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“Dust you are and to dust you will return.” To me, that’s one of the most familiar lines in all of Scripture. I’ve said this very thing to individuals at least 2,000 times throughout my life. Now, if you’re not familiar with Christian practices related to Ash Wednesday, it probably sounds odd to you. Why would anyone say such a thing to people, not to mention thousands of times? But, if you have participated in an Ash Wednesday service, you realize that when I said to people, “Dust you are and to dust you will return” is in the context of imposing ashes on the foreheads of worshipers.
Cain’s response to God’s question regarding Abel’s whereabouts was troubling for so many reasons. Obviously the murder of one brother by another was a violation of God’s order (as he would later outline through the law). Yet there was another subtle and destructive concept that was played out here… selfishness. After committing a transgression against his brother, Cain essentially declares, “What do I have to do with my brother’s well-being?” or put in another way “Not my problem”. What a bold assertion from a person who had taken the life of another person, even his own brother.
We’ve all done it. Someone does something that offends us and they come to apologize. And, we say something like, “Oh, never mind. It’s ok.” We’re trying to make the other person feel better by saying that what he or she did didn’t really matter. But of course, that’s not really the case. It did matter. At least, it did to us. And, when we take that tack, we’ve missed something important.
In yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion, we focused on Jesus’ statement in Mark 2:27, “The Sabbath was made for humans; humans weren’t created for the Sabbath” (CEB). Today, I want to look back at the creation of the Sabbath, focusing on a short passage from Genesis 2.
In the last couple of days, I have been reflecting with you on how the “frame” of Scripture helps us understand the Bible, and therefore our lives, more completely. In yesterday’s devotion, we noted how both the first creation in Genesis 1-2 and the new creation in Revelation 21-22 underscore the importance to God of the created world. And if God cares so much about creation, then certainly we should as well.
In yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion, I began to consider how our “frame” for the biblical story influences our reading of Scripture. For example, if our frame begins with Genesis 3, the entrance of sin and death into the world, then we’ll read the rest of the Bible as being mainly a story of how God overcomes the problem of sin. But if our frame is wider, then we’ll see more in Scripture than we had seen before. Sin, death, and life after death will continue to matter greatly, but we’ll understand the meaning and purpose of our lives more broadly.
Several times in our life, my wife and I purchased a picture for our home. We liked the photograph or painting and felt fairly sure it would add beauty to our life. Before hanging it on the wall, however, Linda would head off to the frame store. A couple of weeks later, she’d return with the framed picture. I would be amazed by how much the frame influenced how I saw the picture. It not only added to the overall beauty of the picture, but also helped to highlight key colors or themes. It helped my eyes see what they ought to see. Indeed, the right frame can make all the difference.
As I was thinking about Memorial Day, it occurred to me that this holiday actually relates to the issue of work. Thus, I thought I’d offer some brief “Labor Day” reflections for Memorial Day.
Today we finish our devotional study of Genesis. Ironically, this is also the final day of the first year of the Life for Leaders devotions. The De Pree Center began publishing Life for Leaders on April 1, 2015. After a few devotions related to Easter, we dove into Genesis on April 6 with “First Impressions.” Since then, we’ve seen over and over again how God’s speaks to us through Genesis, not just about our personal lives, but also about our work, our leadership, and our participation in the world.
Every time I come upon Genesis 50:20, I am amazed. It captures in a nutshell the superior sovereignty and generous grace of God. It offers encouragement for us in our work and in every part of life. And it calls us to worship the God whose intentions are truly marvelous.
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