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Dr. James C. Denison
President, Center for Informed Faith, Dallas, TX
July 29, 2010

Reading this devotional could help you lose weight

How? You could use your computer for bicep curls, I suppose, or jog in place while reading these words, or do pushups in front of your iPhone or BlackBerry.

Or you could go from our website to one which hosts an Internet weight loss support group. Today’s NPR website tells us about a new study which indicates that people kept weight off most effectively when they logged at least weekly onto such a site, where they recorded their weight, exercise, and food intake. Unfortunately, this is not such a site. Please don’t respond to this morning’s devotional by telling the rest of us what you had for dinner last night.

While I have no dietary advice to offer you, I can suggest a spiritual implication in the NPR story: Christianity was never meant to be lived alone. Mutuality and accountability are part of God’s design for his people. Every image of the church in the New Testament is collective—a body with many parts (1 Corinthians 12:12-27), a vine with many branches (John 15:1-8), a movement with many members (Acts 2:44-47).

There are no solos in the Book of Revelation. Every description of heavenly praise is collective. A violin does not make an orchestra. Even Josh Hamilton can’t play baseball by himself. When God called Paul into global missions, he called Barnabas to join him and the church at Antioch to support them (Acts 13:1-3).

God’s word tells us to “carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). We are often God’s answer to our prayers. But you can’t carry my burden if I won’t tell you what it is or let you help me with it. What problem are you shouldering this morning? Who knows about it? Who is praying for you? Who is helping you carry it?

A man stopped attending worship. After a few weeks, his pastor came to see him. He found the man at home alone, sitting in front of a roaring fire. The man welcomed his pastor into his home and led him to a second chair before the fireplace. The pastor sat but said nothing. The two stared into the fire for a long while.

Then the pastor rose from his chair, took tongs, and picked up a burning coal from the fire. He placed it to the side of the hearth, then returned to his chair. The coal sputtered until it finally went out. It turned black and cold. The pastor then used the tongs to replace the coal in the fire. It burst forth instantly in a bright blaze.

As the pastor turned to leave, his host said, “Thank you for your visit and especially for the fiery sermon. I will be back in worship next Sunday.” How hot is your coal today?

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