Part I: What Are You Eating?

Even if they seem redundant, don't ignore the warning signs.One night a few weeks ago, my godsister and I sat down to watch a Netflix movie that had come in the mail. The movie was called “Crash,” an edgy  2004 drama with a some-star cast set in post-9/11 Los Angeles. As soon as I looked at the summary and the rating, my stomach fluttered uneasily. But I resigned myself to sit and watch the 112-minute feature, silently praying as I always do before I watch a movie, that the Lord would reveal His heart to me through it and that I would be able to glean some hidden Kingdom gold from the creative dreams of this team of writers, directors, producers, and actors.

The red flags began to pop up within the first scene: cruel racism, intense swearing, and abrasive anger that was fast-paced and nonstop for the first 15 minutes. I kept telling myself, “It’ll get better, it’ll get better.” Meanwhile, my heart was dropping into my stomach. At last, there came a point where I knew the Holy Spirit was telling me to stop. So I jumped up and excused myself, jammed earbuds into my ears and drowned out the screaming drama of the movie with worship music. My heart was pounding and I literally felt nauseous.

It was like I had been under rapid-fire attack in a matter of minutes and was now weak and shaken. I grabbed for my Bible and journal, and dove in for the next two hours. I spent much time repenting of watching the movie and asking Jesus to wash my feet and make me new again. I felt restored after a short time, but the message came through loud and clear: I need to start watching what I eat.
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Daniel 1:3-5 Then the king ordered Ashpenax, chief of his court officials, to bring into the king’s service some of the Israelites form the royal family and the notiblity–young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians. The king assigned ot them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service. 

So you’ve had a blood transfusion with Jesus and had all your affairs exchanged to your mansion in the Heavenlies. You’ve just said “Here am I, send me!” to the Lord’s cry of “Who will go for us?” Welcome to the war zone. You now have dual citizenship in this world and That one. You’ve been given a new set of instructions for how to live life (significantly shorter than the one you used to have, this one just says “Love God and love people”). You’ve been grafted with a new, soft heart with which to be convicted of everything that rendered you slave to your old (now dead) lifestyle. Your response protocol to offense is new, different and honestly a little offensive to your mind. You have been drafted into a school of how to shed the hollow husk of your worldly paradigm in exchange for taking Christ’s yoke upon you. You have been exhorted to be in the world, yet not of the world.

You may feel disoriented and confused–that’s all right. But just remember, now that you’ve made the leap into Eternity, there is no going back. Your friends and the kings of this world will expect you to join in their feasts and banquets, partaking of the foods they find rare and attractive. But you mustn’t touch–these foods are nothing more than poorly disguised and cleverly advertised poisons. The decadent, rich foods of the kings of the world that once sated your hunger (or seemed to, for a while) are pollutants.

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Daniel 1:8 – But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way.

Daniel respectfully requested that he and his three comrades be allowed to keep to a diet of vegetables and water instead of eating the king’s food and thereby defiling themselves. That couldn’t have been an easy petition for Daniel, a captive of the king with no former rapport that we know of to cover even a hint of defiance with mercy. Daniel and his three comrades were captives in a foreign land under the command of a king who had the right to kill anyone who disobeyed him. There was a lot at stake, but Daniel was a man whose standards were shaped by God Himself. The first 3 chapers of the book of Daniel are an illustration of the young Israelites’ courage under the pressure of a forgetful, vengeful king.

Titus 1:15 says, to those whose hearts are pure, all things are pure. These four boys of Israel had been taken captive from their home, where there was a standard of purity, into Babylon, where the only standard of righteousness was what they themselves carried–and whatever the king said was right. Daniel and the other three could have had a number of reasons for choosing to eat the food of the king anyway. They would have had every reason to submit to king Nebuchadnezzar’s authority and do what they were told.

But the sense of purpose displayed by these young men is astounding. Many of us may just have given up hope in their situation. Why? Because there is no instant gratification in keeping up with our standards in such an environment. What’s the point? No one would see, no one would care what we do. What difference would it make if we hold ourselves to a standard of holiness when we have no support and we’re expected to act just like everyone else? There are countless excuses we can make to justify crumbling in the face of peer pressure, but that’s all our justifications add up to–excuses.

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I’m not so naive as to think that this situation is anything special; peer pressure (to dumb it down simply to that) is something every believer faces. In every home, every public arena–and yes, even in every church, there is great temptation to succumb to the majority vote at the cost of your integrity.

Ultimately, it comes down to whose opinion we value more. Proverbs 9:10 says the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. If you respect and revere God first and foremost, the opinions of your friends, coworkers, teachers, classmates, and bosses will pale by comparison. Obedience may very likely cost you the popular vote among your peers…But it might not.

Daniel 1:9-10 – Now God had caused the official to show favor and compasison to Daniel, but the official told Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would have me beheaded because of you.”

When Daniel asked Nebuchadnezzar’s chief of officials if he and the other three Israelite boys could keep to their normal diet of undefiled food, the cheif was immediately fearful for his life. Being charged with training these young men, he was instructed to keep them strong and healthy. He was afraid, and for good reason–how could the meager diet Daniel spoke of compare to the diet of other young men who partook of the king’s meat and wine?

So Daniel, again treating the king’s man with utmost respect and honor, proposed an alternative:

Daniel 1:11-14 –  Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah,  “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink.  Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.”  So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days.

At the end of the 10 days, not only were Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego not frail and thing–they were stronger and healthier than the other young men who had eaten from the king’s kitchen!
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So now, here is my question to you, beloved reader. Re-examine your diet. What are you eating? What are you taking in that could be clogging up your channel to a heart of flesh, deadening it once again to a senseless stone? Once we find them, we are not to hide them, cling to them, justify them, or hate ourselves for having them. There is only one thing we can do: Give it up.

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