Hub Sunday – “God, Breathe in Us” by Pastor Andy Braams

When someone mentions breathing or oxygen and the human body, very few people will first think of bones. But a bone is simply living tissue. Think about it, bones grow and repair themselves when broken, so they are living. Thus, they need nutrition. This nutrition comes in the form of food and oxygen.

The capillaries in the bones bring calcium, oxygen, and other nutrients for the bones to grow and live. In the midst of the bones is marrow which creates new cells which can serve any number of functions. These cells are then transported from the bones throughout the body to where they are needed. Without the blood flow taking oxygen and other nutrients to the bones, the bone or a part of it can die. This is known as osteonecrosis, which commonly is felt in the form of arthritis.

Thus, oxygen is a necessary component to keep bones healthy. Our body certainly has bones to provide structure (more about this next month), but it is our breath that provides the continued health and growth to our bones as well as the rest of our bodies.

Today, we will see an example of dead bones scattered, brought together, but still without function. That is, they did not have function until they received breath which brought life.

Similarly, people may function, but we need the breath of God to bring true life. This life begins when we receive His Spirit – a promise God makes in Ezekiel 26.22-38, and in particular, verses 26-27. When we have God’s Spirit, then we truly have life. (Remember, the word for Spirit is the same word for wind and breath.) And, if we have life, we can live by God’s truth in ways that otherwise will not make sense. Today, I want to take a look at three ways that having the Spirit of God within us can truly make us alive.

First, please take a moment to read John 4.23-24. This verse is in the midst of Jesus talking with a woman at a well. She mentions a dispute about where people can truly worship God. Jesus responds, that true worship is done in spirit and truth because God is spirit and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.

Why do I mention this verse from John? Because today’s passage is ultimately about two things – God’s Spirit and God’s truth.

God’s Spirit Will Guide Us Towards Truth

Read Ezekiel 37.1-3

Last week, we saw how God’s truth is alive because Scripture is God breathed. Therefore, as 2 Timothy 3 says, all Scripture is profitable for teaching (preparing us to be right), rebuking (warning when wrong), correction (making it right), training in righteousness (making us right). That is, God’s truth is the principle which teaches, reproofs, corrects, and trains us for righteousness. So, in that sense, God’s truth guides us, but it is His Spirit which guides us towards truth.

Again, last week, we saw that idea in a practical sense, but this week, we see that God’s Spirit guides us physically as well. As we talk about our church being a Hub, this idea is important. The question we must ask ourselves as a church is not only: Where does God want us spiritually? But also: Where does God want us physically? That is, where would He have us serve?

Ezekiel 37 is a vision, but like the vision Paul had of the Macedonian man calling him to come, having a vision can influence where we go. Likewise, Ezekiel has a vision being led by the hand of the Lord, in the Spirit to a valley. For what it’s worth, the idea here is a long and smooth valley not one filled with rocks like much of Israel is. In other words, it is likely scenic. Scenic, except for the bones scattered everywhere.

Verse 2 says that these bones were very dry meaning they had been there for a long time. These bones were not from a fresh battle. It is also worth noting that the text does not say skeletons, but bones. Perhaps, the bones were aligned like a body, but that need not be, particularly if animals had come and eaten on some of the remains leaving the bones strewn around the valley.

So, God has positioned Ezekiel and is now ready to present him with another truth. Notice the question in verse 3: “Son of man, can these bones live?” Now, Ezekiel is a prophet who has been asked to teach in interesting ways, so his answer is honest, yet trustful. “Oh Lord God, you know.” I see this answer as saying, “Well, I must be honest God, I really think your question is a stretch, but, well, you are God.” In other words, I think Ezekiel is saying, “Well, ordinarily, no! But God!”

So, the Spirit has brought Ezekiel this far, guiding him towards a deeper understanding of truth.

God’s Spirit Will Challenge Us with Truth

Think about the four ways Paul mentioned is profitable (2 Timothy 3.16). Why are those true? Because it is not natural to think like God thinks. We are challenged by the truth of God. Specifically, I believe today’s text shares two ways we are challenged.

A Challenge to Our Thinking

Read Ezekiel 37.4-6

Again, Ezekiel had been through a few ordeals with God, but you have to wonder about the idea of prophesying to old bones. It surely seems pointless to me. Unless God is involved. If God is involved, anything is possible, even if it seems improbable.

Think about our collection earlier in the service for example. Three years ago, who might have imagined we would pull a wagon down the aisle once each month to collect money so two pastors in Kenya could have some gas money?

But Ezekiel believed enough and certainly the result impacted his faith. But it is important to notice that as of verse 6, nothing has happened. Ezekiel has been given instructions, and the idea must have been fascinating, but again, nothing has actually occurred. Now, if it does occur, notice what God promises:

These bones will not only rise up and come together, but it isn’t just the bones, it is a full restoration of the bodies – the innards, the skin, everything! (v. 6)

But, again, at this point all Ezekiel could do was imagine what God was going to do based upon what was said. One more step was needed.

A Challenge to Our Obedience

Read Ezekiel 37.7-10

Ezekiel had to obey. Nothing happened until Ezekiel actually prophesied. As I have mentioned before, the word prophesy simply means to tell the truth. We think of prophesy as something that happens in the future, and it can be, but the simplest understanding of the word is truth-telling. So, if we want to think of future prophecies, what we really mean is that something will be true, it just hasn’t happened yet.

For Ezekiel, the truth of God bringing bones together was certainly a challenge. But notice verse 8, everything about the bodies was in place, but life was not present. Why? Because the breath had not come into them. In verse 9, God specifically commands Ezekiel to prophesy to the breath – that is, to speak truth to the breath. Notice this breath comes from the four winds. This leads me back to a statement I made early this month…the same root word in the Hebrew is used for the English translation of wind, breath, and Spirit. So, when God breathes life into man, it is like the Spirit of God being breathed into man. It is like the wind of God being breathed into man.

Of course, this is the same idea from Genesis 2.7 when God breathed into man. It is the same idea from 2 Timothy 3.16 when God breathed into Scripture. It is the breath of God that causes life. Without this breath, the bodies may have formed together again, but they are otherwise zombies.

But after God commands Ezekiel again regarding the breath, AND after Ezekiel obeys again, these bodies, which had just been a bunch of bones in the valley, come to life. The bodies which represented a great army in the past, are now upright and alive again.

Church, I cannot help but think of Jesus’ words in the most pagan place in all Israel – Caesarea Philippi. After Peter made the Great Confession that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus responded, “I will build my church.” And He added, “the gates of Hades will not stand against it” (Matthew 16.18).

You may think that the church, or even this church, is down, for any number of reasons. But my God knows a little something about resurrection. And if Jesus says His Church will not be defeated, then maybe the church looks like a bunch of bones scattered in the valley, but if we are willing to receive His breath again, then great things can happen! Amen!

And that leads us to the last part of this text.

God’s Spirit Will Inspire Us by Truth

Read Ezekiel 37.11-14

In verse 11, we are told the bones represent Israel who believe all hope is lost. But God promises restoration (v. 12). That restoration comes through the Spirit (the wind, the breath) being within them. Just as God breathed into Adam, so too will He breathe into His people to restore them and give them hope.

It is the Spirit that instill life within us. And it is the Spirit that brings truth to us. And when we recognize the truth of God for ourselves and incorporate that truth in our lives, we will continue to strive for far more than we currently are. If we are still here, God has more for us – and that more includes more than we can ask, think, or imagine (c.f. Ephesians 3.20). That’s what God wants for us. That is how He wants to inspire us. The question is do we really want to live as God desires? I am not talking about rules – I am talking about life!

CONCLUSION (tie to system)

The problem with most people today is they do not have purpose. Without purpose, life has no real meaning. This is true within the church and without. But this truth is most sad for those who claim to be a part of the church because we have the Spirit within us. That is, for those who are born again, we have the breath of God within us to allow us to truly live. But having this breath, and understanding God’s truth is not enough. Because truth must lead to action.

And that is why our JOURNEY letter for today is:  OOBSERVE.

Jesus said that the Spirit would guide us into all truth (John 16.12), but truth must lead to action (cf James 1.22). Too many people wish for certain things, but do not act. Ezekiel saw something great because he was obedient. He could have sat in the valley and wished the bones had been buried. Or wished the people were still alive. Likewise, we may wish things were better, but WISHING DOES NOTHING. Obedience to God is required! For Ezekiel, that obedience, that action included speaking. Speaking truth is necessary. You might not think it is worthwhile, but once again, consider Ezekiel’s response to God’s question – Can these bones live? The response: “Oh Lord God, you know.”

God did know, but he called on Ezekiel to participate in the process. Like Ezekiel, we are called to participate as well. We are to participate, but the credit goes to God.

PRINCIPLE:  Like the dried bones in a valley, some may see us as worthless, but God can breathe new life into anyone.

QUESTION:  Do we resemble people, or are we truly alive?

OPPORTUNITY:  We must allow the Spirit to breathe new life into us so that we can truly live.

NEXT STEP(S):

LEARN:   Memorize James 1.22 this week. Write down three ideas that you have recently heard that you need to begin to do (better).

LIVE:  Of the three items in the LEARN step, choose one on which to focus in March. Place the others on a calendar to remind you to focus on them in April and May, respectively.

LOVE:  Many people, all around us, may be living, but they are not fully alive. Love them by sharing God’s truth with them knowing that as unlikely as it may be for them to listen, God can bring dead bones back to life, so He can restore anyone.

LEAD:  When you see a problem, do not just wish it were better…do something. Perhaps God brought the issue to your attention because He wants to see how you will respond to Him.

“The Breath of God Brings Life” (Part 2) by Pastor Andy Braams

Human understanding of the lung has changed greatly over the years. At one time, the lungs were believed to be cooling agents to offset the heart. Later, although perhaps relatedly, they were thought to help suppress anger which stemmed from the heart. In the 15th Century, Da Vinci was able to accurately sketch the lungs, although his understanding was far from what we know today.

Over time, the understanding of the function of our lungs has changed significantly. Most recently, the focus has moved from merely understanding the function of lungs to creating artificial ones. Granted, the lungs have only been tested on pigs, but this kind of testing always begins on animals and people soon reap the benefits. In this case, over 100,000 people, just in the US, are awaiting a lung transplant.

How did this come to be? Well, researches used what was known, developed new ideas, tested those ideas, and made corrections – over and over again. In fact, in one article, a researcher said it was a paradigm shift that allowed the progress to be made. They were looking at the lung as a whole and then trying to create the smaller pieces, but once they began with the smaller aspects of the lung and worked to the larger aspects, significant progress was made. It took fifteen years to get this far, but listen to her words, “We learned so much from this study. We know what we’re doing right, what we’ve done wrong, and how to make it so much better.” – Joan Nichols, Researcher at the Galveston National Laboratory, University of Texas (1)

Nichols words are about the trial-and-error process of science, but I believe they fit well with the verse we reviewed two weeks ago, and that we will continue to review, only in its larger context this week. That verse was 2 Timothy 3.16 which begins: All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable…. How is it profitable For teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness. And why is that important? Verse 17 gives us the answer – that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

Let’s dive into each of these four areas and see how Paul instructs Timothy, and therefore, us using the idea of Scripture’s profitability.

Teaching Prepares Us to Be Right

Right is a relative word here. We must realize that if we are taught the wrong things, then we may do them right according to the teaching, but they may be wrong. For instance, someone who is taught to excel at crime is learning how to do crime the right way, but crime itself is wrong.

But our goal is to not just to do things right, but to be right. And that is one of the ways Scripture is most profitable. Let us review the text.

2 Timothy 3.10-11

Paul mentions that Timothy has followed his teaching. He reviews all that has happened to him and notes that Timothy is aware of all of these aspects of Paul’s life (vv. 10-11). Timothy has certainly learned from Paul actually teaching verbally, but also by observing Paul’s conduct, his purpose, his faith, his patience, his love, his steadfastness (steadiness), as well as by Paul suffering through persecution.

Thus, one aspect of teaching is to be reminded of the past. We can learn from the examples of others and be encouraged by their response to various situations. This is exactly what Paul is doing for Timothy – preparing him to be right based upon the lessons observed in the past.

In verse 14, Paul notes that Timothy has learned, but the lessons are not complete because he must continue to follow the example that has been set. By following the example of Paul, who followed the example of Christ, Timothy would become right, not just by what they have done, but because of what Scripture teaches (v. 15) which Paul and Christ followed. Then, Timothy would be competent and equipped for the work he was called to do. Therefore, Timothy could do right…but more importantly, he would be on the path to being right.

Reproof Prepares Us to Fix What Is Wrong

2 Timothy 3.13-15

After Paul encourages him to remember what has been learned, the attention is turned to that of reproof. Now, we need to understand that reproof is showing disapproval in something. It is an admonition or even a warning. In other words, a reproof, or rebuke as some translations read, requires judgment. Again, judgment is biblical, regardless of what our culture might say. But it is God who judges, and it is the Bible which serves as His witness. As Paul wrote in verse 16, Scripture is profitable for reproof.

But reproof is not fun. It is not easy to be admonished, and when done from the perspective of love, it is not fun to admonish others. But again, the Bible is profitable towards this end. And, truth be told, we would much rather be admonished (lovingly) by others in our midst, than to not know we are doing anything wrong, and face the fullness of judgment before the throne of God.

The challenge is that most people judge based upon preference rather than Scripture. Or they interpret Scripture to their aims instead of God’s purposes. But even if Scripture is used properly, people will rebel against being rebuked. Notice that Paul says that those who are evil or imposters (of the faith) will turn from bad to worse. That is, they will ignore the rebuke and not only continue in sin, but dive deeper into it. Furthermore, Paul warns Timothy (and us) that if we are true to the faith, we will be persecuted. Why? Because people do not like to be rebuked. It happened to Jesus. It happened to Paul, and Paul states clearly that all who desire to live a godly life will face persecution as well. How’s that for a biblical promise? A gospel of health and wealth does not mention this truth!

But Paul makes certain Timothy understands this principle as part of the process in his learning. And, as verse 15 says, Timothy is aware of this from his previous reading of Scripture, but Paul is making certain he clearly understands the implications of trying to fix what is wrong.

Correction Prepares Us to Make Things Right

2 Timothy 4.1-5

The next step in the process is that of correction. We must understand that reproof and correction can be related, but a distinction certainly exists. Reproof is showing what is wrong; correction is showing how to set matters right. For instance, reproof would be to talk (hopefully not yell) to someone who has made a mistake, while correction would be to show how to fix the mistake or to do it again with the person.

That last sentence provides a lot of information about how we approach reproof. You see when people make mistakes, we need to help them realize the mistake before it can be fixed. But in reproofing them, we can talk to them, or we can yell at them. We generally do what has been modeled for us (by our parents, friends, etc.), but the reality is that maybe we need reproof in order to stop yelling and start having a conversation.

In any case, Paul then shares with Timothy what is necessary to correct others. He needs to preach the Word. That is, He needs to proclaim Scripture. Why? Because people will stop listening over time. Teaching the Bible will not mean anything. People will desire to listen to people to make them feel good. That is, teach me, but do not rebuke or correct me. Of course, we live in such an age, but this is not the only time in history this has been true. In fact, as much as people want to talk about the faith of the Founding Fathers, they lived, and were heavily influenced by such a time – a time-period known as The Enlightenment.

So, Paul charges Timothy to put forth the truth before it will be further rejected. In fact, in verse 2, notice Paul says to reprove, rebuke, and exhort – but do so with patience. Why patience? Because correction is not as easy as merely rebuking. Anyone can tell someone else they are wrong, but it takes someone competent, and equipped (3.17) and patient (4.2) to take the time to show others the right way to live. And then, once people are on the path to correction, they are ready for the final step – training in righteousness.

Training in Righteousness Allows Us to Be Better

2 Timothy 4.6-8

This passage is quite often quoted, and fairly well-known. The same is true for 2 Timothy 3.16. But I do not believe I have ever heard anyone speak about them in the same thought process. This is remarkable given that the verses are only seven (7!) verses apart.

Like the word “right” in the first point, the word better is also relative. I chose the word better because of the quote I shared from the medical researcher earlier. But in this case, better is not something we can obtain on our own. The better here relates to being like Jesus. And Paul ends this portion of his letter with an appeal for Timothy to take his training to the highest level afforded by Scripture – becoming righteous. This is not self-righteous, where we crown ourselves as good and proper; rather, it is receiving the reward from our Lord, the true judge (v8), who provides the faithful with a lasting crown of righteousness.

Notice the idea of training for righteousness in Paul’s words to Timothy.

I have fought the good fight. A fighter must train to be successful.

I have finished the race. Whether a sprint or a marathon, a successful runner does not simply show up and win. It takes hard work and training to finish the journey.

I have kept the faith. Paul saves the hardest for last. Along the way, he learned Scripture. He was rebuked – by Jesus Himself. He was corrected by Barnabas, by the apostles, etc. And, in turn, he did the same. But, in the end, the goal was righteousness, and Paul has made it.

Ultimately, our ability to become righteous is not about what we may do, but about what Jesus has already done. We become righteous because we gain His righteousness when we receive the gift of life He offers. But that does not mean that our journey is through; rather, as Paul shares with Timothy here, that training which included the teaching, the reproofs, and the necessary corrections must continue to be a part of our lives until the end. And all of this is possible through Scripture which is profitable. See, the Bible is not just a compilation of sacred writings (3.15), it is practical for helping us live (3.16), and to understand that we can also rejoice at the return of the Lord someday (4.8).

Like Paul, we too must press on trusting that Scripture is profitable because God breathed life into it. And thus, we must seek to learn from Scripture until our final breath has passed.

CONCLUSION

And one day, we will breathe our last. Of course, one day the artificial lung may be fully functional and allow people to breathe – and thus, sustain their lives – when they otherwise would not be able to do so.

But true life comes from God. That is true for humanity and it is true of His Word. It is a magnificent realization that when Paul wrote this letter, he could not have known that his very words endorsing Scripture would later be included as Scripture. He was referring to the Old Testament, and perhaps, one or more of the Gospels. Certainly, Paul was guided by the Holy Spirit, but he was simply writing a letter to a young man who needed encouragement. But all of Scripture is profitable, and God knew we could profit from Paul’s words as well. But while God’s Word does not return void (Isaiah 55.11), what makes it truly possible is when what we learn turns to action. Therefore, our…

 JOURNEY letter for today is:  OOBSERVE.

A question that is sometimes asked is: If no one listens, did teaching occur? It is a fair question, but I think that teaching does happen even if no one pays attention. It does not have to be listening, but learning does require observation – seeing, tasting, hearing, smelling, or touching – and then taking the time to think about what has been observed. For instance, Jesus said, anyone who has hears, let him hear. Thus, Jesus was teaching, but not everyone would learn from what He taught.

How can we know we are learning? Not by what we do perfectly, but by what we attempt to observe. Jesus said to His disciples to make disciples not by merely talking to others, but by teaching others to observe all that Jesus commanded (Matthew 28.19-20). Thus, doing what we have learned, and doing what we are learning, and doing what we will learn is important. Why? Because Jesus said so. My number one motto for life is “When you stop learning, you start dying.” But again, learning is not just about taking in information…true learning requires us doing something with that information. And that is why Observe is our JOURNEY letter for the week.

PRINCIPLE:  Learning is a process which requires teaching, reproof, correction, and additional training throughout our life.

QUESTION:  If Scripture is profitable, then shouldn’t it be our primary source for the process of learning?

OPPORTUNITY:  Choose one part of the passage today and focus your learning on observing the part of the process (teaching, reproof, correction, and training for righteousness) that you need most.

NEXT STEP(S):

LEARN:  Re-read 2 Timothy 3.10-4.5 and identify an area in your life that needs to be improved through the learning process. Write that area down as a matter of focus this week. Seek other areas from Scripture (all of which is profitable!) to find what Scripture says to do.

LIVE:  Begin to OBSERVE what Scripture says from your research in the LEARN step. Take time to record any progress along the way.

LOVE:  As you begin to OBSERVE the process, seek to understand how growing in this area will help you fulfill the Great Commandment – to love God and love others – better.

LEAD:  Over time, share your progress in this area of growth to encourage someone else to embrace a similar process.

 

(1) https://aabme.asme.org/posts/artificial-lungs-could-offer-real-hope-to-future-transplant-patients

 

“Three Needs for a Healthy Body” by Rick Sons

In continuing our study on health body, healthy church we will take time today to look at three healthy practices: Exercise, Rest and Nutrition. These practices are not only beneficial to the body, but also the church. Are you that person who sits on the couch and does nothing? Are you that person who sits on the pew and does nothing?

1 Timothy 4.8: “For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”

NEED 1: EXERCISE

There are five things that exercise does for your body and the church. We know what physical exercise is for the body, but the church (and the church body) needs to practice spiritual exercise daily, not just on Sunday.

1. It Can Make You Feel Happier

Exercise has been shown to improve your mood and decrease feelings of depression, anxiety and stress. It produces changes in the parts of the brain that regulate stress and anxiety. It can also increase brain sensitivity which relieves feelings of depression.

A happy church is a healthy church. Don’t you want to be happy and the people around you to be happy? Think about seeing people in the congregation with smiles and a more content look.

2. It Is Good for Your Muscles and Bones

Exercise plays a vital role in building and maintaining strong muscles and bones. Muscles and bones are the foundation of the body.

A church with a strong foundation of muscle and bone is a healthy church. Parts of the church body are the bones which help to form the structure and other parts of the church body are the muscles who do the work to aide in the movement of the body.

3. It Can Increase Your Energy Levels

Exercise can be a real energy booster for healthy people, as well as those suffering from various medical conditions. Studies have found that six weeks of regular exercise reduced feelings of fatigue.

A church that lacks energy slows down, movement becomes harder, and the church fails to grow. Churches that exercise in bursts aren’t as effective. Spiritual exercise (just like bodily exercise) must be constant so that over time it becomes easier.

4. It Can Help Your Brain Health and Memory

Exercise can improve brain function and protect memory and thinking skills. To begin with, it increases your heart rate, which promotes the flow of blood and oxygen to your brain.

Who is the brain of the church? Studies have shown that reflective and contemplative spiritual practices grow several parts of your brain. A symptom of weak churches seems to be a slow heart rate. We have heard it said that church problems are not a head issue but a heart issue. Going to church is good for the brain and the heart.

5. It can help you relax.

Regular exercise can help you relax.

The church also needs that time to relax, which bring us to REST.

NEED 2: REST

Few people will argue that church attendance in many churches in America is declining. Most of us have our own ideas why attendance is declining. Some feel the heart of the problem is not declining numbers, but commitment.

Church volunteer burnout is a major problem throughout the church body, and it seems to be growing. The burnout is more psychological and emotional than physical. Burnout results from prolonged stress, overextension, and hurriedness. The nervous system gets stretched until it loses its resiliency and renewal capacity.

It’s easier to avoid burnout in the first place than it is to overcome it.

Take time to rest. It’s God’s way of sustaining us for the long haul. It helps to heal a tired rundown body.

In church, we need to sometimes just step back and relax with God. This past week in my chaplain email I spoke on the practice of coffee breaks. Businesses know that employees need time during the day to rest (coffee break). Take time in your church duties to rest.

Pray for your ministry responsibilities. Let God perform the work, using His strength and perfect wisdom. Don’t try to do it all. If God places you in a position, he will provide the means to complete your responsibilities.

Give something up before taking on a new commitment or responsibility. Multi-tasking is something many of us have mastered. Even the best of multi-taskers reach that point where they have taken on too much. Don’t keep “adding floors” onto your already towering skyscraper of activities.

Learn to say, “No,” and to set up reasonable boundaries around your involvement. When people ask you to do something, or they look to you to accomplish their ideas, specify the help you’ll need and the constraints on your time. This is true, not only in your personal life, but also in your church life. You don’t have to do it all.

Set priorities and consult with your family. I have told all of my officers and the law enforcement students at the academy that law enforcement is a way of life that controls your life. It is up to you to make sure this life has a balance.

Church work occupies an essential role in our lives but must never take priority over family.

Look for ways to team up with your spouse in ministry activities. Be willing to occasionally say, “No,” to low priority church activities when they conflict with important family time.

Emphasize grace over works. We don’t earn God’s blessings by the amount of church work we do. God wants us to lead healthy, balanced lives where our ministry service is a joy and source of deep personal fulfillment.

In the absence of such joy, our work life and our ministry turns into burden and burnout.

Jesus knew of the burden of burnout. His words in Matthew 11:28-30 are extremely comforting: “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

NEED 3: NUTRITION

Eating a healthy, balanced diet plays an essential role in maintaining overall good health. We all eat, but we must try to eat properly.

Being overweight can lead to health conditions such as, Type-2 diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and stroke. Vitamins help your body use energy from the food you eat. Minerals are chemical elements that help regulate your body’s processes. Potassium, for example, helps your nerves and muscles function. Calcium helps your teeth and bones stay strong.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says: “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”

1 Corinthians 9:27 says: “But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”

Some of you may or may not know, but I have lost 50 pounds since September of last year. By changing my eating habits, I have been able to make my body slimmer and healthier.

Just as the physical body needs good nutrition, so does the church body.

Often I have heard people say as they leave church, “Well, I was not fed today. I come to church to be fed and that pastor just does not feed me.”

I hate to break the bad news but your church is not supposed to “feed” you. You are not to come to church to be fed.

This may come as a shock, but people pick a church like they pick a restaurant. One that dishes up what they like and are in the mood for on a steaming plate set before you. One with a pleasant atmosphere, where they can sit, and converse with friends.

Then you sit in judgment. “That was good this week.” Or perhaps, “That sermon was a little mushy, and cold, like overcooked broccoli.”

You tip if the service was good and expect to go home full. You complain and tell all if the service was not up to the standard that you set or expected.

The man in front of you is your pastor not your waiter.

The term “pastor” is from the Greek word for “shepherd.” I tell you the shepherd’s job is to protect sheep. He is to drive them to the pasture and to the clear, clean water.

The sheep eat for themselves. The shepherd does not hold the grass so the sheep can eat it only when served to them by the shepherd. Just in case you did not know sheep eat everyday not just one day a week.

The legitimate role for pastors is found in Ephesians 4. Pastors have been given their gifts “to equip the saints for the work of ministry.” God’s purpose in the giving of all of these gifted “apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers” is to EQUIP YOU “for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.”

When you come to church, rather than being a passive recipient of the meal, leave and share its gifts with one another. Invite others to come and also enjoy the table that Jesus has spread for you.

Friends, stop asking your church to feed you. Ask your church to equip you.

The church isn’t supposed to be a restaurant with waiters that serve us and cater to our every need. It is supposed to be culinary school.

I want you to think about what culinary school does. It does not feed the students, it gives them tools, knowledge, practice, confidence and helps them find a job cooking in the real world.

I hope this shows a different way to see the church, and your pastor.

One way will make you fat and passive. The other way will change you, your church and the world as you serve it, adding flavor and taste to those around you.

Remember that we all need to work hard to build a healthy body, it does not come easy. It takes time and commitment.

What are you willing to do to help make the church healthy?

Do you want to be that couch and pew potato?

Or do you want to be that fitness coach to help build a stronger healthier body?

“The Breath of God Brings Life” (Part 1) by Pastor Andy Braams

Today is the first Sunday of a new month which means we begin comparing a new system of the human body to the system of the church. Last month, we discussed the link between the reproductive system and Jesus command for us to make disciples. This month, we will review the respiratory system with a connection to how God’s breath brings and sustains life.

When we think of the respiratory system, we obviously think of breathing. But most people simply consider the process of air going in and then being released. The reality is that breathing is really an exchange of gases. The human body takes in oxygen and then releases carbon dioxide. That exchange is really the function of our lungs.

However, the lungs are not simply taking in and passing out the same air – rather, the oxygen that comes into our bodies is taken by our red blood cells throughout the body, and those same cells collect any carbon dioxide and bring it back to the lungs where it is discarded when we exhale.

The key understanding for us today is that through our breathing, life is possible. We may focus on our breathing at times – particularly when we find it difficult to breathe, but the process itself takes place so naturally, we rarely give it thought. In fact, the average adult breathes approximately 23000 times per day – each time sustaining the life that has been given.

And that is our focus today – that breathing brings life. Not only does our breathing allow us to live, but the breath of God is what truly allows for life to happen and to have meaning. Later this month, we will review passages that discuss how the breath of God brings life to mankind, but for now, let us focus on the life it gives it gives to Scripture. This week, I will review the first part of 2 Timothy 3.16 that says the breath of God is part of Scripture. And then next week, we will look at how the remainder of verse 16 applies to the verses which precede and follow this verse to show how God’s breath sustains us and prepares us to live according to His purposes.

All Scripture… (2 Timothy 3.16)

Every single word.

Let me ask you this: Do you trust God? If yes, do you believe that the Bible is God’s Word? If yes, then you can trust God’s Word because it is God’s Word. Titus 1.2 says that God cannot lie. But just because something is true does not mean it is helpful, or even particularly relevant today. For instance, did you know that the average salary in 1900 was just under $450 per year? True, but not helpful. Why? Because facts are true, but that does not mean that they are “alive.”

But when God breathes, life begins. It happened for mankind in Genesis 1, and according to Paul, in the verse we are reviewing today, it is true for Scripture as well. What does this mean? It means that Scripture is true (it is from God who cannot lie), and it is also living. Hebrews 4.12 says that the Word of God is living and active. The implication is that we cannot only read Scripture as something that was written for those who lived in the past, we can read it knowing that God’s Word has application for us today as well.

As we discussed last Sunday evening, the words in the Bible only mean what they mean. What God meant when it was written is what each word means. But how those words apply might be as different as the number of people who read it. And that is only possible if the Word of God is living…and it is living because God breathed life into it.

Perhaps we find it difficult to understand parts of Scripture. Do you realize Peter even made this claim about some of Paul’s writings? (See 2 Pt 3.16.) And perhaps we find some parts as more challenging to read for their content (e.g. the genealogies). But our issues with the Bible do not make it any less true or any less applicable.

…is Breathed Out by God

I mentioned in my weekly email and Facebook post this week the importance of the biblical words used for breath. The Hebrew word from the OT is ruach (pronounced roo-awk) and the Greek word in the NT is pneuma (from which we get the English word pneumonia). Both of these words also mean wind. But more importantly, these words also mean spirit. Thus, to say that all Scripture is breathed out by God means that all of Scripture has the nature of the Holy Spirit within it.

If you recall the words of Jesus from John 16, one purpose for the Holy Spirit coming was/is to guide us “into all truth” (v13). This function of the Spirit is certainly possible if He is the very nature of the Scripture that is to be our guide. Thus, we are guided not by some presence or “force” that has to interpret Scripture and then try to help us understand what it means. Rather, we are guided by the Guide who helped create the written Word and thus can enable us to understand the Word from the very Source.

Consider it this way. In today’s world many people debate over the meaning of certain books or movies. But what if, instead of debating what the true meaning of Huckleberry Finn, we could sit down with Mark Twain who authored the book. Well, that is the opportunity that the Holy Spirit offers us.

And because breath brings life, the Word of God is alive. Notice Paul’s words. Scripture is breathed out by God. Thus, it is intended to go into something else. Just as the air filled with carbon dioxide we exhale is taken in by plants and converted to oxygen for our benefit, God breathes out Scripture so we can take it in and convert it to action for the benefit of us and others. Remember, as James said, “But be doers of the Word, not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” That is, the Word of God is living, so it requires a response.

Let me remind us again of Hebrews 4.12 – Scripture is alive and active. It pierces us to the soul. Again, I mentioned last Sunday night that is why I focus so heavily on Scripture when I preach. Many have commented over the years that they are convicted week after week. Good. But realize that is not me, that is Scripture. And it is Scripture because it alive, being part of the very breath of God.

See, many pastors want you to feel good when you leave the church. My job is not to make you feel good or feel bad. My job is to make sure you realize that you need a Savior. You may be saved, but that does not mean that you do not need Jesus. So, if we preach the living Word of God correctly, not only will you realize that you fall short of God’s standard, but you will realize that He has made a way through Jesus – who may have died, but is now living and making intercession for you!

So, Jesus, as the living Word of God brings the written Word of God to life through ruach, the pneuma, the Spirit. And thus, the Word of God is…

…(and) Profitable

Now we get to the purpose of Scripture. God did not just create Scripture because He needed something to do. He did not just organize a collection of thoughts just because someone needed a book with some history and philosophy. No, God used 40 individuals over about 2000 years to write down His words, inspired by the Holy Spirit, because these words would be useful to people for the next 2000 years (and longer if He delays His return).

One truth in life is that everyone relies on various sources for information to get through life. We may rely on the newspaper, the television, radio, magazines, the internet, an app on our phone, fortune tellers, etc. But here is something about every one of those sources…they are seeking profit for themselves. The local news is not there to inform you of what is happening. The news is there to sell advertising. Same with radio and magazines, etc. Sure, they will help you be informed, but only as long as the overall success of that station or publisher or other business concept has the ability to make a profit.

But the Bible is profitable. It does not need to turn a profit, it IS profitable – to all who read it AND observe it. God gives it to us so that our lives can be profitable. Although God is not seeking to make a profit, it is fair to say that He has made an investment in you – and that investment was the life of His Son. So, God does expect a return on that investment…and He gives His Word, which is profitable, in order that we might become more like Him.
So, how is Scripture profitable?

It is profitable for teaching, reproof, correcting, and training in righteousness. We will explore these four concepts more fully next week; and we will do so in the context of the surrounding verses. For today, we simply need to know that: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable…” Therefore, if we can trust the living God, we can trust His Scripture because it is living as well.

CONCLUSION

Our emphasis today has been on the fact that God breathed Scripture which makes it alive…and makes it useful. And, as we will see in a couple of weeks, it was the breath of God that gave man life and made us useful. And, as we continue to breathe, we continue to live. And, thus, our system of the month is the respiratory system. As long as our respiratory system continues to function well, we will have the ability to live. But a day comes when we take our final breath, and thus our life ends which should make us consider how we live our lives in the meantime. And thus, our…

JOURNEY letter for today is: JOURNEY.

We only have so many breaths. But we have our breath and our ability to breathe because of God. So, what do we do with our life? How have we chosen to live? How will we choose to live from this moment until our final breath? Our JOURNEY is not yet complete, but when it is, will we recognize that is was the breath of God which gave us life and sustained us? Of course, this is true in our physical lives, but it is true of God’s Word as well.

So, let us live our lives well. Let us finish our JOURNEY strong. Let us realize that Scripture is profitable and the same Spirit who breathes life into it is ready to guide us along the rest of our path as well.

PRINCIPLE: God’s breath brings life.

QUESTION: Do you believe Scripture is profitable? If so, how can it produce more in your life? If not, why do you believe it is not?

OPPORTUNITY: Just as you have a pattern in your breathing, make reading/studying the Bible a natural part of your life each day.

NEXT STEP(S):

LEARN: Besides using the four ideas listed at the end of 2 Tim 3.16; write down ten way the Bible has been profitable to you.

LIVE: Reflect on one way the Bible has encouraged you in the past and seek to make that aspect even stronger in your life.

LOVE: Most of us struggle to love everyone. How does knowing the Bible is alive and profitable encourage you to love someone who is normally unlovable?

LEAD: Guide one person this week to better understand how the Bible can be profitable to them.