Oversight / Obedience

August 29, 2014 at 1:33 pm | Posted in Two Sides to Every Comfort | Leave a comment
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Oversight

The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;

I Peter 5:1-2

What a comforting thought for us sheep. Not only is the Good and Great Shepherd watching over us, protecting us, providing for us, and leading us, but He has also assigned undershepherds – here the reference is to a pastor or an elder – to exercise oversight of us, and to help us, and to look out for our best interest. He has assigned them to feed us the Word of God, and to fight off wolves who might come in to deceive us.

The idea that Almighty God would exercise such meticulous oversight is very comforting. He wants every step you and I take to be monitored, but there is another side to the blessing of oversight, which is:

Obedience

Is obedience truly comforting? Don’t we struggle enough with being obedient to God? And now, how humbling! Willingly submitting to another human being!

Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:

I Peter 5:5-6

A previous lesson in this series was partly about opportunity. Here is a great opportunity – the opportunity to humble ourselves before God has to do it for us.

Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that [is] unprofitable for you.

Hebrews 13:17

We make a big mistake when we think of obedience as drudgery instead of comfort. God says that obedience to His ordained authorities is profitable – that it is working itself out for our benefit.

Charles L. Quarles Pleads that We S.W.I.M. with Urgency

August 27, 2014 at 12:55 pm | Posted in Quotes | Leave a comment
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The gospel of Jesus Christ is the one and only way of salvation. There is no hope for redemption apart from it. That conviction should drive us across the street, across the nation, and across the ocean, whether we run or swim or walk or crawl on bleeding hands and knees to deliver our message.

Charles L. Quarles

Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

John 14:6

For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;

I Timothy 2:5

But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

Acts 1:8

Beware the Facial Fall

August 25, 2014 at 11:58 am | Posted in The Fives | Leave a comment
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Most kids think it’s hilarious. Someone is running full speed, when suddenly he trips and flies forward before he can even bring his hands up to break the fall. Therefore, he lands face-first (hopefully in something no harder than grass). They call it a “face-plant.” It’s both painful and humiliating.

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When the prophet Hosea brought the news of condemnation against Israel (the northern kingdom) and Judah (the southern kingdom) he reminded the people that God had been a first-hand witness to all their spiritual whoredom. These people – the covenant people of the One True God – had committed heinous acts of spiritual prostitution by worshiping calf-idols, mistreating the poor, and seducing the formerly-faithful into their carnal and offensive syncretistic religion.

Hosea reminded them that, rather than being ashamed of themselves, they had made matters worse with their brazen pride.

And the pride of Israel doth testify to his face: therefore shall Israel and Ephraim fall in their iniquity; Judah also shall fall with them.

Hosea 5:5

In addition to God’s omniscient eyewitness testimony against them, their own arrogance was staring them right in the face every time they looked in a mirror. Furthermore, the haughty looks on their faces was a clear indication that they were neither remorseful nor repentant. Among seven things which the Lord has enumerated as provoking His hatred, a “proud look” tops the list. Therefore, both Israel and Judah would “fall flat on their faces” for their rebellion against God.

We need to be very conscious and careful of avoiding the sin of pride in our own lives. Do we show off a “haughty look?” Do we cast a defiant eye toward the Lord when we perceive that He has failed to live up to our ill-informed expectations? Has some long-standing sin made you calloused and disinterested in the Lord’s feelings about the matter? He’s neither ambivalent nor “tolerant” (in the postmodern, liberal sense of that term) when it comes to sin. If we turn our nose upward as we transgress against our Creator, we are bound to trip and fall over the line of His commandments and land face-first in His judgment or chastisement.

Dependent Freedom

August 20, 2014 at 12:44 pm | Posted in Galatians | Leave a comment
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The evidences of a flesh-driven life are works – dead things which produce nothing living.

Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,

Galatians 5:19

The evidence of the Spirit-led life is fruit. Fruit does not come about by “working.”

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,

Galatians 5:22

Fruit has life. It brings joy. It feeds others, not the plant that produces it. This is, practically, how to walk in the Spirit:

1. Admit that the flesh is stronger than your will power.
2. Go where the Spirit wants to go. The Spirit wants to go to church, to Sunday School, to the Bible, to prayer time, to go soul-winning, to visit the nursing home. The Spirit doesn’t want to go to the nightclub, the worldly party, the gossip session.
3. Don’t go easy on the flesh. Crucify it.

And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.

Galatians 5:24

Don’t try to beat the flesh on your own. You will only strengthen it even more. Do not go where the flesh wants to go – where it gets fed. Stay with the Spirit, having a grand time of joy. Starve the flesh. Make it weak. Remember, at the moment of salvation you were “baptized into Jesus Christ.” He died for you, and you died with Him. Your flesh was crucified, buried, and you were raised with Christ – to walk in newness of life. You became something fundamentally different: a new creature. You were rescued from hell.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking grace is insufficient. We can’t add to it with our show-offy, better-than-the-next-person rule-keeping or legalism. You weren’t saved by the Law; don’t act like you were. God will never be fooled into thinking you’re more holy than anyone else. Attempting to do so is just a form of self-worship.

Don’t fall into the other trap, either, though. Don’t “presume” upon grace as an excuse to sin. Grace brings freedom from sin, not freedom to sin. The freedom to act like an idiot and destroy myself, or to bring shame to the very thing that helped me to get free, is not the kind of “freedom” that grace delivers.

Ours is a paradoxical freedom of dependence (upon God), rather than independence. He’s the Master with free servants. He’s the Father who makes His servants His children.

Why Some People Just Don’t Get all that Jesus/Church/Religion/Christianity/Gospel Stuff

August 18, 2014 at 2:16 pm | Posted in Salvation, Social Media Shares and Mass Emails | Leave a comment
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Here in the South (U.S.A.), it can sometimes seem more likely to encounter an albino alligator than somebody who freely admits that he or she is not a Christian (although here in Louisiana many of my Roman Catholic friends say, “No, I’m a Catholic,” when someone asks them if they are Christians). Here are the most common responses I get when I ask people, “Are you a Christian?”

-“Yes, I’ve been a Christian my whole life.” (This is actually an impossibility. No one is born as a Christian, which is why the Bible says you have to be “born again.” By the way, no one will become a Christian after they die, either.)

- “Yes, I was baptized when I was ____ years old.” (This is actually irrelevant. Getting baptized does not make anyone a Christian.)

-“Yes, I go to such-and-such church.” (Again, this is irrelevant. Going to church does not make you a Christian any more than – as the common cliche’ goes – going into a garage makes you a car.)

-Yes, I pray every day. (Still irrelevant. Many people become Christians during a prayer, but praying itself does not make anyone a Christian.)

-Yes, I read my Bible every day. (Okay, I admit it. Almost no one ever says this to me any more, but if they did, they would be wrong. Reading the Bible in and of itself does not make anyone a Christian.)

-Yes, I ‘just know’ I’m a Christian. (While I don’t see how anyone could be a Christian and not know it, this response only begs the question. “Just knowing” something doesn’t make the something true. A true Christian would be able to state why, how, when, where, and upon what authority he or she became a Christian.)

Every once in a while, I run into somebody who pretends to be an atheist, but that is much more common on the internet than in real life. By far the most common type of non-Christian that I know is the person who “just doesn’t get it.” And even this category breaks down into sub-types.

There’s the “I don’t get it because it makes me uncomfortable” type. These folks were taught that it’s bad manners to talk about religion or politics because the topics are too volatile, or because it’s their own personal business, or because it makes them feel guilty or “judged.”

Then there’s the “someone religious hurt my feelings one time” group. They were mistreated at church, or somebody told them they were going to hell without first explaining why, or somebody told them something untrue about Christianity or the Bible.

Then there’s the “it’s all a hoax” crew. Their main experience of so-called Christianity has been the lying and greedy prosperity preachers on TV. They think anybody religious is secretly trying to swindle them out of their money. Somebody coerced them into coming to church on Easter Sunday one time, and, at the end of the service, the ushers passed an offering plate around, and they were highly offended that anybody would talk about Jesus and then give them the opportunity to contribute money to His Church.

There are some other categories, too, and some of these bleed into each other, and somebody is going to read this and say, “Ha! I don’t want to hear about Jesus for a whole different reason that you haven’t even thought of, you stereotyping bigot!” I know, I know, everybody has their own story and their own bruised little inner child that’s crying out for understanding, but I can make the whole thing really simple. Because, underneath it all, at the real crux of the matter, there is only one big foundational reason whey people aren’t Christians. They are rejecting the Truth.

We think sympathetically of blind people, and we should. They can’t help it. I doubt we would feel sorry, though, for people who are blind simply because they refuse to take off their blindfolds. Spiritual blindness is a whole different thing. People who “just don’t get it” when it comes to Christ and His Gospel are not people with blinded eyes. They are people with blinded minds.

But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.

II Corinthians 4:3-4

If a person with a blindfold on his eyes says to me, “Sorry, but I just don’t get this whole ‘vision thing,'” I’ll just reach up and snatch off his blindfold. No sympathy. When a person says the same thing about Jesus’s Gospel, though, I can’t snatch it away. Only the Holy Spirit Himself can do it. The “method” that He has chosen for this procedure, though, is the proclamation of the Word of God: The Truth about our sin, God’s Son, and and His salvation.

So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

Romans 10:17

The spiritually blind person is 100% at fault for his own blindness, but God still has to do something miraculous and supernatural to give him sight. That’s why real Christians keep preaching to non-Christians who don’t get it, don’t want to get it, and don’t even want to hear about it. Not because we like to annoy people. Not because we get a sick thrill out of telling people they are damned and under the wrath of God (although they are), and not because we think we’re better than them. It’s because Jesus is amazing and wonderful and absolutely deserves to have His story told. It’s because He commanded us to do it. And it’s because we love the people who “just don’t get it” enough to tell them the only Truth that can save them, even when they don’t want to hear it.

Omniscience, Obstacles, Opportunities, and Overruling Oversight

August 15, 2014 at 9:14 am | Posted in Exodus | Leave a comment
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How quickly the freedom of celebration and worship can come to a halt at the first sign of trouble.

So Moses brought Israel from the Red sea, and they went out into the wilderness of Shur; and they went three days in the wilderness, and found no water.

Exodus 15:22

Three days is a long time to go without water for a large group of families and their herds of animals. It is possible that they had gulped down the last of their supply, thinking for sure there would be water at the place up ahead which would come to be known as Marah.

And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter: therefore the name of it was called Marah.

Exodus 15:23

That’s what Marah means – bitter.

And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink?

Exodus 15:24

The word “murmur” sounds like two repetitious baby sounds put together, and in Scripture it indicates childish or immature complaining, whining, and grumbling. Why did the omniscient God lead them to a place where He obviously knew the water would be undrinkable? Moses did what everyone else should have been doing instead of complaining. He prayed and he believed – logically and faithfully – that the God Who had delivered them out of Egypt would provide water for them.

And he cried unto the LORD; and the LORD shewed him a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet: there he made for them a statute and an ordinance, and there he proved them,

Exodus 15:25

The tree may or may not be a picture of the Cross, but I do believe it points to Christ. Just as Adam and Eve brought bitterness into the world by eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, so too is there a Tree of Life. This tree was glorious (like Christ), and it was cut down (also like Christ.) It was lowered into the bitter water (just as Christ condescended into the middle of our bitterly fallen and sinful world). The tree took the bitterness away and provided life-giving water. Most Bible scholars are reluctant to read this into it, because there are no specific references to it in the New Testament, but I think it’s appropriate.

Verse 25 says that “there He proved them.” They failed the test, but Moses didn’t. They would fail this test again and again. Despite the assurance that their God (unlike the false Egyptian gods) was Jehovah Rophi – the God that Heals.

They now had plenty of sweet water, but they would be tested again concerning food, and this time there is a clear New Testament revelation concerning the incident.

And they took their journey from Elim, and all the congregation of the children of Israel came unto the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departing out of the land of Egypt.

Exodus 16:1

Elim was a place with plenty of water and 70 palm trees. It is tempting to read the coincidental name of the wilderness of “Sin” as an allusion our English word “sin,” and to build a lesson around the idea that they were wandering into “sin against God,” but the context does not seem to support a strained connection.

And the whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness:

Exodus 16:2

The murmuring was against God, as well as His spokesman, Moses.

And the children of Israel said unto them, Would to God we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger.

Exodus 16:3

The people looked back to bondage, slavery, abuse, and the murder of their children as the “good old days” simply because they were faced with an obstacle. They should have looked at this obstacle as an opportunity to demonstrate faith in the God Who had rescued them.

Then said the LORD unto Moses, Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a certain rate every day, that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law, or no. And it shall come to pass, that on the sixth day they shall prepare that which they bring in; and it shall be twice as much as they gather daily.

Exodus 16:4-5

Despite their grumbling, cowardice, and lack of faith, God’s goodness and kindness and faithfulness were not thwarted by their sin.

Catechism Question 10

August 13, 2014 at 2:31 pm | Posted in Children's Bible Catechism | Leave a comment
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Question 10: Who is the Author of the Bible?
Answer: God the Holy Spirit is the Author of the Bible.
Prove it.

All scripture [is] given by inspiration of God, and [is] profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

II Timothy 3:16

The Bible self-attests to its own truthfulness and reliability, which is not surprising, considering it is the Word of God. However, there are other ways to demonstrate its veracity, including its internal consistency, its fulfilled prophecies, its life-transforming power, its extant manuscripts, and, most importantly, the fact that the Lord Jesus Himself – God incarnate – taught that it is the Word of God.

To have God’s Word in our hands makes it imperative that we have it also saturating our minds, and hidden in our hearts. It is likewise imperative that we live according to its principles, precepts, and explicit commands.

To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.

Isaiah 8:20

So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

Romans 10:17

Clear Calls for Christians: Proper Unity

August 11, 2014 at 11:49 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments
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Last time we saw that, as Christians:

I. We are called to Pure Upgrade.

Additionally:

II. We are called to Proper Unity.

The fellowship with Christ to which we are called to is a good segue into another fellowship to which we are called: the fellowship with each other.

Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.

I Corinthians 1:10

“All speak the same thing” = “all be on the same page.” This is not what was going on in Corinth:

For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.

I Corinthians 1:11

According to Proverbs 13:10 contentions only come by pride. They often lead to factions – choosing up sides – and that’s what happened here.

Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.

I Corinthians 1:12

Paul’s response to this was his usual response, in a way. He pointed to Christ.

Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?

I Corinthians 1:13

Christ is not divided, and He never has been – neither bodily (one of many reasons why the Roman Catholic practice of the “eucharist” is heretical), nor doctrinally. Only Christ died for us, and we are to be baptized in His name, not in the name of the preacher who does the dunking.

Paul did not preach that baptism saves.

For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.

I Corinthians 1:17

He preached a message that has always sounded foolish to unbelievers.

For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.

I Corinthians 1:18

But it is a message that is incredibly exciting and transformative for new believers. Why such a simple message? Why a crucifixion? So God would get all the glory and credit, not His messengers.

But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;

I Corinthians 1:23

The Jews tripped and fell over the idea that their King would be crucified. The Greeks could never be impressed by a message which said that the Savior of the world was a Jewish carpenter from Nazareth. But we need to see ourselves as having a third specific calling, which we will look at next time.

Clear Calls for Christians: Pure Upgrade

August 8, 2014 at 12:07 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments
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Have you ever heard someone say that he was “called to preach?” Or “called to teach?” Or “called to join the choir?” How does this work? Is it like when someone says, “God laid this on my heart?” “God told me to go back to that person and ask her if she’s okay?” Have you ever felt left out and lonely because it seems like everyone but you is getting private messages from the Lord telling them what to do? Did it make you feel like the sterotypical broken-hearted lover staring at the phone – just trying to will it to ring?

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Christian publishers and booksellers have capitalized on this idea with books and devotionals like Jesus Calling, in which a young lady claims to have written down what Jesus told her privately, so she can pass it on to the readers.

I will confess that I am not sure what to do with all this. I have never to my knowledge heard the audible voice of God. There have been a few times when I have felt like He wanted me to do something, and I am often convicted about my sin – in my heart – but I never know for sure how to discern whether I’m hearing directly from God, or if it’s just something that occurred to me.

I don’t know what God might be calling you to do, but I do know that there are some things that He calls all Christians to do in the Bible. I like these much better than ambiguous feelings and nudgings which are open to my own private interpretation. Some of them are pleasant, some are not. “Die to self daily.” That’s a calling, but it’s not always easy to do. “Give your spouse a lot of hugs.” That’s easy (for me, anyway. My wife may see it differently!) In this short series I want to point out three things that you have been called to – in the Bible. They are specifically for Christians (and even more specifically for church members), and they are found in I Corinthians Chapter 1.

I Corinthians is a letter that the Holy Spirit used the Apostle Paul to write to the church at Corinth. Paul had been there for about 18 months before moving on, and now he was writing to address the problems they were having.

I. We are Called to Pure Upgrade

Paul called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother,

I Corinthians 1:1

Now, Paul was directly called by God. He didn’t become an Apostle by finding a Bible verse that told him to do it, but the age of the capital A Apostles is over, so that call – in the truest sense – is not for us. It is the next verse that lists a calling which every Christian has received, and which every Christian needs to answer.

Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:

I Corinthians 1:2

Notice that the Holy Spirit is addressing the church of God which is at Corinth. This was a local church body – an organized local fellowship of believers meeting together. You don’t have to go to a local church to be a Christian. You also don’t have to go home to be married, but I would be a terrible husband if I never went home, and I would be a poor Christian if I didn’t go to church frequently and regularly.

Notice also the two types of sanctification in Verse 2: positional (“are sanctified”), which means that Christians are set apart in Christ Jesus, marked by God as belonging to Him; and progressive, which deals with our participation (“called to be saints”). God has called us to be special – sacred – set apart – set apart from the world – and set apart unto Him.

Our sanctification classification comes with gifts, too. The Corinthian church members were wealthy in gifts.

I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ; That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge;

I Corinthians 1:4-5

They were especially wealthy in revelatory gifts. Our spiritual gifts are given to us by God so that we can use them not as trophies to brag about, or toys to play with, or weapons to fight each other with, but as tools with which to build Christ’s Church.

So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ:

I Corinthians 1:7

We are building a building of fleshy stones – believers brought into the Kingdom and placed in the body of Christ to serve and glorify Him.

This is one of the clearest callings for Christians: the call to pure upgrade. When we get saved, the blame for our sins is taken away, but we are still blameworthy on a daily basis. Our sanctification is about going from being blameworthy to blameless.

Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I Corinthians 1:8

Blameless is not sinless, but it does have to do with the purification of our motives.

God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

I Corinthians 1:9

God is faithful to get us to a state of blameless sanctification. We could not do it on our own, but we are “called unto the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ,” and that fellowship is promoted and enriched by our sanctification, just as it is hindered and strained when we move backward from blamelessness.

Next time, we will see another clear call for Christians: the call to proper unity.

Fellowship / Faults

August 6, 2014 at 2:11 pm | Posted in Two Sides to Every Comfort | Leave a comment
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Fellowship

Aren’t you glad to be part of a church fellowship? I hope you are. There may come a time when you need the help of a brother and sister in Christ. God made us for community – and not just in the good times, but also in the bad. That’s one reason fellowship is so comforting.

Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.

Galatians 6:2

The law of Christ is loving God with all your heart, and loving your neighbor as yourself. It can be extremely comforting to have someone to help you bear your burden, or to bear it for you. But, there is a flip side to the comfort of fellowship, which is:

Faults

Faults are not precisely the same thing as sins – although the faults certainly can be sins. Take someone who talks too much, for example. That’s not necessarily a sin, but it is a fault. Or someone who gets sick every time it’s her turn to work in the nursery – or his turn to help count the offering. Those are not sins, but they can be faults. Some people are really clumsy. It’s not sinful to be clumsy, but being clumsy and volunteering to carry a crystal tray of punch across the foyer carpet is a fault.

Faults are comforting because they help to integrate us into Christian fellowship, and because they remind us that: (1) we’re part of a Christian fellowship; (2) as fellow Christians, we’re all in this together; and (3) we need each other.

Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.

Galatians 6:1

The comfort of fellowship is like a body. All the parts are important and all are supposed to work together. But when one part’s not working right the other parts pick up the slack. They bear burdens in fellowship and bring comfort in faults.

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