There were mountains of fresh fruit peeled and sliced , heaps of freshly baked goodies, piles of cooked bacon, sausage, ham, hash browns, great urns full of several kinds of fresh juices, next to urns of freshly brewed coffee. There were two chefs assigned to the buffet, in addition to the dozens of cooks working behind the scene and scores of servers; one chef specialized in fresh waffles and the other focused exclusively on making omelets exactly as you asked for them.
We enjoyed ourselves immensely, of course. The breakfasts were so good and so filling that we never bothered with eating lunch, just breakfast and dinner each day, before we swam in the surf, hiked the trails, napped in the sun or read by the acres of swimming pool. It was a week of indulgence.
It really was a nice break from the routine, but a lifestyle like that would quickly make us lazy, overweight, and completely bankrupt. There are reasons we cook our own meals: first, we have to pay for our own meals the other fifty-one weeks of the year, and second, I really prefer that my height remain greater than my waistline. Imagine what it would be like if I could eat like that every day, or even just a few times a week. I’d have to expand more than my tent-pegs!
In contrast, I go camping by myself fairly often. I have a camper on my truck, and so it doesn’t take a lot of planning. I have a kitchen in that camper, which I use for lunch during the week, but when I’m camping, I try to do all my cooking over the campfire. I don’t bring prepared meals. The first dinner always involves a steak; later in the weekend, I usually cook in aluminum foil in the coals, or in a pot hanging over the fire. I try my best to avoid “traditional” camp food (other than the first night’s steak): I make nice meals pretty much from scratch, and I try to make a great deal of variety The goal here is pretty much the opposite of the breakfast buffet: it’s to prepare the meal for myself.
The Bible speaks of our need to eat the Word of God, to be nourished by it. God’s word is our food.
We have “Bible Restaurants” scattered across our city; we call some of them churches. One of their several functions is to prepare the raw materials of the Word into a tasty and digestible meal for their guests. Similarly, we have conferences, which provide more robust fare for those who are looking for more specialized fare. And we can order prepared meals in a range of qualities online – from disgusting guck to spectacular banquets; we call them Podcasts. (Two of my favorites are iBethel from Redding; and OneThing from Kansas City.)
Bible Restaurants are wonderful things. When we attend church, or a conference or listen to aPodcast, we’re partaking of a meal that has been prepared for our consumption. Some, of course, are more nutritional than others, though with a little care, we can be sure that we avoid non-nutritional spiritual meals.
There’s a very real danger with Bible Restaurants: they can make me fat and lazy. Just like the buffet restaurants that are showing up in nearly every suburb in America, if I were to eat there every meal, or even just several meals a week, pretty soon, I could skip meals during the day and still get more calories, more nutrition than I really need. And spiritual obesity is probably as much of a problem to my health as physical obesity: I get all this nutrition, but no place to use it, and I’m immobilized by my own weightiness. What a mess.
A couple of decades ago, I read 1Corinthians 3, and it really impacted me. Actually, it scared me:
1Corinthians 3:1: And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; 3 for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?
As I thought about this interesting little word picture, I realized that many believers, many of my friends, were still stuck on needing milk. I realized that I was still depending on others to feed me milk; I was not able to deal with real meat from the Book. It scared me. I’m a terribly curious person, and there were secrets that were not available to the believers in Corinth, or to me, simply because of our inability to feed ourselves. Some time later, someone pointed out Hebrews 5 to me:
Hebrews 5:12-14: For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. 14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
My final year of college, I moved out of the dorms and lived in a house a couple of miles downtown from the school. Just before school started, my parents helped me move in to the house: the other two guys were already moved in, so I got the basement bedroom. We got there late in the day, so we planned to just drop my stuff off and head to a restaurant for a final dinner together before school started. As we were leaving the house, one of my roommates caught me: “Can you make me some macaroni and cheese? I haven’t eaten today, and I don’t know how to cook for myself.” I was shocked: who doesn’t know who to cook up macaroni and cheese?
I realized, “That’s me! The Bible is the food that feeds my spirit, and I don’t know how to feed myself any more than Charlie knows how to feed his body.” I was as helpless as he was. I had the raw nutrition available to me, just as he had the nutrition in the boxes of dry noodles and dryer cheese packages.
I was embarrassed, and I made a vow that week: I would learn to feed myself if it took me the rest of my life. I would learn how to take the raw ingredients of the Word of God and learn how to feed myself. I might learn how to fed someone else at the same time, but the goal was to feed myself.
I took some classes in “How to Study the Bible,” and they were fine. I read some books, and they helped a little. Some friends showed me how they read the Word, and that was OK.
But the day that my “spiritual cooking” skills started to really develop was the day that I stopped looking to everyone around me for help, and I just sat down with my Bible, determined to find nourishment in its pages.
This article is primarily aimed at encouragement: too many people who follow Jesus are unable to feed themselves properly from the word, and would starve if there weren’t a conference or a teaching CD waiting for them. I really want anyone who reads this to make the same desperate decision I did: “I will feed myself if it kills me!” But the teacher in me demands that I include at least a bare outline of what began to form from trial and error in my daily routine.
My eventual success came from a combination of four ingredients: 1. bite-sized pieces of the Word, 2. time enough to chew carefully, 3. a journal and a good pencil, and most importantly, 4) a willingness to cheat. I always figure it’s cheating to ask the guy who wrote the test for help on the test, but it seems that the Holy Spirit really likes to help me figure out how to make a meal from the Word! (I don’t suppose I should be surprised at that, but I was at the time.)
The recipe is just as straightforward: I work my way through a book of the Bible (the gospels are wonderful for this!), one section at a time: I used the headings as my markers, which made about ½ or ⅓ of a chapter a day. (I’m not looking for speed here.) I refused to use the “fast food” of a Study Bible, because I want to do this my own self! I’d give myself 45 minutes or an hour, and I’d start by asking the Author for insight into His word, emphasizing that He promised to do give it anyway.
And then I’d read through and think through and pray through the section until something began to light up in my spirit, at which point, I made use of my journal. I’d always push myself to have enough to say to fill up at least 2 pages in the journal: this is the content that I’ve learned from the Word today.
It’s one thing to make a meal from the Word, it’s another to eat the meal that we have prepared, but unless we make use what we learn, we’ll still starve. (Bulimia is no better than anorexia, either in the natural or in regard to the Word of God.) So we must apply it to ourselves, praying through what we need to, repenting or declaring or making plans for a change in behavior as necessary.
1 Peter 2:2: as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby…