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Galatians 6:1-2 and 9-10-Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

 9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

We want to thank you all for your love, for the texts, cards, calls, messages on Facebook, for the food that has actually been coming to our home for over a month now. If a church has a love language, Teays Valley Church of God’s love language is food! You don’t know what your support has meant to us as we have gone through this time where Thom’s mom has gone on to Heaven.  We asked for people to consider donating children’s books in her honor so that we can take to the Breathitt County KY library later this fall, and the response has been overwhelming. Our brothers and sisters in Christ have upheld us, prayed for us, resourced us, and comforted us. 

There have been lots of “God moments” in the past week and a half.  One in particular was when I ran to Fruth Pharmacy on Monday, which was the day of her Memorial Service here, and I decided to go back to the gift section to see if there was something that maybe said “Nana” on it that I could pick up as a gift for our kids, just a little something in her honor.  There in the gift section, looking at wind chimes, were two of our church members, Stella and Morgan Nance.  Stella said they were there, looking at chimes and were trying to decide which set to buy for us in honor of Mary.  She asked me to pick out the chimes that would mean the most to our family.  I was so moved that God put us together in that moment and allowed me to select a special set of chimes. 

A church member took Josh’s suit to the cleaners for us and picked it up.  Another church member is helping us with something at our home that Thom isn’t able to tackle due to an injury that he is still recovering from.  Still another church member took extra time to get the mums placed outside in time for my mother-in-law’s service, something we were planning to do, but not in time for the service, but he just wanted to make that happen.  We have come home to find soda and paper products on our porch.  Countless people have asked what they can do to help us during this time.  Our staff has stepped up to fill in some gaps. We are so blessed.

I’m not telling you all that just so that you have an update on how we are or on how things have gone with us, I’m telling you that because I want you to understand that having a church family makes a difference in hard times.  We haven’t felt alone in this process because our church family has been there for us.  Your strength has become our strength.  Your prayers have provided us with peace.  Your practical help has given us extra time to focus on the things we needed to focus on.  Your encouragement has been life-giving.

Yes, we are grieving, but we do not sorrow as those who have no hope because we know where Mary is. That is the assistance our faith gives us, and in addition to the help our faith in Christ provides, when you add the help from the Body of Christ, it is amazing how you can move through crisis with strength, joy, and peace.  We are able to go on living from day to day with sadness AND gladness because “our togetherness” is literally propelling us forward. 

If we were disconnected from the Body of Christ, there would be this sense that y’all would be alive and working and moving in your Kingdom purposes and that we would be dislocated from the joy and meaning that comes to our lives in and through our church family.  Here is what I know:  You need a church family.  Allow me to ask you a couple of questions: Would you want to be caught in a downpour without an umbrella?  Would you want to be lost in the forest without a compass and supplies?  Would you want to endure the 2020 election without knowing that God is Sovereign? Then why would anyone want to walk through the Valley of the Shadow of death, through the pain of divorce, through job loss and health crises without a church family?  If you are just visiting today, and you don’t have a church family, you need to get one, whether here or somewhere else.  Life is hard, but it is better when you share life with Jesus’ people. It is definitely more bearable when we walk arm in arm to support one another through life’s challenging moments. 

Allow me to read today’s text one more time:  Galatians 6:1-2 and 9-10-Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

 9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

There are extra perks that come from belonging to the family of believers!  We see in Galatians 6 that we are part of a family that is supposed to do good to all people, especially to those in the family of God!  We are stronger together, better together.

When I analyze these verses, I see three encouragements stated here for Jesus’ people when it comes to how we relate to other Jesus’ people.  Paul says here that:

When a Jesus’ person strays, there should be someone to BRING THEM BACK.

When a Jesus’ person struggles, there should be someone to help BEAR THEIR BURDENS.

Jesus’ people are to BE A BLESSING to other Jesus’ people.

Let’s keep all three points on the screen for a moment but let me move to address the first one. Since we are stronger together, better together, we are responsible to help each other stay together.  There is safety in numbers, when you are with the right people, and there is a reason the Bible talks about Christ-followers as sheep.  It is a great analogy because sheep are known to stray. They are known to wander off.  Sheep are good at getting off track and leaving the flock and when that happens, they are vulnerable, they are unprotected and eventually they are devoured (lost).

I know people who have walked with Christ for years, but a temptation comes, they give in and once they are tempted a few times to indulge in sin, they don’t even have to be tempted anymore, they just go looking for it.  Before they know it, they are over the edge, beyond the boundaries and away from the careful and righteous life they had been pursuing.  It only takes one turn in the wrong direction to set your feet walking in the opposite direction of a life you once pursued.  Just one turn.  I cannot walk in this direction (demonstrate) if I am turned in this direction.  It is impossible.  And it seems we are so easily turned. 

Our heads turn.  Then our bodies turn.  Then our feet turn.  Then our hearts turn.  It can happen to any of us, but one of the beautiful things about being in the Body of Christ, about doing life together, is that, if we have made ourselves accountable, there will be people who take notice of that turning who will start to pray for us.  They may ask us some questions about what we are doing or where we have been.  They might interject some encouragement into our lives to pull us back in the right direction.  This is the admonition of Galatians 6:1.  Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently.

Listen to me, if you have someone who actually cares whether you are in church or not, if someone is coming behind you asking you where you were on Friday night and what you were doing and why you were doing it because they believe you are headed in the wrong direction, if someone is calling you out on a behavior or attitude that isn’t Christ-like, brother you need to thank God that somebody cares enough to come after you lest you take the wrong path and never look back.  It is a wonderful thing to have someone take the time and express concern for your spiritual well-being.  It is a gift to have brothers and sisters in Christ to make your business their business at the right times.

Church, when we dedicate little babies to the Lord and the parents dedicate themselves to raise their kids in a Christian home, we ask the congregation to pledge to pray for and look out for the spiritual well-being of those kids. Adults, at that moment we all become extra eyes and ears for our kids as they are growing up.  What a gift!  In times like these, we need all the help we can get to keep guiding our kids in a positive, spiritual direction.

Notice a nuance in Galatians 6:1 when Paul says you should go after someone who is caught in sin.  He says you should restore them how?  Gently.  That’s right.  Not just gently as in the way we say it, but in the attitude of our hearts as well.  We need a spirit of humility about us because we don’t know why people give in to temptation.  We don’t know the pressure they are under.  We don’t know how they get sucked into the ways of the world, but understanding some of those nuances will go a long way in helping people find restoration. 

F.B. Meyer once said that when we see a brother or sister in sin, there are three things we do not know:  First, we do not know how hard he or she tried not to sin.  Second, we do not know the power of the forces that assailed him or her.  Thirdly, we also do not know what we would have done in the same circumstances.

Am I right?  And the correction we seek to bring to someone’s life may be the same correction we ourselves need some day, so Paul’s word about restoring people gently is so important because that is how we would want to be treated if someone had to come after us. 

Who do you know that used to follow the Lord but has gotten off track?  Are they out of church…no longer watching online…falling into worldly patterns and habits…adopting ways that are contrary to God’s ways? Maybe they are justifying what they are doing.  Maybe they are trying to minimize the seriousness of their rebellion.  Perhaps they are trying to distance themselves from you and others who are truly seeking to follow the Lord because they don’t want the Holy Spirit conviction they feel when they hang out with you.  Can you message them?  Can you ask to meet for lunch?  Can you call them to check on them?  Can you let them know they are missed?  Can you do it with a gentle and humble spirit?  Why am I asking you to consider this?  Because we are stronger together, better together and we are blessed when someone takes note that we need to be pulled back in.

Because we are stronger together, better together, we need to watch out for folks who might be straying.  Second, we also need to look for those who are struggling.  Verse 2 says we are to Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.  You need a church family because you don’t need to walk through life’s trials alone.  We are called to help bear one another’s burdens.  I cannot accurately describe what it is like to have Christ-followers, whether just one or two or three or fifteen or twenty, walking with you when grief strikes or the unexpected and unwanted happens, and when the heartache comes. When you experience that kind of support you will have added strength to get through whatever it is you are facing.

I’m gonna be straight up with you.  There is a group of people in this church and at least one I know of outside of this church, who have committed themselves to me in prayer.  Their prayers are the reason I can handle tough moments, whether criticism or simply big challenges that come with the nature of ministry.  Their prayers are the reason I am not discouraged, that I am not depleted, that I am not dissuaded or persuaded to do something else with my life.  I can do what God has called me to do with confidence and strength and joy and a sense of victory because of the prayers of those who are bearing my burdens in prayer.  What I am describing to you is absolutely real in my life. Do I hurt sometimes?  Of course.  Am I frustrated sometimes?  Absolutely.  Do I feel weighed down from time to time?  You bet, but the heaviness of life’s burdens and the burdens I am called to bear in ministry aren’t nearly what they would be without the prayer coverage from those who have committed to bearing burdens with me.  The same could be said of those who serve in our ministry, who take part in leading, teaching, volunteering, and working alongside our staff.  They are burden bearers.  What an amazing thing to be part of the Family of God.

Picture yourself on a weight bench, lying on your back, and here comes the weight, the big burden. This burden is placed on you, and for you to hold it up for an extended period of time by yourself would be impossible. You would inevitably succumb to the weight of the burden.  You feel defeated from the onset, but then to your left and to your right you see burden bearers, the people who are there to help. They are standing on each side of that barbell.   They are members of the Family of God.  They are those who have committed to being with you in times of trouble.  You watch them as they reach for the barbell and agree to take some of the weight off of you, enabling your perseverance, enabling your endurance.  They won’t let the weight crush you.  You can’t hold the weight, but with their help, with the burden bearers, you can keep pressing up and on. 

I spoke recently to someone who had the experience of being overcome by a burden and then being surrounded by a group of Jesus’ people who began to pray for him.  He said he could feel the weight of his burden shifting to them, literally transferring across the group.  It was the sensation of his burden being shared across the number of people who were surrounding him in prayer.  Isn’t that awesome? This is how we are to function in the Body of Christ.

Simple friendship can help someone’s load feel lighter.  Acts of service can lift some of the weight off of someone.  Providing resources in times of struggle can alleviate some of the heaviness of someone’s situation.  A text that reminds someone you are thinking of them and praying for them can change the trajectory of someone’s day.  These are the things we do for one another because we are family.

The story is told of two brothers who were walking one day in their neighborhood, and the younger brother became so tired that he asked his older brother to carry him.  The older boy scooped his brother up and carried him.  As he walked, a neighbor chuckled and said, “Wow.  He must be heavy,” to which the older boy replied, “He’s not heavy.  He’s my brother.”  Obviously, the younger brother weighed the same as he would have weighed if they hadn’t been brothers, but the fact that they were family made the load seem so much lighter.  We’re family.  Because we are family, we can share each other’s burdens and the load won’t be too heavy for us.  Let us help you in times of trouble.  Lean on your church family when you are in need.  We are stronger together, better together.

Because we are a family, we look for ways to bring people back when they stray, to help bear their burdens when they struggle, and then finally, our text tells us that we are to do good, especially to those who belong to Jesus.  We are to look for ways to be a blessing to one another and to do it on the regular, as a way of life because we are family.

Sharing positive and encouraging messages with people, investing in relationship with all of the generations represented here, letting people know they are being covered in prayer, inviting someone to your home for dinner, saying and doing the thoughtful thing, sending cards, offering to help with home repairs or odd jobs, providing babysitting, visiting the sick or helping people network when they are looking for a new job…these are just some of the ways we bless each other.  Whether we are passing down clothes that our kids have outgrown, making a meal for each other during a difficult time or sharing something we have with each other, being a blessing is who we are supposed to be.  It is supposed to be a way of life for us as Jesus’ people.

Who can you bless?  How many people can you bless?  Who can you show some love to just because they are part of the family of God here at TVCOG?  May God find us faithful to interact with one another in the ways Paul has outlined here in Galatians 6 because we are stronger and better together!

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