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During Pastor Scott’s message Sunday on Genesis 27 that focused on the dysfunctional family of Isaac, Rebekah, Esau, and Jacob, he noted that many of us also have been or are part of dysfunctional families as well and acknowledged the difficulty that brings into our lives. But when you think about it, because of sin in the world and in our hearts, every family is dysfunctional to some degree. It’s not something any of us can escape. And this chapter in Genesis really hammers home the pain that sin — and accompanying dysfunction — can bring. Yet it also makes clear the power of God’s redemptive plan.

As we learned in this chapter, Isaac, Rebekah, Esau, and Jacob are a mess. Isaac knew he should pass on his blessing to Jacob according to the Lord’s prophecy, but instead he subverted God and favored Esau. Rebekah knows what her husband should do, but instead of confronting the issue directly, she chose to be conniving instead of honorable. Esau is a manly hunter whose father is wrapped around his finger, while Jacob plays along with Rebekah’s plan to steal the blessing of Isaac from Esau. It all points to lack of faith and trust in God — a very common, very human tendency we all share to “help God out” and do things our own way rather than letting God act in his own timing.

We saw that, incredibly, Rebekah convinces Jacob to masquerade as his brother Esau and offer Isaac food and drink he requested — so duplicitous given that Isaac is over 140 years old couldn’t see very well anymore. Rebekah connived, Jacob lied, and Isaac fell for it and blessed Jacob instead of Esau. When Esau found out, both he and Isaac naturally were distraught and angry. And there was no blessing left for Esau, who subsequently determined to kill Jacob. And then Rebekah told Jacob to leave town so his brother might somehow forget about the deception and not kill him — and Jacob would never see his mother again. What a mess! Yes, their family is just a little bit dysfunctional. And their collective sin — and the consequences of it — is sad to behold.

But what about you and me? Are you one of those individuals who didn’t get a blessing from a parent for one reason or another? The answer is yes for so many of us. And guess what? The answer was very likely the same for many of our parents — and for their parents, and on and on and on. And what has that done to all of our perceptions of God as “father” when our own models of fatherhood may not have been the best? It’s a broken image, at best.

However, there’s good news amid the heartbreaking reality: As believers in Christ, we can look to the Lord as our true Father — a God full of comfort and compassion who can’t wait to pour out all his goodness upon us. And amid our interactions with our family members right now, the relationships we have with Jesus — as we draw on his strength and let him work in our lives — can help all of us overcome our sin natures so that there’s much less tension and more cohesiveness in our own families. 

All children deserve a blessing from their parents. That’s where we get that first taste of acceptance and value — affirmation that all of us are individually unique and special. Mothers and fathers who do this have a powerful effect on their children, and we all need it. But if you’re struggling today and if you don’t feel loved, don’t forget that Jesus already does. In fact, he loved you and valued you before you were born! He can fill in the gaps in our lives. Also remember that our church is also part of your family — it’s a place where others can minister to you, deep in your heart. And keep this in mind as well: Through the power of Christ, you can pass on blessings to others — even your parents, others in your family, all those you come in contact with.

What are we seeing in our world today? What are the attitudes we can observe on places like social media? On the streets? You already know, don’t you? Anger. Frustration. Selfishness. Putting others down. And how do we as believers fit in to that? First, if we’re among those who’ve been furthering ungodly conflict, we need to stop it — right now. Second, when others attack us, let’s remember that we already have the blessing … which will remind us to be generous and merciful and humble — and do our best with God’s power to redirect others’ attitudes and get them thinking about Jesus.

One passage that Pastor Scott’s message got me thinking about was the Apostle Paul quoting Psalm 14 in his letter to the Romans: “as it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.’”

That’s quite a downer verse. But when I feel unworthy or get caught up in comparing myself to others, I read a passage like Romans 3:10-12 — or examine the sin-soaked family drama recorded in Genesis 27 — and I feel comforted. No, there isn’t any difference between us and others who we believe have a lot more of it together. Sure, aspects of their lives may be appear to be better, but in the end, the only thing that matters is what stands as righteous before God. And none of us have anything in that regard that stands up in God’s sight, no matter how hard we try.

But praise God that Jesus stands in that gap for us, looks beyond our sin and dysfunction, and takes us in as his very own adopted family members.

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How in tune are you to the mercies of God in your life?

As we discovered in our study of Genesis 26 on Sunday, as we grow in our understanding of the Lord’s mercies and are ready to experience them, it increases our gratefulness, our hope — indeed our quality of life.

This particular chapter is about Abraham’s son Isaac — and we see that God wants to bless Isaac just like the Lord blessed Abraham. But one of the things we notice about Isaac is that he avoids conflict — and that he wants peace. And as we know in life, conflict is inevitable and peace between human beings isn’t always possible.

And right off the bat we see Isaac repeating the sin Abraham committed — lying — by telling King Abimelech that his wife Rebekah is his sister. Of course, Abimelech soon saw right through Isaac’s deceit and confronted him and rebuked him. Amazing that once again the Bible openly acknowledges that man of God is absolutely subject to correction from a pagan — and it teaches us that the world is watching God’s people to see if indeed they live godly lives and practice what they preach.

But even after this sin, God blesses Isaac with great wealth. So much so that Abimelech told Isaac to leave since had become mightier than him. Amazingly sometimes the Lord pours out his blessings upon us even when we do wrong — and it’s an illustration of the biblical principle that ultimately God’s blessings aren’t dependent on what we do. It’s not a transaction between us and the Lord.

Rather it’s completely dependent on God and how he wants to pour out his blessings, his mercies, upon us.

It seemed wherever Isaac went and whatever he did, God blessed him. After he successfully dug wells in the Valley of Gerar and then moved on to Beersheba, verses 24 and 25 tell us that “the Lord appeared to him the same night and said, ‘I am the God of Abraham your father. Fear not, for I am with you and will bless you and multiply your offspring for my servant Abraham’s sake.’ So, he built an altar there and called upon the name of the Lord and pitched his tent there. And there Isaac’s servants dug a well.”

Even Abimelech recognized what was happening and paid Isaac a visit — and he is as shocked as we are! “Why have you come to me, seeing that you hate me and have sent me away from you?” Isaac asked the king. Abimelech saw how the Lord was blessing Isaac and wanted to make a pact with him, which Isaac did, again moving again toward his goal of peace in life.

However, we see in the final verses of the chapter that total peace won’t come for Isaac, as his son Esau at age 40 “took Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite to be his wife, and Basemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite,and they made life bitter for Isaac and Rebekah.”

What is it that you’re seeking in life? Is it peace? Is it security? Is it safety? Is it adventure? Is it wealth? Whatever motivates you, don’t lose sight that it should be pursued with the filter of desiring God’s blessings — which we don’t always “deserve” and aren’t always what we planned on.

And as Pastor Scott emphasized, a deeper understanding of God’s mercies and why he pours them out on us will lead to good things — particularly an increased desire to seek after them. The Lord wants to pour out his blessings so that we will recognize and appreciate what a good and loving father he is — and be drawn to him. Such an understanding changes how we think and act. It’s the difference between “being good” — as part of a transaction — and being in relationship with the Lord because He is good! And that’s when the blessings can really flow.

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God wants to bless you. How many of you are already blessed? Alright. So you already experienced the blessing of God. God wants to bless you more. The word ‘blessing’ is this idea of gift. God wants to give you gifts. He wants to bless you with these gifts. When we say bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name, when we’re saying, “Lord, I want to bless you,” what we’re saying is I want to give you gifts. I want to give you gifts of worship. I want to give you gifts of song. I want to give you gifts of praise. I want to give you the gift of my heart, my life. That’s blessing the Lord when we use it that way.

Now we’re going to look in Genesis 12 at a man who was blessed, Abraham. God had a particular blessing attached to his name that was his packaged blessing. Abraham’s blessing. We’re going to learn from it. We’re going to get some illustrations for how God would have us be blessed. But that was his blessing. Each one of us could stand up and talk about the blessing that God has given to us and how He’s worked in our lives.

Let me just point out that one of the reasons that God wants to bless us is because He wants us to be wowed with His greatness. So that we will say, “Praise the Lord for the blessings He’s given us.” That’s one of the reasons. Think about blessing, not just from your perspective for a moment, about the things you get. But think about it from God’s perspective. Why is He blessing? One reason is to wow us with His goodness so that we’ll be impressed with Him and we’ll worship Him and we’ll praise Him. That’s one of the reasons He blesses us.

That’s what we’re going to see in Abraham’s life today. And that’s what God wants to do with each of us. Just imagine God has all these blessings with your name on them ready to give them to you. He wants to pass them onto you in your life.

Now in case you misunderstand me here, when I talk about the gifts that God gives and the blessing that He wants you to have more of, I don’t want you to think that everything then is going to be rosy, everything is going to be fine. So I’m going to take you one verse into next week. Next week’s message will take us into the next verses. I just want you to read verse 10. Notice it says in verse 10 – Now there was a famine in the land. You’re going, “Whoa, wait a minute! I thought he was being blessed.” You’ve got to understand we live in a world that’s broken. We as believers experience pain and challenges in our lives, just like other people experience pain and challenges in their lives. There are certain decisions that we make and choices that we make that free us up from some of the pain that other people experience because we’re following the Lord and His directives. But that doesn’t mean that we escape all of the pain in the world. You’re going to have challenges, you’re going to have struggles, relational struggles, health struggles, financial struggles. You’re going to experience those.

You see you just have to understand that the blessing of the Lord is not all about everything going well. It’s about God giving you gifts that are appropriate in that moment. And sometimes the gifts that God gives you are those gifts of encouragement, those gifts of comfort. The blessings that He gives to you are the ones that are hope. Those ones of encouragement that God wants you to have inside of your heart. That’s what we’re going to see in this passage.

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What are your motivations? What drives you to do what you do day to day?

The Bible has a few things to say about human motivations. For example, each one of us tends to believe our own moves and decisions come from places of goodness and justice (“All of a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the Lord”—Proverbs 16:2). It’s also very easy for us to be people pleasers rather than God pleasers (1 Thessalonians 2:4). Or as James notes in the fourth chapter of his epistle, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” Who among us can’t relate to that latter observation? How often do we pursue happiness or pleasure, only to find that it doesn’t last or that the objects of our pursuits are sorely lacking? Instead the Scriptures repeatedly implore us to take the narrow road that leads to God himself — and in the end the Lord will meet our needs and much more.

On Sunday Pastor Scott gave us two lists — one that spells out external motivations and another that looks at internal motivations — and noted that as believers in Jesus, we should be driven by internal factors. Specifically, rather than being motivated by things like fear of punishment, peer pressure, desire for fame, power, and control, the tendency to compare and compete, Christians should instead have internals on our minds and hearts — motivations such as love and loyalty, gratitude, the desire to serve the Lord and make the world a better place, personal growth, a sense of accomplishment, and responsibility and integrity.

And we also learned Sunday that three important decisions Abraham made in Genesis 14 were based on internal motivations. For example, love and loyalty to his family likely drove Abraham to leave the safety of his home to rescue Lot, who had been taken captive after making a bad decision to move in close proximity to Sodom. And Pastor Scott said something that really hit home: As Christians we should be embarking on rescue missions of our own every day! Not necessarily physical rescues — although they certainly can and do happen — but spiritual rescues. Missions of the heart based on love for others and our motivation to see them be made whole inside and out by believing in and trusting in Jesus.

We also saw Abraham was motivated by gratitude when he gave Melchizedek king of Salem a tenth of what he’d won in battle (decision #2) and by personal integrity when he declined to take anything away from the king because Abraham had made an oath to the Lord not to (decision #3).

Such examples from Scripture beg the questions: What is driving you? What is motivating you?

As we grow in our faith, we should be noticing that internal motivations such as love, integrity, and gratitude are driving us. We should be making it a practice to forgive others as the Lord has forgiven us — to bear the burdens of others, to help the weaker among us. To be rescuers.

So, here’s a challenge for all of us this week: Will you ask the Lord to shine his spotlight on your heart and show you the forces that are driving you? And that if externals such as fear, peer pressure, or the desire for power and control are motivating you, ask God to help you put such motivations aside.

The Lord will always honor such a prayer request!

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What do you say to those who’ve made a mess of their lives through bad decisions, and now things have become really complicated for them?

The answer, as we learned Sunday, is actually quite simple: Instead of doing the wrong thing at their next opportunity, they simply need to do the right thing. Of course, doing so doesn’t mean all our problems disappear; rather step-by-step movement in the right direction results in things slowly beginning to change, and God in his grace begins to bless those decisions.

From our study in Genesis, we know that Abraham made a pretty big mess of his life. He went to Egypt and promptly lied. Rather than trusting in God, he thought his own scheme would be a better idea, and instead it multiplied his problems. And this was alongside (and despite) his great wealth, which underscores the fact that lots of money and possessions don’t eliminate your problems — riches simply bring different problems associated with those riches. But after God rescued Abraham, at the beginning chapter 13 we see he traveled back to Israel — “to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai,to the place where he had made an altar at the first. And there Abram called upon the name of the Lord.”

This was a crucial moment for Abraham — and is a decision all of us can relate to in one way or another. When things go wrong or we sin, sometimes the best remedy is grabbing hold of our roots and calling out to God. What Abraham did reflects what his descendent David shared with us in his poem of repentance, Psalm 51:10-12: 

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.

What Abraham was learning reflects the important point that Pastor Scott noted in his message Sunday: When you choose to trust the Lord, you always get the better deal! God’s way is always the best way.

In this chapter we also see that Abraham and Lot, amid disagreements over land, decided to go their separate ways. And this time it was Lot’s turn to make a bad decision, as verses 10-13 tell us that he liked what he saw east in the Jordan Valley. It reminded him of Egypt — again, references to Egypt in Scripture often mean a return to the world and its ways. And lo and behold Lot ended up moving his tent “as far as Sodom. Now the men of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the Lord.” Oh boy…

Instead of letting himself be guided by God, Lot let his eyes tell him what to do. And again, isn’t that just like us to varying degrees? How often have we gone after the more attractive option — the thing that would make us feel better or give us more pleasure — only to find that our choice was anything but beautiful?

As Pastor Scott emphasized, there wasn’t anything inherently wrong with the greener pastures of the Jordan Valley — it’s what they were next to. If that pretty thing we desire doesn’t itself bring us new problems, our woes may come from what resides right next to that object of desire.

On the other hand, Abraham trusted in Lord and learned that doing so always gets you the better deal. In verses 15 through 18, God tells Abraham “for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever. I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth, so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted. Arise, walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you.” And Abraham did so — and once again, when he settled, he “built an altar to the Lord.”

Indeed, Abraham was learning and progressing in his faith. And so can we — and it’s all about going back to our very beginnings of faith, trusting in God, and making a series of right decisions — ones we know are pleasing to the Lord, regardless of what they look like.

And just as God was only too pleased to give Abraham endless land and more offspring than he could possibly count, the Lord also wants to give you and me every good thing. In fact, he wants to do amazing things through us! 

But it all starts with taking that single, right step of faith. Then another. And another. Won’t you put your best foot forward today in faith? It will be the start of something phenomenal!

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.

— Proverbs 3:5-6

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When our faith is strong, we’re better able to cope with life — even when difficult things are happening to us and around us. But when our faith is weak — watch out! In those times, we tend to feel more anxious, angry, and disappointed with our circumstances.

As we learned from an episode in Abraham’s life found in Genesis 12, not even heroes of the Bible are immune from reduced faith in God, periods of weakness, and bad decision-making.

It’s important to point out that Abraham’s weakened faith in this chapter preceded an awesome experience: God himself promised Abraham that his descendants would outnumber the stars in the sky and the grains of sand on all the world’s beaches. Seriously, if God had shown himself to you in such a way, would you need reassurance ever again that the Lord is taking care of you, providing for your needs, and keeping his promises? Perhaps we would respond by saying, “Of course not!” But also, we shouldn’t forget that none of us has ever walked in Abraham’s sandals, and all of us can probably recall numerous occasions when our faith in God was low — despite all the amazing things he previously had done for us.

Well, Abraham’s weakened faith coincided with a famine — surely a difficult circumstance. It shows, however, that the Lord allows not-so-pleasant things to happen to us even when we closely follow him and obey his commands. One thing that stuck out in Pastor Scott’s message was the key detail that Abraham departed the famine-ravaged land for Egypt — and that a flight to that country in Scripture often meant a move toward the world and its solutions, rather than a focus on the Lord and his solutions.

It certainly rings true, given that Abraham immediately made a really bad decision: Looking to save his own skin, he convinced his wife to pretend they were brother and sister so that the Egyptians — who were likely to take Sarah from him — wouldn’t be tempted to kill him. Doesn’t that sound oddly familiar? Not that any of us have been in such a situation in today’s world — but many of us can probably recall times when we acted out of fear, and perhaps even sinned in the process, instead of trusting God for the outcome. And again, you’d think someone like Abraham who experienced what God personally showed him wouldn’t need to make decisions out of fear ever again — but he did. And we certainly do, too.

Oh, and then came the consequences! Besides the awful plagues, there was what had to have been a humiliating confrontation from Pharaoh, who by then figured out Abraham’s scheme — and you had the pagan telling the child of Israel, “You sinned!” What a gut punch that had to be. Of course, we likely can relate to this also: How many times can we recall our bad and faithless decisions resulting in terrible — even embarrassing — circumstances? Like, crawl-under-a-rock, cartons-of-eggs-on-our-faces humiliation.

But as Pastor Scott also pointed out, God has a plan even when we mess up. Truth is, the Lord is infinitely bigger than our worst sins. He’s able to take us from where we are and still do great things. God did that with Abraham when Pharaoh let him go, and again, all of us can probably relate to the Lord getting us out of sticky situations — even when we deserved the worst results.

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Our study of Genesis 25 this Sunday brought us to the end of Abraham’s story and the beginning of his son Isaac’s story — and it offered us more than a few crucial truths we can apply to our lives.

First, we saw that Isaac and Rebekah weren’t able to have children because Rebekah was barren. But they also were people of prayer, and Isaac prayed to the Lord for his wife — and God answered Isaac’s prayer, enabling Rebekah to conceive. Right off the bat, a quite simple illustration: How often do we come to the Lord in prayer with our needs? How often are we doing life “on our own” as if we are in control and in the driver’s seat? And how often does God remind us that we ultimately rely on him for our needs?

In this vein, Pastor Scott referenced a pair of verses that work well together. Isaiah 65:24 reads, “Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear.” James 4:2 reads, “You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask.” We do not have because we do not ask — and even before we ask, God already has an answer waiting for us. 

How many of you are still struck by Pastor Scott’s illustration of answers waiting for us in heaven that we haven’t asked God about in prayer? And to think that all of us in one way or another are going to find out in eternity that aspects of our lives on earth could have been different had we approached the Lord in prayer about specific things? Now, that may sound tragic on some level — but I find it pretty exciting! I’m alive right now and can begin to explore the blessings God has prepared for me that are literally waiting for me. How cool is that?

The chapter moves along with a scene featuring Esau and Jacob — the combative twin sons of Isaac and Rebekah. And it’s a sad one. Esau comes in exhausted after shooting game as Jacob is making stew, and Jacob says he’ll give Esau some — for a price. Esau’s inheritance from Isaac, to be specific. And unbelievably, Esau — who “despised his birthright” — agrees! As Pastor Scott observed, Esau “magnified his current situation and minimized his future benefit.” And isn’t that what we often do, when we get involved in things we shouldn’t be getting involved in — or when we clamor “I want what I want when I want it”?

Esau sold off his inheritance for some food. He threw away his future so he could get rid of hunger pangs! As Christians our eternal futures are secure, but don’t we in some respects toss away God’s blessings that he’s just waiting to give us in favor of temporary, cheap substitutes? We must remind ourselves daily who we are in Christ and what he’s given us so we can accept his blessings and let them change our lives

Pastor Scott also reminded us that it all comes down to the fact that you and I are already “winners” of the greatest “sweepstakes” ever. We all hold the winning ticket because of what Jesus has done for us. Yet, our fallen natures still compel us to earn our way into heaven. Perhaps we find ourselves focused on “being good” and giving money away and doing our devotions — and not that we shouldn’t do those things; we should! But maybe, just maybe, in parts of ourselves we don’t often see, we’re doing those things as a transaction with God. “I do this for you, Lord, and then you can do this for me.” No, no, and for a third time, no!

Let us not view God as tightly holding on to blessings — or even eternal life — and us as constantly prying apart the Lord’s fingers so that he’ll release those things to us. It’s quite the opposite, in fact. Just as the Publisher’s Clearinghouse people pursue winners of their prizes, even more the Lord pursues us with his blessings — that’s how much he wants us to experience them! We just have to stop running away from the Lord and what he wants to give to us. Let us slow down, turn to him, ask, and accept.

Finally, while we are truly “winners,” many of us may feel like “losers.” And that’s OK. In fact, as Pastor Scott said, that’s the first step is becoming a winner. Because the truth is, we’re all losers, we all fall short. But when we become Christians, we become winners because of what Jesus did for us. And that should cause us to live differently — and with our heads held high. Because we know who our father is.

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Our culture sells us way short when it comes to marriage. 

It emphasizes romance and emotions with regard to marriage — but marriage isn’t about romance and emotions.

It looks down upon those who aren’t married, as if they’re second-class citizens — but God values us all the same whether we’re married or not.

It also cheapens marriage by holding up divorce as an option when a couple “just isn’t into it anymore” as well as sex before marriage — but we know that isn’t the way the Lord operates.

As Pastor Scott pointed out Sunday as we studied Genesis 24, it is not easy to be married. But as Christians — whether we’re married or not — we all must value marriage and lift it high as an expression of love and commitment that God himself ordained.

And whether we’re married or not, we can apply the five principles Pastor Scott drew from the account of Abraham’s servant finding a wife for his son Isaac.

First off, Abraham instructed his servant to find a wife for Isaac not from the Canaanites where he lives but “to my country and to my kindred.” That’s the first principle: Narrow the pool. As Christians, we should only marry other Christians. But it’s more than that. We should be marrying like-minded Christians, those who place Jesus at the very front of their lives.

Then Abraham’s servant when he reached his destination, prayed that God would bring to him the maiden who would become Isaac’s wife. That’s the second principle: If we’re looking to get married — or have any other life decisions to make — we must pray that the Lord will lead us and provide.

Abraham’s servant also went to a well where women were gathering water — which bring us to the third principle: We must go to the figurative wells in our lives if we’re looking to get married — in other words, be a part of the day-to-day lives of other Christians. Be a part of a church, for example. If we’re in college, be a part of a campus ministry group. Or be involved in Christian activities such as missions and service. Thing is, this applies to all of us, whether we’re looking to get married or not. We all must be part of a church that will help us grow in our spiritual lives — and not merely because we hope we’ll meet a spouse there! We don’t know what today holds for us, or tomorrow, either. The Lord may have someone in mind, or he may not. Either way, our primary mission is to serve God and grow closer to him, whether that’s in singleness or in marriage. But drawing from the well of fellowship is a principle all of us should follow.

The fourth principle is to consider character when choosing a spouse. The person may be a Christian and may even love the Lord like you do, but is this person’s character full of good qualities? Does he or she persevere when times are tough? How does he or she treat others? In the passage, Abraham’s servant watched the actions and behavior of Rebekah, the maiden the Lord brought to him, to ensure she possessed quality characteristics. We should do the same — and that often comes only after spending a lot of time observing how another person lives his or her life amid a wide variety of circumstances.

Finally, the fifth principle is that decision making of all kinds is a spiritual experience for the Christian. Abraham’s servant placed the Lord in the center of all of his steps before he found Rebekah and after he found her. God must be our destination, the well from which we draw love and life, the one with whom we communicate and lean on day by day for help and guidance, and our example when it comes to character.

Let the Lord be the center or our lives at all times whether or not we’re looking to get married — and may we always support, uphold, and value the gift of marriage.

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In Genesis 23 when Abraham grieves over the death of Sarah and buries her, we’re reminded that death is the destiny for everyone.

And attending a funeral certainly should be a reminder of that. It can be easy, however, as a funeral attendee to feel somewhat “spared” from the pain that the departed’s loved ones are going through — and while that’s true for the moment, the reality is that such pain is more than likely an inevitability for all of us. And certainly our own deaths will come in God’s timing unless Jesus returns while we’re still here.

Abraham pointed out in verse 4, “I am a sojourner and foreigner among you,” and that’s true for all of us, too. We’re just passing through this place called Earth. It is not our forever home. And believers in Jesus Christ can take comfort that through his death and resurrection, we’re adopted into his eternal family and have a forever home in Heaven that he’s at this moment preparing for us. How can our mortal minds begin to comprehend such a glorious thing?

But because we are human and have a natural attachment to this life, when we experience a loved one passing away, we are saddened by the finality of that person’s departure. And even if that that person was a Christian — and the separation is merely temporary — God has designed us to grieve in order to get through the loss. On a personal note, grief is difficult for me. It’s not that I’m embarrassed to cry; it’s that when I cry — and I mean really cry — it’s a full-body experience that’s taxing emotionally and physically. However, I also know that once the tears end, I feel so much better. Lighter. Relieved. I think that’s how God must have designed grief to be for us — a way to release the pressure valves in our hearts, as Pastor Scott mentioned, so we can cope when necessary, and then move forward. So, no, I don’t relish the idea of going through grief, but having experienced it, I know it’s necessary to navigate for the good of my own heart, soul, and spirit.

Another great reminder from our study together Sunday is that we all must make the daily decision to value: To value this very day, this very moment you’re reading these words, in fact; and to value those we love. We are not privy to God’s timetable, and we don’t know how long we have in this life, and we don’t know how long we have the people in our lives. So, let us seize this day to the extent we’re able by the grace of God, and make the most of this gift of life he’s given us. Let’s love our family. Let’s love our friends. Let’s love our neighbor. And let’s love strangers.

I’m glad Pastor Scott brought up the maxim, “Some people are so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good.” I’ve always bristled at that saying, because it seemed like yet another excuse to leave God out of the picture. So, I concur with Pastor Scott’s retort: “If you’re not heavenly minded, you’re no earthly good.” We all need the Lord, and if we’re not focused on Heaven — our true home — we may miss opportunities to share his love with others or bolster our own faith.

Finally, let us practice the discipline of holding loosely to the things of this world. Let us not allow ourselves to get locked in. Of course we should enjoy the gift of today that God has given us, as well as the people he’s surrounded us with — but never to the extent that it’s anything close to a be all, end all proposition. Jesus is our be all, end all — and he can’t wait to see us face to face.