Nourishment for Spiritual Health :: By Nathele Graham

A baby is helpless and needs love and nurturing. The babe has so much to learn, but the first lesson is love. A mother holds the baby close and gives nourishment to her baby. Milk is all a newborn can handle, and that milk gives needed nourishment that helps the child grow. Milk is necessary for the beginning of life, but if a person is never given solid food, there will be no growth. Cells won’t develop properly and the weakened child won’t survive. The same is true of a person who has been born into the family of God. We accept the free gift of salvation, and then it’s time to be fed and grow. At first, it’s all strange, and a person isn’t able to digest deep spiritual matters.

“As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: if so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious” (1 Peter 2:2-3).

When you first accept Christ, the Holy Spirit is sealed within you and many newborn babes in Christ tremendous zeal for the Lord. Too often, that zeal is stifled rather than nurtured. Either there hasn’t been a mentor to guide in spiritual growth, or they get frustrated by their lack of understanding of God’s word and the fresh excitement fizzles. The congregation they join may be one where nobody has progressed beyond drinking milk. There are many dying congregations because the flock receives no meat for spiritual growth.

After Jesus gave His life on the cross, conquered death, and arose from the grave, He met with His disciples at the Sea of Galilee. Peter had denied Christ and wasn’t sure he should have been included in this meeting, but there was a very important reason that Jesus wanted him there. It was Peter who was given the specific call to be a pastor and shepherd a flock of believers. Peter had followed Jesus for three years; he had seen miracles and had been taught wonderous things. Now it was time for him to accept the forgiveness and grace of Christ and set about feeding the flock.

First, Peter had to recognize what his priorities were. He was a fisherman, and while waiting to meet Jesus on the shore, he became discouraged and returned to his old life of fishing. Because Jesus did bless his efforts, he and the other disciples had caught many fish in their net. Peter needed to decide where his love truly lay. Was it in his old life and ways of a fisherman, or was he ready to grow in his faith and teach others?

“So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs” (John 21:15).

Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him with the agape, God-like love, but Peter could only say it was a brotherly (phileo) love. Was Peter still beating himself up because of his past failures and unable to believe Jesus could forgive him? Yes, Jesus always forgives the repentant sinner. Peter was valuable to the growth of Christianity, and Jesus gave him the charge to feed the lambs. These are babes in Christ, not ready for deep truths. They are fed milk, but they must grow. If they don’t grow beyond milk, they will never mature.

Jesus wasn’t done. Peter was capable of giving more than milk to the lambs. “He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep” (John 21:16).

In addition to feeding the lambs, the babes in Christ, he was told to feed sheep who had grown beyond the newborn stage and needed a different type of nourishment. They had outgrown milk. Once again, Jesus asked if Peter’s love was the godly type of love, but Peter could only say his love was brotherly love. Peter had all he needed to be a leader and a teacher who fed both lambs and sheep, but he needed to face his failures. Jesus had forgiven him, and now he needed to forgive himself.

Jesus knew Peter, just as He knows you. Peter was capable of great things in the spreading of Christianity, and Jesus had chosen him for that important task.

“He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep” (John 21:17).

This time Jesus asked Peter if he had brotherly love. Jesus accepted Peter for where he was right then, just as He accepts all of us, but He wants us to grow. Peter loved Jesus but didn’t feel his love was worthy of feeding lambs or sheep. Jesus does know all things, and He knew that Peter would eventually fulfill his calling. He would give new Christians the basics of faith they needed in order to grow, but he would also continue to give them spiritual nourishment to help them mature. Peter wouldn’t let a Christian weaken from only being fed milk.

What’s holding you back? Are you ashamed of past sin? Jesus has forgiven you, and now you need to forgive yourself and move on with the calling Jesus has given you.

Many pastors today try to be politically correct. Don’t rock the boat, don’t hurt feelings by calling sin what it is, and don’t upset anyone by standing firmly on Scripture, especially if there’s a chance of losing tax exemptions. Many Christian women dress in tight pants, short shorts, and are covered with tattoos, and many Christian men don’t respect themselves, let alone people around them. A new Christian may not understand that a woman is to dress modestly or that husbands are to love their wives as Christ loves His followers, but lambs need to be taught.

The congregation in Corinth was a prime example of the leaders not respecting God’s word and accepting sin as normal. The congregation was only fed milk, and that had to change. Paul wrote a letter that didn’t pull any punches. He spoke hard truths to them about changes they needed to make. Sadly, he couldn’t speak to them as mature Christians because they hadn’t grown.

“And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?” (1 Corinthians 3:1-3).

Paul recognized that these people were Christians because he called them “brethren,” but he also recognized that they hadn’t grown spiritually and were still living as the world around them lived. These people wanted the benefits of God’s grace while embracing the ways of the pagan society in which they lived. That seems to be the way of many congregations today. That has to change.

Why do you need to grow spiritually? God thinks it’s important, so that’s reason enough. The Bible is God’s inspired word. It contains the truth of creation, a history of the nation of Israel, facts about why that history is important; it tells about the life of Jesus and why God had to become human in order to reconcile this fallen world to Him so He can forgive us. The New Testament letters give us a solid basis of how to please God in our daily lives; they nourish our growth with solid food. Scripture also gives us prophecy.

Many pastors won’t touch on prophecy because they don’t make an effort to study it. By not teaching on it, they ignore about 1/3 of God’s word. God thought prophecy was important enough to put it into Scripture, so it needs to be studied and taught. Prophecy shows us where we are on God’s timeline. Prophecy is part of the meat that encourages spiritual growth. Peter saw many things that he could testify to, such as hearing God speak from Heaven when Jesus was transfigured. In spite of that, he said prophecy is a more certain witness of God’s truth.

“We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: knowing this first, that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Peter 1:19-21).

Peter wasn’t talking about false prophets, such as palm readers, fortune cookies, or Nostradamus. Peter was speaking of Old Testament prophecy, which told of the coming Messiah. Jesus fulfilled those prophecies perfectly, which is a testimony to the truth of Scripture. Both Old and New Testaments tell of the Rapture, which is on the very near horizon, and the horrors of the Tribulation. We need to be nurtured and grow in understanding God’s word, even prophecy.

We must be careful, though, when moving from milk to solid food. There are many false teachers with unscriptural teachings. How do you learn to discern what are false teachings instead of God’s truth? Easy. Study Scripture. That may seem impossible for someone who hasn’t been to seminary, but the truth is, Peter, Andrew, James, and John were all fishermen. The only “seminary” they attended was taught by Jesus. So, start growing in spiritual health by studying Scripture for yourself. Write down questions and search for Biblical answers. Pray for guidance.

“Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless. And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.

“Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from you own stedfastness” (2 Peter 3:14-17).

Peter is feeding the sheep here. He is encouraging growth and discernment. He acknowledges that some Scripture, including Paul’s letters, can be hard to understand, but he doesn’t say they are impossible to understand. Scripture wasn’t written in English, so to get a better understanding of what was written, use a concordance to look up cross-references as well as to help understand what the original word means. Seminary isn’t necessary to understand Scripture, just a desire to grow in the Lord.

The writer of Hebrews criticized those who aren’t growing spiritually healthy. He wanted his readers to learn, but he wasn’t able to teach them because they hadn’t grown. For instance, he wanted them to understand about Christ being our High Priest after the order of Melchisedec.

“Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered seeing ye are dull of hearing. For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Hebrews 5:11-14).

There are wonderful truths to be learned from studying Scripture and growing in your walk. Every Christian needs to feed on the strong meat of God’s truth.

Don’t be spiritually sick and “dull of hearing.” Get spiritual nourishment for yourself. Don’t wait for your pastor to feed the sheep if he only feeds the lambs. He may only be a lamb himself.

“But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen” (2 Peter 3:18).

God bless you all,

Nathele Graham

twotug@embarqmail.com

www.straitandnarrowministry.com

ron@straitandnarrowministry.com

Ron and Nathele Graham’s previous commentaries archived at https://www.raptureready.com/featured/graham/graham.html

All original scripture is “theopneustos” — God-breathed.

If you’d like to be on my mailing list to receive the commentaries, just drop me an email and let me know.

Prayer 101 :: By Nathele Graham 

Prayer is an important part of a Christian’s life, or it should be. It’s our way to communicate with God, but too often we don’t talk with Him enough. Throughout Scripture we are given examples of people who pray.

Hannah prayed at the altar asking God to allow her to have a child. “Now Hannah, she spake in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard: therefore Eli thought she had been drunken” (1 Samuel 1:13). She wasn’t drunk, but was earnestly praying to God from her heart. God gave her a son, and her prayer of thanksgiving is recorded in chapter 2. Of course, we know that King David prayed, “My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up” (Psalm 5:3). This is just one of many Psalms that are prayers of praise. Solomon, Isaiah, and Jeremiah were men of prayer, as was Daniel. “And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes” (Daniel 9:3).

The many prayers recorded in the Old Testament should teach us that talking to God is important in the life of a person who loves Him.

The New Testament gives us insight about the prayer life of the early Christians who knew they needed daily guidance from the Lord. The Apostles tried to care for all the needs of all the Christians, but were overwhelmed. It was decided that godly men would be chosen to minister to the needs of the Christians. “But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4). Because they sought God’s guidance in prayer and listened to His answers, Christianity reached the far corners of the world.

Because a group of people earnestly prayed, Peter was miraculously released from prison. “Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him” (Acts 12:5). The people who prayed for Peter didn’t really expect an answer, but God did answer by sending an angel to release Peter from the prison. After his release, Peter went to the house where the people prayed for him. “And as Peter knocked at the door of the gate, a damsel came to hearken, named Rhoda. And when she knew Peter’s voice, she opened not the gate for gladness, but ran in, and told how Peter stood before the gate. And they said unto her, Thou art mad. But she constantly affirmed that it was even so. Then said they, It is his angel” (Acts 12:13-15). They had prayed, but when their prayer was answered they didn’t believe God had answered perfectly.

Too often we pray out of habit or because it’s just something else to try when everything else has failed.

There are many examples of prayer in the New Testament, and it would be wise to study these prayers. James tells us a thing or two about praying. “And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:15-16).

Brothers and sisters, prayer should be a big part of every Christian’s life, and we need to take it seriously. Jesus prayed, and His example is the one we should follow first.

The question is, how do we pray? Is God a buddy whom we joke around with? Is He to be feared to the point that we’re afraid to speak? Do we even pray to Him directly? After all, the pope says to pray to a person he deems as a saint or to Mary. Let’s start with that one first. No. No, no, no. The pope has no power over anything in Heaven; he can’t deem anybody a saint. Mary, was a very special woman who was obedient to God’s will, but she was no more than human. Nowhere in Scripture are we directed to pray to anyone but God.

Jesus simplified all the questions by giving us a model prayer, which is an example of how we should pray. We call it The Lord’s Prayer, and most of us memorized it very early in life. In a few short words, Jesus gave us a way to shape our prayers to honor God. He led up to this example by first giving bad examples. “And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward” (Matthew 6:5).

A person’s motive for praying matters. A hypocrite is someone who pretends; an actor who plays a part. If you pray in order to impress people, then you’re a hypocrite. On the other hand, if your prayers are prayed with the purpose of drawing attention to God, and sincerely seek Him, then your motive is correct. There are many reasons to pray, and they all boil down to honoring God. Petition God to help your husband as he goes to his job every day to support his family. Pray for sons and daughters that the temptations of life won’t dazzle them and draw them away from the Lord. Pray a prayer of praise for all that God has done. God loves you and is worthy of praise.

“After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name” (Matthew 6:9). In giving this example of prayer, Jesus said to start by recognizing who you’re speaking to. You are addressing Almighty God who is all knowing, all seeing, and all powerful. Christians are able to know Him on a personal level because of Jesus, who is God the Son. Because of our faith in Jesus, we are also God’s children. “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (John 1:12).

In this life we have an earthly father, and if he is a God-fearing man, he has been an example of love to you. Jesus says we can call God our Father, because He loves you and cares for you more than anyone on earth. Even if your earthly father wasn’t a loving man, you can still look to God to be the loving father you can trust. God deserves our respect, and we need to understand that He is holy.

“Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). In heaven, God’s will is done without question. There’s no taking His words out of context and twisting their meaning to fit your ideas. When God dispatches an angel on an errand, that errand is accomplished without question. When Lucifer rebelled, evil entered creation, and we can see the results of disobedience to God. If God’s will was done on earth today, what a glorious life we would have.

Jesus says we should pray for His kingdom to come, and one day it will come. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of evil to be faced before that day. As Christians, we shouldn’t let the evil around us stop us from doing God’s will. If you think about it, if you don’t want to do His will now, what makes you think you’ll want to spend eternity doing the perfect will of God? If you pray these words, then you need to mean them and strive to live according to God’s will today.

“Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11). Pray for the needs of today. We need food daily, and this prayer shows us not to pray for bread next week or a year from now, but bread for today. Later in this same chapter, Jesus said, “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:31-33). God knows you need food and clothing and will provide, but Jesus said to seek the kingdom of God. That means to live to honor Him now, and do His will “…in earth, as it is in heaven.”

“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Matthew 6:12). A debt is something owed. If you buy a car, you owe the bank for lending you money. If someone does a favor for you, you owe a debt of gratitude. There is a greater debt we owe. One that encumbers our life and drags us down. It’s the debt of sin that Satan has encumbered us with. If you’re a Christian, then your sin-debt was paid in full at the cross and you’re forgiven. We all sin, but that sin can be forgiven. Jesus said that even thinking a lustful thought is the same as committing the sin. It’s easy to sin without intending to, but if we’ve accepted Jesus for salvation, then our sins are forgiven.

If you’ve been forgiven, then you need to forgive others. It’s not easy to forgive someone who has done evil to you, but if God forgave your sin, then you need to forgive other people. Notice, this prayer says “as we forgive our debtors.” Think about it and you’ll come up with people you need to forgive.

“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen” (Matthew 6:13). Most modern translations say “…but deliver us from the evil one.” Evil doesn’t come from God, but comes from Satan who is pure evil. He puts temptation in our way. Temptation can stumble even the strongest Christian, and most temptations come from us putting ourselves in its way. God will never deliberately lead us into a situation where we are tempted to succumb to sin, but will be our strength to rescue us from the temptation. “The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished” (2 Peter 2:9).

It would be easier for us if we were never tempted to sin once we give our life to Christ, but God will lead us away from it. In the prayer that Christ prayed not long before His arrest, He prayed for you. Did you know that? He prayed for the men who had been His disciples, then turned His prayer to future followers. “I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth… Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me” (John 17:15-17 & 20-21). Jesus prayed that you and I would be kept from evil, that we wouldn’t stumble. Again, modern translations say “evil one.”

If God is first in our thoughts, then it’s harder for Satan to tempt us. It’s God who is to be followed, honored, and praised.

This prayer can be said quickly and without thought, but that’s not how it’s meant to be prayed. Each word has a deep meaning; and if this is the only prayer you pray, then mean what you say. It’s a basic prayer and a format for prayers from your heart… prayer 101. God is your Father, but He is still God. Submit to His will and glorify Him in all you do.

God bless you all,

Nathele Graham

twotug@embarqmail.com

www.straitandnarrowministry.com

ron@straitandnarrowministry.com

Ron and Nathele Graham’s previous commentaries archived at https://www.raptureready.com/featured/graham/graham.html

All original scripture is “theopneustos” – God breathed.

If you’d like to be on my mailing list to receive the commentaries, just drop me an email and let me know.