He Never Said It’d Be Easy

Matthew 8:18-20

When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake. 19 Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”

20 Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

This is a pretty interesting reply by Jesus. Here you have a well-respected individual telling Jesus that he will follow him anywhere. If it was me I’d be all excited and like, “Sweet! We need influential people like you. I’m so glad you’re willing to join our team!”

But Jesus says in effect, “Are you really sure you want to follow me? You need to know that this is gonna be a lot harder than you realize. For one thing, I don’t even think we have a place to sleep tonight. Following me will be demanding and strenuous, and might even be bad for your health…”

And then another guy comes up to Jesus and makes a similar statement:

Matthew 8:21-22

Another disciple said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”

22 But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”

This guy, too, is ready and willing to be Jesus’ disciple, but… he just needs to take care of one small thing. And it seems to me like it’s a pretty important thing. It is good to take time to grieve our loved ones who have died.

But again, Jesus’ reply is odd and even comes across as harsh. I think however that what Jesus is saying is understandable in light of the importance of his mission: “If you want to follow me, that’s fine. But the work that I am about is so important and urgent that there is not even time for you to glance over your shoulder. If you’re my disciple, then be my disciple. I say jump, and you say how high. Now are you still willing to sign up for this?”

Jesus is saying that following him is a big deal. It’s not all sunshine and cotton candy. And it’s an all or nothing kind of thing. And he wants us to know this up front… straight out of the gate. He doesn’t hold any punches.

He actually makes it harder on these two guys to choose to follow him. He’s telling them to count the cost.

How about you? Do you think it’s worth it to follow Jesus? No matter the price? Why?

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!

The CALL of the Cross

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