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Life For Leaders

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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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How to Find Wisdom

In Genesis 3, the serpent promised that if the woman were to eat the fruit God had made off limits, she would not die as God had promised. Instead, the serpent told her, after eating the fruit, “your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (3:5). Hearing this, the woman saw the tree with its forbidden fruit from a new perspective. It promised physical satisfaction (good for food), aesthetic enjoyment (delight to the eyes), and, most of all, new intellectual capacity (make one wise; 3:6). Given the fact that all the other trees in the garden offered fruit and beauty, and given the particular focus of the serpent’s temptation, it seems clear that the woman, along with the man, ate the banned fruit out of a desire for wisdom, or something akin to it.

The Hebrew word translated in 3:6 as “to make one wise [haskil]” is not related to the Hebrew word for wisdom that appears often in Proverbs, for example: “Happy are those who find wisdom [chokmah], and those who get understanding” (Prov 3:13). Yet haskil does appear sometimes in Scripture in a positive sense, as in Proverbs 1:3: “for gaining instruction in wise dealing [haskil].”

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