Should Christians Ever Be Sad?
I grew up in a culture, church, and family that didn’t have much room for sadness. If people in my life were feeling sad, it was my responsibility to “cheer them up.” As a Christian, I knew I was supposed to “Rejoice in the Lord, always!” God was the one who wiped away every tear. Thus, sadness was inconsistent, not only with the cultural norms of my tribe, but also with our understanding of authentic Christianity. Real Christians were happy, not sad. They always had smiles on their faces. And they certainly didn’t flood their bed with tears.Read Post
God’s World: Very Good but Unfinished
Today I want to continue reflecting with you on major themes from the creation narrative in Genesis 1-2.
Six times in Genesis 1 God saw that what he has made was good. Then, after creating humankind, “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good” (1:31). This verse, along with theological reflection on the perfection of God, has suggested to many that God made the world perfect. How could a holy God create anything less than perfect?
Yet, Genesis is clear that God’s world was not perfect in the sense of being complete.Read Post
Let My Heart Be Moved by the Things That Move the Heart of God
Bob Pierce used to say, “Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God.” As this happened in Pierce’s life, he acted, seeking to feed the hungry, provide shelter for the homeless, and care for the orphan. In 1950, Bob Pierce’s God-inspired broken heart led him to found World Vision International, a Christian humanitarian organization that has touched millions of children and adults throughout the world.
Pierce’s desire to have his heart broken by the things that break God’s heart is inspiring and challenging. I pray that God would help me to have such a tender, vulnerable heart. As I reflect on the opening chapters of Genesis, I find myself asking for something similar, but even broader. I’m asking that my heart be moved by the things that move the heart of God. I want to care about what God cares about, to love what God loves, to value what God values, to delight in that which delights the heart of God.Read Post
It’s Not about You…Mainly
Today I begin a few days of concluding reflections on Genesis 1-2. As I sit back and consider what speaks incisively to me from these chapters, I’m reminded of the first sentence in Rick Warren’s bestseller, The Purpose Driven Life: “It’s not about you.” He explains, “The purpose of your life is far greater than your own personal fulfillment, your peace of mind, or even your happiness. It’s far greater than your family, your career, or even your wildest dreams and ambitions. If you want to know why you were placed on this planet, you must begin with God. You were born by his purpose and for his purpose.”Read Post
A Solid Foundation for Living and Leading
If I have counted correctly, this is the sixty-fourth Life for Leaders devotion based on the creation narrative in Genesis 1-2. I started on April 6 with Genesis 1:1. Every day since then, except for the Sunday devotions based on the Psalms, I have considered some feature of Genesis 1-2, often pausing for days to focus on a particularly meaningful verse. In case you’re wondering, I do not plan on maintaining this pace as we continue our walk through the rest of Genesis and beyond (though chapter 3 deserves careful attention). I have moved so slowly through Genesis 1-2 because I believe this passage provides a crucial and trustworthy foundation for fruitful living and leading. Since the Max De Pree Center for Leadership, the publisher of these devotions, seeks to “serve leaders so they might flourish in life and leadership,” the foundational truths of Genesis 1-2 deserve the attention they have received here.Read Post
A Perfect Partnership Between Man and Woman in Marriage
If the devotions in Life for Leaders were intended for family life, I would slow down right now and spend several days looking closely at Genesis 2:19-25, since this passage reveals much about God’s intentions for marriage. Given the leadership and work focus of Life for Leaders, however, I’ll offer a few thoughts on this passage before moving on tomorrow.
Genesis 2:19-25 confirms and expands what we saw in verse 18, namely, that God intended a perfect partnership between man and woman, not just in work, but also in family life.Read Post
A Perfect Partnership Between Man and Woman
In Saturday’s Life for Leaders edition, we began to consider how Genesis 2:18 shapes our understanding of the relationship between man and woman. We saw that the woman is to be a “helper” for the man. “Helper” translates the Hebrew word ‘ezer. The most common use of this word throughout Scripture is as a description of God and the assistance God provides. Knowing this, we might rightly wonder if Genesis 2:18 establishes the woman as the superior member of the male-female pair. Is she to be the helper for the man in the way God is our helper?
The phrase “as his partner” qualifies the meaning of “helper.” The Hebrew expression used here means something like “opposite to him” or “corresponding to him.” The woman is not a stronger, wiser, and therefore preeminent version of the man. Rather, she adds distinctive and complementary strengths in the male-female partnership. She is not superior to the man. Nor is she inferior. Rather, the woman is the man’s colleague in the business of tilling and keeping God’s garden (not to mention the work of being fruitful and multiplying and filling the earth, 1:28). God intends there to be a perfect partnership between man and woman in the sphere of work, which, in Genesis, includes the realm of the family.Read Post
Praying When We Don’t Have the Words
What is prayer? The most basic answer says that prayer is talking to God. Sometimes we talk to God through singing. Sometimes we talk silently with words that are not actually expressed. But, for most of us, most of the time, prayer is talking to God.
Yet, there are times when our words fail us. These may be times of ecstasy when we cannot find words to communicate our joy (for example 1 Peter 1:8). More commonly, we run out of words in times of turmoil and struggle, times when we feel discouraged and hopeless. Can we pray in times like these, without words?Read Post
What in the World is a “Helpmeet”?
When I was a young Christian, I remember hearing that a wife was to be a “helpmeet” to her husband. I thought that sounded strange and I wasn’t quite sure what it meant. In my juvenile understanding, I heard the word as “help-meat.” Perhaps wives were to help their husbands by preparing the meat for dinner. At any rate, I did get the sense that “helpmeet” meant something like “junior assistant.” The “helpmeet” wife did menial labor under the authority of her superior husband.
In my boyhood, I did not know that the odd word “helpmeet” comes from Scripture, from Genesis 2:18, in fact. The King James Version of this verse reads, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.” When “help” and “meet” are blurred together, you get “helpmeet.”Read Post
A Surprising Twist in the Story
As we have already seen, Genesis 2 tells the story of creation in a different way from Genesis 1. One main difference is the way in which the creation of human beings is portrayed. In Genesis 1, God creates humankind in God’s own image as male and female (1:27). The text suggests, but does not require, that man and woman were created at the same time. In Genesis 2, however, God creates the man first, adding the woman later. If we were unfamiliar with Genesis, this might be a bit surprising.
But far more surprising, in my opinion, is the way God sets up the creation of woman. One of the main emphases in Genesis 1 is the goodness of creation. Six times God saw what he had made as “good.” Then, after the creation of human beings, God saw “everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good” (1:31). Yet, in the narrative of Genesis 2, the first time God evaluated creation he noted something that is “not good” (2:18). This is what God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.”Read Post
Further Reflection on the Gracious Prohibition of God
In yesterday’s devotion we began to consider the gracious prohibition of God. God told the man that he should not eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, not to spoil the man’s fun, but rather to protect him from death. In this sense, God’s prohibition was an expression of God’s grace.
Today, I want to reflect a bit more on God’s prohibitions. I begin by noting that in many Christian traditions, the “don’ts” of God greatly outweigh the “dos.” Following Jesus turns out to be mainly a matter of avoiding behavior considered to be sinful. This approach to discipleship distorts God’s call, putting far more emphasis on the negatives than the positives. Scripture includes plenty of “don’ts,” to be sure. The Ten Commandments supply a prime example of this. Yet, the biblical vision of life is a fundamentally positive one, based on the grace of God and shaped by the kingdom of God. Christian traditions that major in the “don’ts” miss the major point of biblical revelation.Read Post
The Gracious Prohibition of God
In the narrative of Genesis, God has given human beings many positive instructions, either explicitly through commands or implicitly through story. We are to “be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion” (1:28). We are to eat the fruit produced by the earth (1:29). We are to “till” and “keep” the garden in which God has put us (2:15). All of these instructions, both the explicit and implicit ones, are positive. They tell us to do certain things, opening up vast areas for discovery, productivity, and delight.
In Genesis 2:16-17, for the first time God gives a negative instruction, a prohibition. The man may “freely eat of every tree of the garden,” except for “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” The fruit of this tree is forbidden. Eating it leads to death.Read Post