Spirit of Grace Ministries
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Spirit of Grace Ministries
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Feeding on the Bread of Life

Bread

by Dennis Pollock

People read for many different reasons. In previous generations reading was often done for pleasure. In those ancient pre-television, pre-computer, pre-video game days, after the kids had been put to bed, momma had finished her dishes, and poppa his tasks, the couple would sit in their favorite chairs with a book in their hands and enjoy a good novel. Perhaps they would read Wuthering Heights or The Count of Monte Christo,and sometimes they would even read to each other out loud. Those days are long gone, and reading for pleasure has almost become a lost art. Still we do read. High school students read books that have been assigned them, business types read self-help books which they trust will give them an edge over the competition, housewives pour over cookbooks, and young professionals read quick news bites on their phones in order not to appear totally ignorant of the latest current events and trends when they chat with their peers at the water cooler.

Christians are taught from their spiritual birth to read the Bible regularly. No reasonable Christian would deny the significance of the Bible in the life of the believer, but questions remain. How should we read this book? How much should we read? Is it similar to a history book, where we must acquire facts and memorize dates? Should we read it more the way one would enjoy a novel, taking pleasure in the reading but paying little attention to the details? Is it to be read the way we read current events on our phones, taking in the main facts and quickly moving on? Is it more like a school textbook, to be studied in a rush as we cram for a test?

Jesus, Our Bread

The key to understanding the how and why of reading the Scriptures is found in a simple, yet profound statement of Jesus, as He tells us, "I am the bread of life" (John 6:35). Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God is our food, our strength, our nourishment, and our life. The more our appreciation of, faith in, and love for Christ grows, the stronger we will become and the greater will be the surging streams of divine life that flow within us. Reading the Bible must never become merely the acquisition of facts and information. Reading the Bible like some dry textbook would be as absurd for the Christian as a young man coldly reading a letter from his beloved fiancé and studying it as though in preparation for a long, multiple-choice exam.

It is true that the Bible is filled with information we humans desperately need – information about man, about God, and about the one and only mean by which we can be reconciled to God. We can never discount the information and the facts that it contains. Those who worship God must worship Him not only in Spirit but also in truth. Truth always requires knowledge, and the knowledge of divine things comes from the book we Christians recognize to be the word of God — as it is taught to us by the Holy Spirit.

But as important as knowledge is, it is not enough. Our reading must also involve a heart communion with God which results in the release of rivers of living water flowing within us. It is the Holy Spirit who is the key to reading the Bible and releasing the fullness of God's blessings in our lives. We read God's word not as a mental experience of accumulating facts and dates, but as a worship experience, recognizing that Jesus Christ, our Bread of life, is the food for which our souls cry out. The moment we open the cover of the book we know as The Holy Bible we must recognize that we have come before God for a meal, for that divine food who is Jesus Christ, who alone can feed our souls. Whether we are reading about the liberation of Israel from Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, the animal sacrifices described in Leviticus, the anointing of David as king of Israel, the prophets' thunderous denunciations of the sins of Israel, the gospels, the epistles, or that mysterious final book we call Revelation, we must look for, we must find, and we must feed upon Jesus Christ. We read not only to learn, but to be filled and re-filled, and re-filled again with the Holy Spirit as we gaze upon the glory of Jesus Christ in the word of God. Our reading must become a worship experience, and not merely a fact-gathering mission.

Eating Properly

When we understand this, we will slow down in our pace of reading. One of the most spiritually deadly practices in reading the Bible is the goal of reading a certain number of chapters per reading. Often the Christian sits down and realizes that he has far less time to give to Bible reading than he hoped to have. Still he must read his three or five chapters that he has set as a goal. And so, being dutiful and determined to keep to his reading schedule he reads through his allotted chapters with blazing speed. Finally he finishes his chapters in record time and goes about his day. He can remember nothing of what he has just read, his spirit has not been lifted, there has been no edification, no worship, no feeding on the Bread of life. But he has done his duty and read his chapters. In truth, he might as well have been watching television.

Many of us had a mother who told us at dinnertime, "Slow down, chew your food. Don't eat so fast. It's not good for you!" Momma was right. Eating too fast is unhealthy both on a physical and spiritual level. Rather than set a goal of so many chapters per day or per setting, it is far better to simply set a length of time to read the word and feed on Jesus. Determine an amount of time that is reasonable and which you will not begrudge the Lord. And then, during that time, read slowly and allow the words which have proceeded from the mouth of the Lord to sink deeply within your spirit. I find it helpful to read the Scriptures aloud, which slows me down further, and involves more of my senses in the process. Far better to read one or two chapters slowly and thoughtfully than five or six hurriedly without comprehension or any measure of spiritual nourishment. And with those smaller epistles where it seems good to read them as a whole, only do this when you are able to take your eyes off your clock and your watch, and slowly take in what the Holy Spirit desires to reveal to you. Some books need to be read in a hurry, but the Bible is not one of them!

Another aspect of reading God's word effectively is prayer. Don't feel it is a distraction or wrong to pause at certain places and pray a moment. Often a Scripture will strike you with force and almost beg to be applied to your life and your current situation. Don't just ignore that urge. Put your finger in the Bible to mark your place, and talk to the Lord about it. Claim the promises you find, and acknowledge the wonderful declarations God and Christ make about Themselves. Pray before you read, and then pause here and there and pray some more during your reading, and finally pray after you conclude your reading. Prayer and the word of God are a powerful combination, and they go a long way to turn dry Bible reading into a rich worship experience.

"You Are Strong"

StrengthThe result of feeding on God's words and feeding on Jesus Christ as you find Him in the word, is spiritual strength. John writes, "I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you… " (1 John 2:14). It is amazing how quickly we become weak when we go without food. Go one, two, or three days without food and you will discover just how important food is to your body. You lose strength, you lose motivation, you lose ability. Someone once asked which would be more dangerous: being in a room on fire, or among lions that hadn't eaten in three months. Many might suppose it would be the hungry lions, but in reality you would be better off with the lions than with the fire. Lions that hadn't been fed in three months would be dead. A live housecat would be more dangerous. Likewise, Christians who hardly ever read the word and rarely take the time to listen to the word preached or taught will be of no danger at all to the devil and his workers. Their bodies may be strong and robust, but their spirits will be shriveled and weak.

Not only should we read God's word regularly, but ideally we should read it more than once a day. In our world there are many different cultures and customs, but no matter where you go – be it Africa, Asia, Europe, or America or South America, everyone the world over eats at least two and normally three different meals each day. We eat different foods, we eat at different times, but almost nobody is satisfied to stuff ourselves with one large meal per day. And certainly we would never think of eating one large meal per week.

Like a Tree…

We were not made to live on occasional meals of Christ. We are to feed on Him constantly. This is a major aspect of the abiding life that Jesus commands His followers. Jesus says, "The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life" (John 6:63). Too often Christians have some type of morning devotions and then forget about God until the next morning. After their devotional time, they must get out into "the real world" of schedules and "to-do" lists, and deadlines, and so forth. God is effectively written out of their lives until the next morning when they read their quick chapter in the Bible and say their one-minute rushed prayer. Then off they go again.

The Creator of the earth, the God of Israel, the Alpha and the Omega, the One who holds our breath in His hands and who owns all our ways, the One who upholds all things by the word of His power, cannot be contained in a fifteen minute time slot between 6:45 and 7:00 am. It is not possible or practical for us to talk with Him or read His word non-stop throughout our day, but we can keep coming back to Him, drinking at the Fountain of living waters throughout the day, even if it is only in short segments of time. By doing this we ensure that the living waters will continue to flow in us, and we become, in David's words, "like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither" (Psalm 1:3). This is the man or woman who regularly, frequently, prayerfully, and continually feeds on Jesus in His word. Divine life flows and blessings abound.

Life-Giving Words

Normally when we see a movie or read a novel, we are unlikely to ever pick it up again. If it is an especially great book we may read it once or twice more in the course of our lives. We may watch an outstanding movie five or six times in a lifetime but rarely more than that. Not so the Scriptures. The words that have originated from God are not for our entertainment; they are for our life. Imagine inviting a friend to your house for dinner and serving them a salad, and them saying to you, "Oh, I'm sorry. I should have told you – I've already had a salad. About four years ago I ate a salad at a restaurant, so I really wouldn't be interested in eating another one." Of course nobody would say that. Most of us eat hundreds if not thousands of salads over a lifetime. We eat steaks and potatoes and hamburgers and French fries and fish again and again, and never gripe about the repetition.

So it is with feeding on Jesus in God's word. We read the gospels, the epistles, the books of Moses, the Psalms, and the prophets over and over again. The Scriptures are God's gift to the human race, that we might see in them the One who is the Bread of life, and that by feeding upon Him we might have life, both for today and forever. Jesus Himself declares, "He who feeds on Me will live because of Me" (John 6:57).

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