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Hungry for the Word, Starving in the Pews

Hungry for the Word, Starving in the Pews
By Nathele Graham

“Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” Matthew 5:6.

Many Christians are starving Not because they have no food, but because the word of God is watered down and questioned by those who should be feeding the flock. That’s a sad comment on the preachers and teachers of today. They claim to have been called by God to stand in pulpits and lead a congregation, but many congregations are dying because they’re being starved. I get many emails from people who yearn to find a Christ centered congregation where the word of God is taught and honored. These people are looking for fellowship with Christians who find joy in their faith and their worship services are alive with the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, in these last days those congregations are few and far between. God saw it coming. “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD: and they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, and shall not find it.” Amos 8:11-12. This verse is specifically about Israel, but we are in the last days and there is a famine today in our Christian congregations. Many preachers today don’t preach the full counsel of God because many in the congregation don’t want to hear it. It’s more comfortable to die in sin than live in truth.

It’s the duty of a pastor to shepherd the flock in a God-fearing manner. A shepherd cares for the sheep. He is sure they’re well fed and have plenty of water, and if something dangerous comes among the flock, it’s dealt with swiftly. If a shepherd sees a member of the flock wandering away, he will go after that sheep and bring it back. Jesus is the Good Shepherd and is the example to follow. He cared for the people who followed Him and never tickled their ears with a watered-down Gospel. When He faced opposition from the Jewish leaders, He never caved to their demands. Today, liberal governments forbid pastors to preach the full truth of God’s word. Instead of standing firm on God’s truth, most pastors tickle ears and sidestep important issues. Why? If they call homosexuality a sin, they’ll lose their tax exemptions. Just like the money changers in the Temple, who cared more about money than truth, many pastors are willing to sacrifice God’s truth in order to keep the money coming in and tax exemptions in place. Peter and John were arrested for preaching God’s truth and were threatened not to preach about Jesus. They wouldn’t be silenced and were brought before the high priest. “And when they had brought them, they set them before the council: and the high priest asked them, saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” Acts 5:27-28. Peter knew who he followed and who he served and would not allow himself to be silenced when preaching the truth. “Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.” Acts 5:29. Peter had a lot more to say to the men who tried to stifle the word of God, and pastors today should take heed. It’s God who must be obeyed, not Satan who is the ruler of this world and influences liberal-minded folks to try to stop the truth of the Gospel. The name of Jesus must be preached and the full truth of God’s word must be taught.

Peter had followed Jesus for a long time, but he didn’t always stand up for the Lord. Peter was always outspoken and bold, until he was afraid of being arrested and put to death along with Jesus. Peter hid as Jesus was crucified but when the tomb was found to be empty, he ran to see for himself. What bitter conflict he must have felt. He had followed Jesus but fear of being punished for his faith caused him to deny His Lord. It was Jesus who calmed Peter’s fears. After the resurrection the disciples were instructed to go to Galilee. Jesus met them there and they shared a meal with the risen Christ. On the night Jesus had been arrested, Peter denied knowing Him three times. Now, on the shores of Galilee Jesus asked Peter three times “Do you love me” and each time Peter was given a responsibility. The first “…Feed my lambs.”. John 21:15b. Lambs are young. They aren’t ready for adult food, but need nourishment. Milk is their main food and it helps them grow into sheep. The Greek word bosko is translated “feed” and that’s exactly what it means. It’s also descriptive of how a Christian teacher is to promote the spiritual welfare of the congregation. The lambs need to be fed milk at first, but they will never grow to be sheep if only fed milk. New believers need to be gently led to grow into strong Christians. Jesus asked a second time if Peter loved Him and told him to take care of the sheep. “…feed my sheep.” John 21:16b. This time instead of books Jesus used the Greek word poimaino, which means feed but also means to tend a flock. That means to look out for their welfare and provide for their spiritual growth. If the sheep are allowed to stray, the flock will die. Then Jesus asked a third time if Peter loved Him told him to “…Feed my sheep.” John 21:17b. Once again the word was bokos. Sheep need adult food, not milk. Very few congregations today are being nourished and only lambs are being fed. People are hungry for the word of God but are starving as they sit in the pews. Notice too that Jesus said “my lambs” and “my sheep”. Peter might have been the shepherd, but the flock belongs to Jesus. Peter took Jesus’ words to heart and faithfully fulfilled his calling. Peter was the one who spoke boldly on the day of Pentecost and thousands of people accepted Christ as their Saviour that day. Read his words in chapter 2 of Acts and see if he tickled ears that day or if he was politically correct. Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit and no longer feared for his life. He served Jesus and wasn’t afraid to speak the truth. What about your pastor? Does he tip toe around Scripture or does he boldly preach God’s truth?

Pastors today are called to feed both lambs and sheep. Many are failing. They feed the lambs but forget to feed the sheep. On more than one occasion I’ve had someone tell me that God doesn’t want us to understand all of Scripture. These people have never been fed anything but milk. The Apostle Paul wrote two letters to a young pastor named Timothy to guide him in shepherding his flock. Paul told Timothy “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17. Paul didn’t say that only the easy Scriptures are to be taught, but all of Scripture is for our edification. At that time Scripture was the Old Testament. Does your pastor only teach from the New Testament? If so, you’re being deprived of some important doctrine. Does your pastor hop, skip, and jump through Scripture rather than teach verse by verse? If so, he probably avoids teaching against sin so the tax exemption will stay in place and nobody will be offended and stop tithing. That’s why so many congregations today are dead. Prophecy is a little more difficult to fully understand because it sometimes describes a future event that was hard for the prophet to describe. For instance, how could John have understood how the world would see the two witnesses lying dead in the street? Today we can understand because satellites and cell phones make it possible.

Sheep need a shepherd but we have a Shepherd who is greater than any man. Jesus Christ is that Shepherd who will never leave us wanting. “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.” John 10:11-14. Your pastor may be a hireling who’s not interested in shepherding the flock like he should. Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He loves us, cares for us, and will never flee in the face of opposition. Most pastors won’t preach all of God’s truth for fear of losing members of the congregation or being persecuted for preaching God’s truth. The flock belongs to Jesus and He gave His life for our salvation.

It’s important for Christians to feed on God’s word. Does that mean you have to sit in a pew and starve? Fellowship with other Christians is important in our spiritual walk and that usually means attending a worship service, whether watered down or not. “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) and let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” Hebrews 10:23-25. Being with other Christians is important, but if you’re sitting in a pew starving because you’re only being fed milk don’t wait for the hireling to feed you. You can feed yourself. Jesus is the Bread of Life and our Good Shepherd. Turn to Him. You have a Bible and can read and study. Don’t wait for a hireling to tend to your spiritual needs, but take care when studying that you aren’t duped by a false teacher. There are many. Read Scripture and digest it. Study it and understand that the entire Bible from Genesis through Revelation is all inspired by God. Men held the pen to write it but they wrote God’s word as inspired by the Holy Spirit. Also remember they didn’t write it in English or Spanish or French. It was mostly written in Hebrew and Greek. If a certain Scripture is confusing then look up the words in a Hebrew and Greek dictionary to get the original meaning. Then see where that word is used and translated elsewhere in Scripture. Never take a verse out of context. The best way to begin your study is with prayer. The Holy Spirit will guide you. I’ve found some very inspired Bible teachers that I listen to online, but I never just listen to just one man That way I don’t become a follower of a man. The men I study don’t worry about fitting a teaching into a 15 minute sermon, but may take an hour to be sure the sheep are fed.

If you’re hungry for the word of God but starving in the pews, look to Jesus for nourishment. “And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger, and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.” John 6:35. Jesus is the Bread of Life and the Living Water.

God bless you all,

Nathele Graham
twotug@embarqmail.com
www.straitandnarrowministry.com
ron@straitandnarrowministry.com

All original scripture is “theopneustos” God breathed.

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