Affects Our Work, Part 1 , we saw one example of brokenness affecting our work. The woman will continue to “bring forth children,” an essential element of her work, yet she will do so “in pain” (Gen 3:16). Today, we see a second way in which human work is made much more difficult as a result of sin.

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Brokenness and Gender Conflict

As we have seen in previous devotions on Genesis 3, sin breaks God’s perfect creation, especially by injuring key relationships. The very first relationship to be hurt, according to the narrative, was that between man and woman. After they ate the forbidden fruit, the first couple felt the need to hide from each other. No longer could they be fully and freely themselves.

Genesis 3:16 reveals more about the damage sin does to the relationship between man and woman.

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Those Who Know Your Name Trust in You

When my wife became pregnant with our second child, she and I were overjoyed. We had hoped and prayed for another baby and were thrilled to know one was on the way. When we learned that our baby was a girl, we started thinking of a name for her. We decided upon Kara (pronounced CARE-uh), not only because we liked the sound of that name, but also because it was an Anglicized version of the Greek word meaning “joy.” We felt great joy over the pending birth of our little girl and wanted our joy to be captured by her name.

We never realized, however, just how perfect this name would be. Even when she was a baby, Kara rejoiced in life. She is still one of the most enthusiastic, fun, and, indeed, joyful people I know. It’s almost as if her name summarizes the essence of her existence. If you know that “Kara” means joy, and you know my daughter’s name is Kara, then you know her.

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Brokenness Affects Our Work, Part 1

As we have seen in previous devotions (First, Sin – Then, Brokenness, Brokenness With God), sin breaks God’s very good creation, though it does not destroy it. In particular, sin ruptures key relationships, such as the relationship between God and human beings and the relationship between the first human beings, who feel the need to hide from each other, from God, and even from themselves.

Genesis 3:16 elaborates on the brokenness experienced by humans in relationship to their work and to each other.

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The Cursed Serpent and a Glimmer of Grace

The 2004 film The Passion of the Christ opens with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. As he is kneeling and agonizing in prayer to his Heavenly Father, Jesus sees someone we recognize as Satan. The tempter tries to undermine Jesus’ conviction that he must die for the sins of the world. When this temptation seems not to work, Satan releases a serpent who slithers up to Jesus, apparently to strike him. But Jesus stands, looks at Satan, and powerfully crushes the head of the serpent under his foot.

This imaginative vision of Jesus in the Garden does not come directly from the New Testament gospels. Rather, it is based on a Christian reading of Genesis 3.

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Avoiding Responsibility

Shortly after I got my first driver’s license, I also got my first ticket. I was driving 15 miles over the posted 25 miles per hour speed limit and a motorcycle cop caught me red handed. I was upset about the ticket. But mostly I was upset about telling my dad. In twenty-five years of driving, he had a perfect record. My driving perfection lasted all of two months. I was afraid that my dad would be angry with me for being such a lousy driver.

So, I spent a couple of days concocting a long list of “reasons” why I got a speeding ticket.

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God Turns Toward Us

Dr. John Gottman is one of the world’s leading students of marriage. Professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Washington, Gottman has spent over forty years doing serious research on what makes marriages flourish and what destroys them. Among his findings, Gottman discovered that marriages in which spouses “turn towards” each other have a high probability of longevity and health. Turning towards is very simple, really; it’s responding in some way to your spouse, to what your spouse says, does, thinks, feels. It’s giving a modest amount of attention when your spouse “bids” for it. Turning towards is often as easy as literally turning in the direction of your spouse when he or she is talking to you. It can be as little as a friendly nod.

In Genesis 3:8-9, we see God turning towards us. Actually, God does much more than this. Turning towards us is just the beginning. After the first humans sin, their relationship with God is broken (see yesterday’s devotion). They rejected God and his direction over their lives, preferring the way of death to the way of life. God had every right to strike them dead with a Zeus-like thunderbolt from the sky. Or God could have simply turned his back on those who had first turned their back on him.

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Brokenness With God

I don’t like it when things are broken. If, for example, our dishwasher isn’t working, I feel on edge, worried, and unhappy. My wife, Linda, reassures me that the repairperson will come and fix it. Or, worst-case scenario, we have to get a new dishwasher, and even that isn’t the end of the world. Meanwhile, we’ll do just fine washing the dishes by hand. Linda is right, of course. But still, broken things nag at me, stealing my peace.

The world nags at me all the time because it is broken. Each day, I try to keep up on the news by reading a couple major newspapers. And, each day, I’m reminded of the brokenness of our world. It can be seen in almost every major story, whether we’re talking about viral outbreaks in Africa, senseless violence in the Middle East, or racial hatred in the United States.

Brokenness is also writ large in Genesis 3.

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First, Sin – Then, Brokenness

Now we come to a major turning in the biblical story, to an event with historic, cosmic implications. After being tempted by the serpent, the woman, and the man who was right there with her, eat some of the forbidden fruit. They do what God said not to do. They do what God said would lead to death. They eat because they like the look and taste of the fruit, but mostly because they believe it will enable them to know in new ways, to be just like God.

From a theological point of view, we understand that the first result of sin is a rending of the perfect relationship between human beings and God. We’ll see this illustrated profoundly and painfully in just a few verses. But, from a narrative point of view, the first result of sin affects the first humans, both their self-perception and their relationship with each other. As the story says, “Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves” (3:7).

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In ALL Your Ways Acknowledge Him

As you probably know, on Sundays the Life for Leaders devotions are usually based on the Psalms. But, every now and then, I reserve the right to break my tradition and share with you something I am especially excited about. Today, my enthusiasm is focused on Proverbs 3:5-6.

Here’s the backstory. Last week, I was up in Portland facilitating a workshop for pastors and other leaders, in partnership with The Washington Institute. We were working together on the question of how the church can encourage all of its people to see that they are all called into the ministry of Christ and to live out this calling in every part of life. In the course of that conversation on vocation and vocations, one of the members of the group shared her “life verse” from Proverbs: “Trust in the LORD will all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths (Prov 3:5-6).

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