Should I Keep the Sabbath?

May 22, 2015By Mark D. Roberts

For centuries, Christians have debated the question of Sabbath keeping, proposing a wide range of answers, often with more heat than light. Thus, it seems almost foolish for me to think that I can responsibly address the question “Should I keep the Sabbath?” in one short devotional. Nevertheless, I want to offer some basic parameters that might help guide our thinking and practice.

If God Rested, Shouldn’t We?

May 21, 2015By Mark D. Roberts

I was raised to value hard work. My family, my church, and the culture of my youth rewarded me when I was productive. So did my college and graduate school experience, as did the churches in which I served during the first half of my life. I remember one performance review I had as pastor of Irvine Presbyterian Church. Before our meeting to talk about my efforts, I had told my reviewers that I was working at a pace that was not sustainable. I asked for their help in reshaping my priorities so that I might do what was most valuable for the church without burning myself out. When it came time for our face-to-face conversation, they told me that, for the most part, I was doing a good job. But they recommended that I teach more Bible classes, invest more in my staff, and be more available to the congregation for counseling. Basically, they wanted me to work more. This, of course, tapped into my inclination to work too much, not to mention my inherent desire to please. More work, less rest. That’s the ticket to success and fulfillment.

Why Did God Rest?

May 20, 2015By Mark D. Roberts

Recently, my wife and I moved from Texas to California. Our final day in Texas was a crazy one as we scrambled to sell some of our possessions, give away many more, and take a bunch of junk to the dump. Then, after the movers finished emptying our house, we spent hours cleaning, getting everything ready for the new owners so they might move into a tidy, welcoming home. We didn’t leave until 10:45 p.m., having worked steadily from 7:00 a.m. By the time we finally arrived at our motel early the next morning, we were exhausted and more than ready to rest.

The Surprising End of the Story

May 19, 2015By Mark D. Roberts

Genesis 1:31 appears to end the first creation story, with God seeing that all he had made was very good. The sixth day is over and so is the chapter. But, unexpectedly, the story continues into the second chapter of Genesis, where the first three verses actually wrap up the account begun in the first chapter.

Very Good!

May 18, 2015By Mark D. Roberts

Perhaps you can relate to the following scenario. You’re overseeing a complicated project, one with many steps and stages. As some of these are completed, you look upon what has been accomplished with a feeling of pride. “This is pretty good,” you think to yourself. But you know there’s much more to be done so you don’t stop too long to congratulate yourself. Finally, all the parts are done. The project is finished. You step back to take in the whole and say, “Wow! This is very good!”

How To Be Fruitful and Resilient

May 17, 2015By Mark D. Roberts

A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I made the long drive from San Antonio, Texas to Pasadena, California, where we now reside. We passed through hundreds of miles of southwestern desert, most of which was filled with dry soil, colorful rocks, and scraggy shrubs. Every now and then, however, we’d see ribbons of bright green trees flourishing in the midst of the desert. What was their secret?

The Danger of Feeling Overwhelmed by What God Has Entrusted to You

May 16, 2015By Mark D. Roberts

What God entrusted to us in creation is rather like my radial arm saw: wonderful, filled with potential, and powerful, but with “some assembly required.” Quite a bit of assembly, actually. This truth can encourage us or intimidate us. Encouragement will prevail over intimidation when we remember a few other biblical truths.

The Surprising Truth of God’s Incomplete Creation

May 15, 2015By Mark D. Roberts

Here’s some life-changing good news. You have been asked by the Creator of the universe to help finish the work he began. God has the capacity, of course, to complete the job without you. But in his grace and providence, God has chosen to delegate to you a significant aspect of his creative and sustaining work.

What Is Our Purpose? The Cultural Mandate

May 14, 2015By Mark D. Roberts

Genesis 1:28 gives us the very first biblical answers to our defining questions of life. We learn that human beings were created in God’s image so as to “be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion . . . .” Theologians sometimes refer to this collection of imperatives as the “cultural mandate” (or the “creation mandate”). God created human beings so that we might make, shape, and steward culture.

An Extraordinary Vision of Human Royalty

May 13, 2015By Mark D. Roberts

If, like me, you’ve been a Christian for a while, you might find the insights of Genesis 1:28 to be obvious. It’s easy for us to assume that the biblical understanding of human life is rather ordinary, shared by most people across the world throughout history.

The truth is strikingly different, however. Many philosophies and religious traditions do not value human life in the mode of Genesis 1

Do We Have Permission to Junk Up the World?

May 12, 2015By Mark D. Roberts

When I was in college, I used to jog along the Charles River, a scenic waterway separating Cambridge from Boston, Massachusetts. The river was indeed wonderful to observe, but woe to anyone who happened to enter its waters. The Charles was so polluted with factory waste and other kinds of refuse that students were warned never to even wade in it. Should someone happen to fall in, that person was strongly exhorted to take a quick shower and get a tetanus shot (really!). Fish and birds who used the river failed to thrive and most died. It always seemed to me terribly sad that human beings had ruined such a gorgeous river.

Fruitfulness and Jesus

May 11, 2015By Mark D. Roberts

Before moving on from the command in Genesis 1:28 to be fruitful, I’d like to examine how Jesus uses this language in John 15. There, fruitfulness serves, not in its literal sense, but as a metaphor for a life that is productive for God and his kingdom. According to Jesus, we who believe in him are to “bear much fruit and become [his] disciples” (John 1:8). When we do this, God the Father is glorified.

How do we bear much fruit for the Lord?