“Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” — John 7:38
Fed by the Bread of Obedience, by Randall D. Kittle

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“I have not departed from the commands of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my daily bread.” — Job 23:12

While I was praying one day the Lord spoke to me saying,
“Behold, these are days in which there is a famine in the land. Not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of heeding the words of the Lord!” When I heard this, it reminded me of Amos 8:11, which says, “Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord God, “That I will send a famine on the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.” The famine of hearing the Word of the Lord, spoken about in Amos 8:11, is a famine of judgment caused by the Lord. But the famine that is evident in our day is a famine of our own creation — a famine of heeding the words of the Lord.

I believe there is a twofold application of this in our day. One is that in this day in America it is extremely hard to reach the heart of the unbeliever. There is a hardening of hearts for most unbelievers such that they will neither hear nor heed the word of the Lord when it is presented to them. It is becoming increasingly more difficult to reach the heart of the lost with the gospel. But there is also a hardness in the heart of saints that has been produced by a familiarity with the Word of God. They have become a people who hear the word as it is taught and preached but instead of simply receiving it into their lives to do its work, they feel their place is to hear it, evaluate it, and judge it.

The Great Division
There is a “Great Schism” in the Church — a great division. And this schism I am referring to is not the racial tension between black and white nor the division between the genders, which separates male and female. It is the vast gulf of separation in believers lives between their theology and their experience — between the theory of what they believe about the kingdom of God and the practice of what they are doing for the kingdom of God. A. W. Tozer calls this vast gulf, “the great disparity,” and he believes that there is nothing which more hinders unbelievers from receiving the gospel than this great disparity of practicing what we preach.

It is important that every believer put into practice what they believe. The Christian walk is meant to be more than the accumulation of interesting biblical tidbits and theological points. Merely accumulating theological knowledge tends to put people in a state of pride and apathy, where all they really want is to gain another piece of spiritual knowledge.

More Than Accumulation
What we need to do is start heeding the word of God. To fully heed the word of God, it is necessary that we not only acquire it, but assimilate it and apply it. First we must acquire it — laying hold of it. Then we must assimilate it by making it part of us. For example, if I were to stop by my mother’s house and have a piece of her famous cherry crisp, that would be acquiring it. But I only assimilate it when I eat it and digest it, only then does it start to become an inseparably part of me. And then, after God’s word has become a part of who we are, we must apply it — which means that we act upon something we have acquired and assimilated. It must change our behavior, our actions.

Unfortunately, what we have primarily in America are “accumulators.” Most Americans are “pack-rats”by nature, acquiring more and more things and stuffing them away. Have you ever helped somebody move? You quickly start to wonder how they managed to get all that stuff jammed into their attic or basement (or both!).

The bad news is that we tend to be the same way spiritually. We practice “Pack-Rat Christianity,” picking up more and more interesting spiritual insights and stories. What we really need is to become spiritual Bereans, those who both acquire and assimilate God’s word.
“Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true”(Acts 17:11). We need to be “Berean listeners.” Remember, Jesus said, “Therefore take heed how you hear” (Luke 8:18). How do Bereans hear? They receive it eagerly — not judgmentally nor suspiciously. The Bereans took a hold of it firmly, making certain they acquired it. Then they examined the Scriptures to see if it was true. They fed upon the word until the parts that they could understand were of God became a part of them. What had been the thoughts and understanding of Paul now became a part of them, part of their understanding. If we will take the word of the Lord when it comes to us (whether at a conference or our regular church service) and study it, going over it until we have gleaned all that we can possibly glean, the truth contained in each message would become integrated into who we are, and we would find ourselves growing and maturing at a much faster rate.

Expectation Of Application
Jesus declared clearly His expectation that we would apply what we have attained. When Jesus was told that His mother and brothers were outside wanting to speak with him He replied in Luke 8:21 “My mother and My brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.” This could be called a “rubber meets the road” Bible verse. When some woman was declaring Mary blessed for having given birth and raising Jesus, He responded by saying in Luke 11:28, “More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” According to our Lord, those who both hear and heed God’s word are more blessed than Mary! And in John 8:31 Jesus said to some Jews who believed in Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” Everybody loves to quote the last part of this verse, “the truth shall make you free.” But of course this only happens for those who “know the truth.” And according to this verse who is it who will know the truth? Jesus’ disciples! This verse also defines what it means to be a disciple of Jesus — a disciple is one who abides in Christ’s word. The word “abide” here means: “to remain, to continue in obedience.” So, if you are a true disciple the word remains in you and not only becomes part of you, you are being obedient to it in how you act and what you do. That is what Jesus expects.

A few verses later we see these new converts begin to argue with Jesus’ teaching instead of receiving it and letting it soak into their understanding. Jesus then tells them that they have no room for His word!
“Yet you are ready to kill Me, because you have no room for My word” (John 8:37). How sad, they had come to believe in Jesus but they had no room for His word! (Probably because they were so full of themselves.) That is my concern for us. Do we have room for the Word of God in our lives? How about when it is brought by a vessel that we think has little to teach us? Are we teachable enough to glean from those who are less mature person, or perhaps from someone we have heard speak so often that we believe we have gleaned all there is to glean

A number of years ago my son Benjamin (who was probably three-years-old at the time) taught me a valuable lesson about this. He and I had been looking at a children’s book that talked about biological things. I asked him if he was a plant or an animal; to which he responded “I am not either, I’m a person.” Just as I was about to explain things to him, I realized that I was going to give a biological answer — we are part of the animal kingdom, but he had a biblical view — we were made in the image of God. Having been a zoology major, I had come to think of all living things as either plants, animals, or microorganisms, but Benjamin’s biblical view was actually more correct and more scriptural than mine. We need to be ready to learn from whomever God wants to use. Truly, a little child can lead us!

Working Out
Many people have developed a comfort-zone Christianity. They have developed their own religious system and know how to work with it. The status quo is their sense of security. I believe this is one reason the book of James is one of the most neglected books in the Bible and so seldom read. (The other reason it is so seldom read is that so many people were raised Lutheran, and Luther not only called the Book of James the “Epistle of Straw,” he put it in the appendix of one of the early printings of his Bible.) One reason it is so neglected is that James is the “How-To-Book” of Christianity! In today’s terms it could be called “Christianity for Dummies.” When you open it up it is easy reading — “Do This! Don’t Do That!” In fact, let’s look at James 1:21–25: “Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.”

How often do we hear a message in which it seems the speaker is holding a mirror in front of us, and we can see ourselves quite clearly in the message? Yet, so often when the message is over we forget what it revealed and go on as if we had never seen anything. This portion of Scripture also tells us that if we hear the word of God but do not act upon it we are deceived. Therefore, if America is suffering from a famine of heeding the word of the Lord, then we are also greatly deceived in thinking it is alright to hear the word without yielding our lives to it. The Lord told me there is a great deception in the Church where we believe we can hear the word of God, lay hold of the word of God, but not act on the word of God.

Not only is it important to acquire and assimilate the things of the kingdom of God, we must apply them to our lives. The first step is working them in, and the second step is working them out. Philippians 2:12 tells believers to
“continue to work out your salvation” The phrase rendered “work out” literally means the “digging of silver out of a mine.” Many of our lives are filled with vast treasures from God’s word. It is time to dig out of the treasures God has placed within us, and bring them forth!

A recent survey reveals that the average American male wishes he were in better shape physically. This shows us the
desire is to look more like Arnold Schwarzenegger, but the difficulty is that the average American is just wishing. To be in shape you have to do more than wish, you have to work out. It takes exercise.

What most people want, however, is a “Slim-You-Down & Tone-You-Up Pill.” In fact, nearly all Americans would be in shape if for $100 you could get a pill and once taken it would guarantee that you would be in shape forever. Unfortunately, that is what we want as believers. We want an altar call where we are zapped and we become mighty men and women of God — all our problems, immaturity, and character issues are instantaneously eradicated. But just as there is no Tone-You-Up-Pill for our physical life, the Kingdom of God doesn’t work that way either. We have to work it out.

The Soap Must Be Applied
A few months ago I had a vision in which I saw a married couple that I know. They were filthy dirty with greasy, grimy hair. They were walking out of a hotel with something little in their hands. As they walked past the doorman, he wrinkled up his nose at them, indicating that they smelled repugnant. Then they ran up to a big old-fashioned station-wagon that was parked in the parking lot. When they opened up the car, I could see what they were carrying. It was little bars of soap like you get in a hotel. In fact, the entire back of this station-wagon was full of little bars of soap — every size, every shape, every color. Soon, they were packed up and off to get more.

The next morning I was reading a devotional called
Truth for Each Day, by Vance Havner. In this day’s devotion he told the story of a street preacher. As the man began to talk about Jesus, a heckler called out “Hey, mister. They’ve been preaching that for two thousand years, and people are still sinning.” And the minister replied, “We’ve had soap for more than two thousand years and people are still dirty. You see, the soap must be applied!”

You might be a great scientist and know the chemical formula for soap. You might become the world’s most renown expert, knowing every little trivial fact about soap. You might even have shelves filled with bars of soap all neatly arranged, or perhaps the nicest collection of travel soaps ever accumulated, but none of these will make you clean. In order to be clean, the soap must be applied. You have got to break it open and rub it on.

The couple with the collection of little travel soaps are like those who have traveled from conference to conference and church service to church service. They have great and vast accumulation, but how much application? Like them, we have acquired much information. We may have notebooks and journals full of promises and insights we have gleaned, but most of us still have little activation — little is working out of our lives touching others around us. The Church has too much information, and not enough activation. Much has been noted and some can be quoted, but how much have our lives been transformed? How much are we like Jesus? We may possess it, but does it possess us? There is a difference between something being available, being acquired, and being applied. The Holy Spirit makes the Word effective as we hear it, read it, know it and then heed it!

The Follow Through
Too often we are like Alice in Wonderland Christians, “we give ourselves such good advice . . . but we very rarely follow it.” Do you know what makes a great golf swing, a great homerun hitter, a great NBA shooter? Many things are involved, but one thing that is critical for each one is “follow through.” You start your life in the kingdom of God by saying yes to the “Follow me!” But you advance the kingdom of God in your life by saying yes to the “follow through.” We must follow through on the things that come into our lives, on the promises God has given us, and the things He has called us to!

The word of God is revealed truth that exhorts and alters those who will let it change them. The word of God is powerful, but it is not merely
knowing the word of God, but believing it, trusting in it, and acting upon it that is necessary. James 2:19 tells us “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that — and shudder.” Knowledge of Christian truth by itself is fruitless, until it produces change in the one who possesses it. We are not talking about a change merely in understanding, but an alteration in attitude, action, and activity.

There is a feasting in America on the word of the Lord. We are living in a land of great abundance of His Word — through sermons, radio, television, video, cassettes, CDs, magazines, books, etc. But there is in our midst a famine of heeding the word of the Lord. The Lord called it a famine because to be obedient to the word of God is true spiritual food. After Jesus had ministered to the woman by the well (see John 4), His disciples urged Him to eat. He responded
“I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” Then His disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought Him food?” “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to finish His work” (John 4:32–34). Can the same be said for you and me? Are we fed by the bread of obedience — of doing the will of our Heavenly Father?

Spiritual truth demands more than being intellectually grasped. It requires a heart response and altered behavior! A. W. Tozer put it this way “Theological truth is useless until it is obeyed.” While it is nice to have spiritual insights written in your journal, God is desiring more of His character and nature to be written on our hearts. Once again God is saying to us
“… be doers of the word, and not hearers only…”


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