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How Does God Lead? Part 2: Empowering Direction and Gracious Prohibition

Yesterday, I began considering the question “How does God lead?” as revealed in Genesis 1-2. Though the text doesn’t mention divine leadership specifically, we would be well served to consider how God’s activity in creation exemplifies an approach to leadership that can instruct and inspire us. So far, we’ve seen how God’s “leadership” is shaped by vision and exercised through delegation.

Empowering Direction. In Genesis 1-2, God tells the first humans, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion . . .” (1:28). These are clear imperatives, given from a superior to those who operate under the superior’s authority. Yet, these directives are not limiting or demeaning, but expansive and honoring. They do not squelch creativity and innovation. Rather, they encourage it.

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How Does God Lead? Part 1: Expansive Vision and Genuine Delegation

As I finish up my look back at Genesis 1-2, I want to ask a simple question of this text: “How does God lead?” Since this devotional is called Life for Leaders and since it is published by Fuller Seminary’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, it seems appropriate to reflect a bit on God’s leadership in the biblical account of creation. This is not only a matter of theological curiosity, however. Since we have been created in God’s image and invited to participate in God’s work in the world, then examining God’s way of leading will help us to know how we should lead as well.

The words “leader” or “leadership” do not appear in Genesis 1-2. For the most part, these chapters focus on what God did in creation, with the last verses including human activity as well. Yet, if leadership is a matter of “enabling change over time,” as my colleague Scott Cormode observes, then there is a strong sense in which God leads by creating the heavens and the earth. Moreover, Genesis makes it clear that God envisions a world in which others, namely human beings, will also be change agents. Thus, God could be said to exercise leadership of human beings while inviting them into leadership as well.

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Men and Women at Work: A Biblical Vision

In the last couple of months as I having been working my way slowly through Genesis 1-2, I was impressed once again by the picture in this passage of the relationship between male and female. In Genesis 1:27, “God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Then, God blessed both male and female together and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion . . .” (1:28). Humankind, as male and female, bears the very image of God. Humankind, as male and female, is given authority and stewardship over creation. This passage reveals God’s intentions for a deep collaboration between man and woman in the work he assigned to human beings.

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Created for Community

As we look back upon Genesis 1-2, we see that God created us for community. This community is epitomized in the relationship of man and woman, which, among other things, made possible the growth of community as the first humans were fruitful and multiplied.

In Genesis 1, God created humankind in God’s own image as male and female. Community was built in from the start, an essential element of human life. In Genesis 2, the creation of human beings is seen from a different perspective. God created the man first. But then God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner” (2:18). There it is, plain as day: “It is not good that the man should be alone.” God creates us for relationship, for fellowship, for community.

Now you may want to say, “Wait a minute! The man wasn’t alone. He had God. In fact, his relationship with God was unstained by sin at this point in the story. The man and God could walk together in the garden, experiencing an intimacy we can only imagine. Why, then, would God say that the man was alone? Wasn’t relationship with God enough?”

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An Encouragement to Rest

In today’s Life for Leaders edition, I continue to reflect back on things I have learned through our devotional study of Genesis 1-2.

Through my work with the Max De Pree Center for Leadership at Fuller Seminary, I regularly interact with highly productive, extremely busy people. Many are marketplace leaders who oversee substantial organizations. Others are entrepreneurs who devote countless hours to their start-ups. Still others are pastors whose work never ends, or non-profit leaders who are quite literally taking on the world. I find myself at home with people like this because I also work hard, often with much joy in the adventure of leadership and productivity.

Work comes naturally to leaders. Rest? Well, that’s often a different story.

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Would You Pass a Kidney Test?

My friend Tom was born with defective kidneys. Thus, on a fairly regular basis, he has to go in for a kidney test. The doctors want to see if his kidneys are functioning well enough for Tom to continue on without invasive medical treatment. So far, so good. But, when it’s time for his kidney test, Tom is understandably nervous.

How about you? Are you nervous about your kidney test? Now, before you email me to say that you aren’t having such a medical procedure, let me hasten to say that I’m not thinking of the sort of thing Tom has to endure periodically. Rather, I’m translating Psalm 7:9 in an overly literal way. We read, “[You] test the minds and hearts, O righteous God” (7:9).

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Your Work and God’s Glory, Part 2

Today I’d like to wrap up some recent reflections on work and God’s glory. In the last two installments of Life for Leaders, I’ve been suggesting that one of the main ways we are able to glorify God is through our work. I didn’t make this out of whole cloth. I found it in Genesis 1-2, where God creates human beings so they might work in the world. If God made us for work, then we can honor and glorify God through working.

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Your Work and God’s Glory, Part 1

In yesterday’s installment of Life for Leaders, I considered how the centrality of work in Genesis 1-2 is consistent with the traditional affirmation that the “chief end of man” is “to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” Work is one way, perhaps even the main way, we can glorify God in this life.

This may sound confusing if you tend to think of glorifying God as what we do in church when we sing praises to God. No question, this counts as glorifying God. But there is so much more to glorifying God than praising God, no matter how essential and wonderful this might be.

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Does Work Really Matter to God? Part 3

As we saw in yesterday’s devotion, Genesis 1-2 reveals God’s intentions for human life. God created us to be fruitful and multiply, to fill the earth and subdue it, to have dominion, to till/serve and to keep/care for the garden. In a nutshell, we were made to work. Genesis 2:1-3 implies but does not state that we are also to rest one day a week. That leaves six other days for work.

If Genesis 1-2 were all the Scripture we had, we would rightly conclude that work is our chief purpose in life (if you include raising children as part of work). The other 1187 chapters of the Bible give us a wider perspective on what we’re to do as human beings. But, still, we should understand that work is an essential and central element of human existence.

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Does Work Really Matter to God? Part 2

In yesterday’s devotion, I asked the question, “Does work really matter to God? Or is recent Christian interest in faith and work just a fad?” One way to answer this question is to see if work is truly central to biblical revelation. Does work figure prominently in Scripture, in God’s story of creation, fall, redemption, and restoration? Or is it just a minor theme, something inessential?

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Does Work Really Matter to God? Part 1

For many years of my life, I have been involved in what has been called the “faith at work” movement (now, more often, “faith and work”). At the center of this Christian movement is the conviction that work is essential to our lives, our calling, and our purpose for being. “Work matters to God” is a mantra among my colleagues in so-called marketplace ministries.

For decades, the faith and work movement thrived on the periphery of Christian life. Most churches offered little to support members in relationship to their daily work. Most pastors never preached on work, except perhaps to warn listeners about the dangers of materialism or other temptations of the workplace.

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Seeing Beauty for the First Time

I’ve been trying to remember the first time I saw beauty. Oh, I know as a young boy I saw many beautiful things, sunsets, mountains, ocean waves, and the like. But I don’t remember feeling awed by their beauty. What I do remember vividly is my first trip to New England in the fall. I was four years old when my parents took me to visit my grandparents in Connecticut. From there, we made a trip up to New Hampshire and Vermont. I was astounded by the brilliant fall colors, especially the deep red of maple leaves. For the first time in my life, near as I can recall, I saw beauty. I was awestruck by it.

In our recent examination of Genesis 1-2, I saw beauty in the text for the first time.

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