The Daniel Fast: A 10-Day Life Experiment

In the first chapter of Daniel, the royal house of Jerusalem has been taken captive by the Babylonians. Among those captured are Daniel and his buddies Rach, Shach, and Benny. They are inspected by a court official and qualify to serve in the king’s palace, but first they have to undergo a 3-year training course.

Their training was very detailed and included what they ate and drank. But in verse 8 it says “Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine.” He asked permission for himself and his friends to eat a diet of vegetables and water instead. He asked to try this experiment for ten days, and after that if they weren’t on par with the others, they’d change.

Of course at the end they were doing much better than everyone else, so the official changed everyone’s diet to veggies and water. I’ll bet there were some real unhappy campers after that change was made!

What if we took the same approach to the whole of our lives and tried a “Daniel Fast” for ten days? We cut some stuff out, and we add other stuff in its place. We journal our experience, and at the end we see how it affected us.

That’s the plan, and this is a challenge for you to take on your own this summer. Look at every area of your life, and try to be as extreme as you can be for just ten days. Be creative, think outside the box, and leave no stone unturned. If you’d like a guide to help you figure out how to do this, click here. Then cut out the “noise” in your life, and turn up the volume on God’s Word and the Holy Spirit.

Stick with this challenge and see if at the end of ten days you’re closer to God than you’ve ever been before!

This Changes Everything

Jesus Ascends into Heaven

Acts 1:8

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you: and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Sound familiar? Be fishers of men, make disciples, be my witnesses… in other words, share Christ with people and turn the world upside down!

But now Jesus explains how average, ordinary guys are going to be able to handle this large, seemingly impossible task: “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you.”

This isn’t the first time that Jesus has mentioned the Holy Spirit to the disciples. In fact, in John 16:6 Jesus tells the disciples not to be sad that he is leaving them. In the next verse he says, “It is for your good that I am going away.” Then he goes on to tell them about the Holy Spirit, who will come in his absence.

The Holy Spirit changes everything. Jesus is comfortable leaving his disciples in charge of carrying out his mission because the Holy Spirit is coming to live inside them and is bringing his power with him.

These men, who up to this point have only been followers, become great leaders shortly after Jesus ascends into heaven. They speak with boldness in front of huge crowds and religious hot shots; they have steadfast courage in the face of imprisonment, beatings, and even death; they are able to do some amazing miracles. And it all happens after they receive the Holy Spirit.

And if you’ve put your faith in Jesus Christ, this same Holy Spirit lives in you! In his power, and only his power, we can succeed in this mission!

The Bookends

The Great Commission

Matthew 28:18-20

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

This is one of the last things that Jesus says to his followers. So at the very beginning and at the very end of his time with them on earth, Jesus is totally upfront about his mission for them.

I think it’s safe to assume that Jesus is repeating himself because this is a very important thing to Jesus. But isn’t he going out on a limb to entrust this mission to these guys?

I don’t know how familiar you are with the Gospels, but these books really don’t portray the disciples as being a “dream team” that can change the world. It seems more like they’re a few fries short of a Happy Meal. One of their most common responses to Jesus’ teachings is, “Huh?” Over and over again you can see they just don’t get it.

And then in Jesus’ greatest hour of need, when he’s arrested and illegally put on trial, they abandon him. Not exactly the group of guys I’d choose to carry on my life’s work.

The one thing they’ve got working in their favor (and maybe this is the only thing that really counts in God’s eyes) is that they are always willing to place themselves under Jesus’ authority and leadership. Once, Jesus asks the disciples if they want to leave him because his teachings are so hard, and Peter says, “To who else would we go? We’re yours. We believe you’re God’s Holy One.”

But even though their hearts are in the right place, they’re still not the sharpest tools in the shed. So how can Jesus feel comfortable leaving this mission in their hands? Why does he believe in them? What does he know that we don’t?

That’s the next question we need to answer.

“Here, Fishy, Fishy, Fishy”

The Calling of the First Disciples

Matthew 4:18-22

18 As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed him.

21 Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, 22 and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

Right from the beginning of Jesus’ relationship with Peter, Andrew, James and John, he is very upfront about what their mission is. It involves two things: 1) following him and 2) casting wide nets for the purpose of calling other people to follow him. Some describe this mission as “knowing Him and making Him known.”

The big question is whether or not this mission was just for those first disciples. Is embracing this mission an essential component of being a Christian today?

In other words, is this a negotiable aspect of life with God? Are all Christians supposed to be sharing their faith? If so, what are the consequences for those of us who choose not to? This week we’ll look at more of Jesus’ words on this topic, and see if we can get any insights on these questions.

A Tale of Two Builders

Build Your House on the Rock

Matthew 7:24-27

24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

Jesus’ words here are pretty cut and dry. He can’t break it down much more simply than this.

Build your life on his words and follow him to the best of your ability, and you’ll make it through the storms of life. Not obeying him is just asking for trouble… and when trouble comes, we won’t be able to stand.

As we look at the words of Christ, our primary goal should be to not just understand, but to put into practice what we hear Jesus telling us to do. Ultimately, it’s not about what we know or what we believe, it’s how we live out what we know and believe!

How Then Should We Live?

On Sunday, I talked about how Solomon’s Temple was built with a singular purpose, and when it was finished “the glory of the LORD” filled the Temple signifying that God found it a suitable and satisfactory place to dwell.

In the New Testament we find that through Christ we are “temples” that God has chosen to dwell in. And the more that we can be surrendered to God and His will for our lives, the more “at home” God is in us.

What if we lived each day with the singular purpose of being fully surrendered to God? Wouldn’t it be easier to live that way if we knew today was our last day? What if we just acted like it was our last day?

Discuss these questions as a family:

1) What does it mean to be surrendered to Christ?

2) What is one practical way that I can be more surrendered to Christ this week?

3) How can we help each other to live each day as if it could be our last… to make the most of each day and to live for Christ each day?

The CALL of the Cross

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Read Matthew 7:13-14 as a family. Discuss what you think these verses mean.

So what did you come up with? Are things as black and white as Jesus is painting them?

If we take Jesus’ words simply at face value, what are the implications for our lives? How do we respond appropriately to this?

The Christian life is more than just believing the right things, memorizing the right things, and following Jesus “in your heart.” The Christian life is a LIFE that is lived for Christ!

The CALL of the Cross is “to come and die.” To daily kill off your sinful self, and live for Christ. To love God with all your heart, all your mind, and all your soul.

Do you agree with the above statements? If so, discuss as a family some practical steps to take as you journey together on the narrow road to Christ.

How To Keep God Close

Staying connected to God is not rocket science. It is not something that is hard to figure out how to do, but it is often something we don’t want to do.

Then at those times when it feels like God is silent and distant, we often assume that it’s God who has drifted away from us. If God seems absent or inactive, maybe we should do a quick pulse check on ourselves

It would be good to ask if the following quote from Stuff Christians Like is true of us:

“…I’m not starting my days with God right now. I’m not praying actively like I usually do. I’m not centering my mornings and my days on who he is and who he made me to be. It’s been a week since I’ve cracked my Bible and in it’s absence I’ve been filling my head and heart with junk.

I’ve been watching shows on Hulu that I never watch. I’ve been aimlessly surfing online which is usually a deathtrap for me. I’ve been nudging my boundaries all over the place. I’ve been reading and listening to things I usually avoid. Hmmm, I wonder if any of that will have a consequence?”

What I put into my head and my heart affects my soul.

The things that I’m consuming will either feed or starve my relationship to God. There’s no such thing as neutral.

And I know what the good things are that strengthen my connection to Jesus… the problem is that I don’t always want the good things. It is in these times that I need to turn to Jesus and desperately ask him to change what I want into what he wants.

What have you been feeding your head and your heart this week? Is it time to go on a diet or maybe to introduce some new foods?

Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

James 4:8

 

The CURE of the Cross

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This video is a promotional piece for a book by Kary Oberbrunner. The title of the book, Your Secret Name, is based on Revelation 2:17, in which Jesus is promising a new name to those who are victorious in him.

The imagery in the video is something that resonates with all of us. Because we live in a sinful world and because we are sinful people, as we go through life we find ourselves dirty and even dragged through the mud. Life beats us up and breaks us down.

But in Christ our story (and our name) is changed. In Christ, we are forgiven, faultless, and free. This is the cure of the cross.

On the cross, Jesus became everything that is bad about us, so that we could become everything that is good about him! That’s good news. 1 John 1:9, Jude 1:24, and Romans 8:1-2 are passages that clearly show our new standing in Christ.

As a family discuss these questions:

1) What does it mean to be forgiven? Faultless? Free?

2) Many times we don’t feel forgiven, faultless, or free. It takes faith to trust that what God has said about who we are in Christ is true. Why do you think we doubt our new standing in Christ?

3) Faith could be defined as living as if what we hope is true… IS TRUE! How can we as a family encourage each other and strengthen each other’s faith?

The COST of the Cross

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Sin is not a topic that comes up in the typical conversation. It’s more a topic we avoid than one we embrace. And yet the reality of sin and the negative effects of sin constantly weigh us down. Our sin has put us in a hole that we can’t get out of.

This past Sunday we took a look at sin by first looking at what sin is not: If we are following God’s rules, we’re probably not sinning. Jesus condensed all of God’s Law down into two commands: Love God with all that we are and love people in the same ways we care for ourselves.

By understanding what sin is not, we get a clearer picture of what sin is and how often we sin. How much of a typical day are we loving God and other people correctly in our thoughts, our words, and our actions? We probably can’t go more than four or five minutes without being selfish, jealous, greedy, prideful, angry, or lustful… just to name a few!

The other thing we discussed is how God’s Law is pro-relationships, while sin is anti-relationships. We’ve all been hurt by others’ sin, but we’re also all guilty of hurting others by our sin. Sin always damages relationships and brings separation between us and others and between us and God.

The Bible even says that sin leads to death, which is the ultimate separation. The Good News, of course, is that God chose not to leave us in that hole, but from the very beginning was putting into motion his plan to spring us free.

An innocent sacrifice is the required cost to cover over a person’s sin. Jesus, being the perfect man, fit the bill. And being God, the effects of Jesus’s sacrificial death were limitless and boundless.

His blood extends to the entire human race, to all those who have ever lived or are yet to be born. It covers every sin ever committed and those not yet committed. The blood of Jesus brings us forgiveness, cleansing, and new life.

As a family discuss these questions:

1) Why is it so hard to talk about sin? Even when we know that we’re all in the same boat, why is it so hard to admit to another person that we struggle with sin?

2) In the video, several people came and tried to give the man advice on how to save himself. Why do we constantly try to fix ourselves rather than initially turning to God for help?

3) Is it a sin to not turn to God for help?

4) Another tendency we have as Christians is to obsess about our sins. What if, as a family, we challenge ourselves this week to focus on loving God and loving each other and work on what we can do rather than what we shouldn’t do?

5) A third tendency we have is to constantly feel anxious or ashamed about our sins. Do you think this stems from not really believing that we’re forgiveable? If so, why is it so hard to accept that Jesus died for me? How can we work on that this week?