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January 10th 2016

BREATH OF HEAVEN: Inspired Inspiration  2 Timothy 3:14-16

In 1494, William Tyndale was born in England.  He was, from a young age, a brilliant man.  He grew up in the kind of home that was able to provide him a way to go to school.  He studied at Oxford and got his degree at Oxford. He later went to Cambridge.  In 1521, he became a Catholic priest.  He always had had an affinity for the things of God.  You may or may not know that during that time, going on in the world, there was popping up in Germany a reformation against the Catholic church.  Martin Luther was a large part of that.  In 1517, Martin Luther nailed 95 Theses to the Wittenberg door, pushing back against the Catholic church and declaring things like the Scriptures teach that we’re saved by faith alone, grace alone and Christ alone and that only Scripture is our barometer for how to live as followers of Jesus.  The papal authorities and the church councils aren’t really the things that instruct us; predominately it’s the Word of God that we stand under and on top of as our foundation. William Tyndale grew in such passion for the word that he wanted to get a Bible in every single hand of his home country of England.  If you have your Bible, will you please grab it?  In England, in the 1520’s, it would have been illegal to hold this book.  William Tyndale graduates from school, has all this knowledge about language…he’s wired this way…he decides that he’s going to make it his life’s mission to get a Bible in every hand that he possibly can.  In 1524, he starts translating the Scriptures from Greek into English.  It was the first time this had ever been done.  He got so much push back that he had to flee his home country.  He went to Germany and started his translation work in Germany.  In 1526, he finishes his New Testament English translation of the Scriptures.  They print 3000 of them on the newly formed printing press—-less than 100 years old.  For the first time, England starts to have a Bible in their own mother tongue.  William Tyndale sneaks it into the country by way of hiding it on bales of cotton.  It just so happens that his family was in the cotton business so he had some connections.  He sneaks 3000 of these Bibles into England.  Word starts to spread about the Word.  The only problem is that it’s still illegal, at that point in time, to have one of these in your possession.  Not only did Tyndale put his life on the line to create the text that we now know as the English New Testament, but he also put other lives on the line.  There were people that gladly responded.  One of those was John Tewkesbury.  Listen to the account of John Tewkesbury as he was caught with a portion of an English Bible in his possession.  John Tewkesbury was converted by reading Tyndale’s translation of the Parable of the Wicked Mammon which defended justification by faith alone— so we’re saved only by faith in Jesus.  He was whipped in Thomas More’s garden—he (More) was a Catholic leader in England at the time—and had his brow squeezed with small ropes until blood started to come out of his eyes.  (Happy 2016.  Welcome to South Fellowship Church.)  You go, Paulson, that’s a little heavy handed, isn’t it?  But it’s historical, number one.  Number two, I just want you to feel how much they loved these books that we call the Scriptures.  I want you to know how much they gave.  John Tewkesbury has his head squeezed so tightly that blood starts to come out of his eyes.   Then he was sent to the Tower where he was racked till he was lame. He was beaten until he was lame.  Then at last they burned him alive in the town square.  1531.  Thomas More “rejoiced that his victim  was now in hell,” where he said “Tyndale is likely to find him when they come together.”  The animosity about this book is unprecedented.

In 1534, William Tyndale undertook to do a new updated translation of the Bible in English again.  He puts his life on the line once again.  In 1534 he finished it and says, “I never altered one syllable of God’s word against my conscience.”  He goes I took this so seriously because I wanted you to have in your hands an accurate translation of the Scriptures that are the word of God.  Will you hold them again?  Because I’m not sure we get just how significant it is to hold this collection of historical wisdom and prophetic books.  In 1535, William Tyndale was caught, was arrested, was imprisoned where for over a year he sat in prison under the charges of heresy….specifically for the reasons of translating this book into English.  In 1536 he was condemned as being against the church, the Catholic church at the time, and before he died he said this to the Pope:  “I defy the Pope and all of his laws.  {Don’t you love this?  He’s like in your face!  You want to kill me?  That’s fine.  But just know I’m standing up to you and I’m standing against you.}  If God spare my life ere many years, I will cause a boy that driveth the plow, to know more about the Scriptures than dost thou.”  He goes every farm worker is going to know more about the Bible than you, Mr. Pope, if I get my way, because I’m going to get one in every single hand.  So people can search the Scriptures and know the Scriptures for themselves.  At the time, the church had a lock on translating the Scriptures and they would tell people things like: in order to be forgiven, you’ve got to pay up.  And the decisions we make, as the church, are on par with what God says and just trust us.  This is what the Word of God says.  Tyndale said no!  I want to get a Bible in every single hand.  In 1536 he was convicted of heresy, executed in the public square by strangulation, then his body was burned publicly at the stake. His dying words were a prayer and he said:  “Oh, Lord, open the eyes of the King of England.”

Statistics would say one in five (19%) of people who go to church, not sporadically but regularly, 19% of people open this book on a daily basis.  That’s one-in-five!  Would you agree that something is lost on us, on me, if I don’t have a hunger and a thirst for the Scriptures in the same way that William Tyndale did saying I’m willing to give my life so that you can hold it in your hands and I hold it in my hands.  Statistically, we have, on average, 4.7 bibles in our homes across America.  88% of homes have a Bible, but only 19% of people open it on a daily basis.  37% of people open it once a week.  I just wonder what’s going on.  I wonder where we’ve lost the passion.  This is not….please hear me….if you feel guilty right now, this isn’t about that.  The enemy would want you to feel guilty.  The Author of Life wants you to come to Him.  Guilts not going to take you there.  I want desire, I want a hedonistic quest to meet with the King of kings and the Lord of lords to push you, too.  I want to encounter God through His Scriptures, not guilt.  If you feel guilt, put it out of your mind, put it out of your heart.  It’s not going to do you any good anyway.  You’re going to be the 81% next year also.  Put that out of your mind.  It’s just reality.  Let’s just admit it.

In the 1970’s, the great apologist, Ravi Zacharias, was traveling around Vietnam and was teaching the Scriptures.  He had accompanying him a man by the name of Hien Pham.  Hien was a huge asset to Ravi Zacharias because he not only was a brilliant linguistic, but he was a theologian.  He was helping Ravi as they traveled around Vietnam.  After the U.S. pulled out of Vietnam, he was thrown in prison for assisting in the translation and the teaching of the Scriptures.  He was put on bathroom duty…on cleaning the latrines in the jails.  This is the bottom-of-the-totem-pole job in the jail.  As he’s cleaning it, one day, he comes across a little parchment section of Scripture.  He digs it out of the toilet, puts it in his pocket and goes back to his cell.  By cover of darkness at night, he washes it off and he finds that it’s Romans 8.  He reads it and is reminded…for God works for the good of those who love and are called according to his purpose.  Well, Hien Pham went back to the keepers of the jail and told them he wanted to volunteer to clean the latrines every single day.  They’re like let’s check this guy’s mind……   Every single day he would find a little piece of the Scriptures.  Evidently, someone was ripping out pages from the Bible and using it to wipe themselves after they went to the bathroom. He would dig it out, put it in his pocket, take it back to his cell, wash it off and he had a growing collection from God’s word.  He wanted it that badly.  I don’t tell you that to make you feel guilty.  I just tell you that because I’m convicted.  I have the Word of God at my fingertips, but I wonder what’s been lost on me.  I don’t come to the Scriptures that way, that hungry, that passionately to say whatever it takes, God, to meet with you through the words of your Holy Scriptures I’m going to do.  Here’s the thing…I want that.  You might too. This isn’t just a book.  This is a library.  Sixty-six books.  Forty different authors.  Compiled over the course of 1500 years.  Three different continents.  With one central message and his name is Jesus!  I wonder what it would take for God to stir in us a renewed hunger for his Scriptures, for his Word, that we might, once again, say anything it takes to meet with you.  William Tyndale was willing to give his life to get this Bible in our hands.  Hien Pham was willing to wash off pieces of Scripture to meet with God through them.  What would it take for us to say God, would you reignite a hunger in our soul for this library, this collection of historical, prophetic wisdom documents that have helped abolish slavery.  That have fought for women’s rights and women’s suffrage.  That have helped lead Civil Rights movements.  That have helped to draft the Bill of Rights.  You know that the Bible’s been a part of all that.  It’s central in what it means to live as a follower of Jesus.  I love the way that Charles Colson said it: “The Bible—banned, burned, beloved.  More widely read and more frequently attacked than any other book in history.  Generations of intellectuals have attempted to discredit it.  Dictators of every age have outlawed it and executed those who read it.  Yet soldiers carry it into battle believing that it’s more powerful than their weapons.  Fragments of it smuggled into solitary prison cells have transformed ruthless killers into gentle saints.”  And in 51 countries still today across the globe, it’s still illegal to hold it in your hands!  You’re a rebel!!

So why is this book so significant?  What’s so significant about this collection of reliable, historical documents that you hold in your hand?  That’s a great question and I’m glad you asked it.  I want the Scriptures speak for themselves.  2 Timothy 3:14-16.  I want to let the Scriptures speak for themselves and answer the question “What’s so significant about the Scriptures and why has it been part of societal, cultural and personal transformation for the last few thousand years?”  And here’s how Paul would answer that question.  He’s writing to his protégé, Timothy.  Somebody who he’s mentored, somebody who he’s walked with and he’s left behind in the city of Ephesus to lead and to run the church there.  Here’s what he says to Timothy:  But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings…{He’s talking about the Old Testament scriptures there.}…which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.   {That’s a fascinating statement Paul makes there.  The Old Testament is able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.  We don’t have time to go into that….only to say that the entirety of Scripture is one central message whose name is Jesus.}  All Scripture is breathed out by God…. {So if you were to ask me why has Scripture been so significant, why has it been so transformative societally, culturally, personally, I would say that at the very base level Scripture is so significant and so transformative because it’s not a book that man wrote about God…it’s God’s thoughts on man.  At it’s very base level.  If you were to do a study of this word, the Greek word that’s translated “breathed out,” you would have a sample size of one place in Scripture to study that word.  Any guesses where it is?  Right here!  Here’s the Greek word:  theopneustos.  It’s two Greek words put together and not only that….not only can you not find it anywhere else in Scripture, but you can’t find it in any other writings before Paul uses it right here.  Which creates some problems for us.    It creates some problems for scholars because they go well, we don’t know exactly how to define this word.  Here’s the way Paul made up this word.  He put two Greek words together:  THEO which is God and PNEO which means to breathe out or to blow.  It would also be where we get the word that’s translated spirit or wind.   So, God-spirited, God-winded, God-breathed.  This collection of writings we hold has as its instigator the King of kings and the Lord of lords who sits above all of creation, who’s sovereign above it all.

Why is the Scripture so significant?  Because it’s inspired.  That’s how many translations translate theopneustos: it’s inspired by God.  God breathed the Scriptures into being.  John Wesley, in writing about this, said: “This book had to be written by one of three people:  good men, bad men or God.  It couldn’t have been written by good men because they said it was inspired by the revelation of God.  Good men don’t lie and deceive.  It couldn’t have been written by bad men because bad men would not want to write something that would condemn themselves.  It leaves only one conclusion.  It was given by divine inspiration.”  What does that really mean though?  Let me give you two things it DOESN’T mean and then one thing it does.  First, it does not mean that this Bible fell out of heaven and somebody found it in the mountains of New York somewhere.  It does NOT mean that God literally wrote every word.  It doesn’t mean that God dictated every word to the authors of the Scriptures.  We would call that verbal plenary inspiration…that every single word God spoke into the authors ears and said hey, write this next.  That isn’t how it happened.  I think we’ve done a disservice to our engagement with the intellectual community about not being honest about how we got the Bible.  So, let me give you a brief crash course about how we got….especially the New Testament….the Bible.  Within the first century, all of the letters and accounts recorded in the New Testament were written.  Within seventy years of Christ dying, being buried, being resurrected and ascending to heaven, we have the New Testament documents written.  By the end of the first century, there was not yet a New Testament, but particular documents were floating around the church and were being used in church, in worship, to teach and were seen as authoritative. By AD 170, we have (the first time it’s written down) four gospels that are pointed at to be the word of God. God-inspired accounts of the life of Christ.  Around AD 170, Irenaeus, for the very first time, uses the term New Testament.  But it’s not for another 200 years that we have a compiled New Testament as we now hold it in our hands.  So in 367, Athanasius, one of the early church fathers, first mentions all of the books of the New Testament in roughly the same order that we have them now.  Listen to what he says about them: “These are the springs of salvation, in order that he who is thirsty may full refresh himself with the words contained in them.  Let no one add anything to them or take anything away from them.”  In 397 at the church council at Carthage, the church declares this is the Bible.  These are the Holy Scriptures.

But, it didn’t just fall out of heaven.  God didn’t literally write every single word.  That’s the first thing inspiration does not mean.  The second thing it doesn’t mean….it does NOT mean that it’s absent of human influence.  We all know this if we read the Bible.  Different authors have a different point of view.  Different authors have different vocabulary.  Different authors write from a different perspective, in different places, at different times and that comes through in their writing.  They are taking pieces of what they learned and who they are and they’re bringing it to the pages that they use to write the Scriptures on.  At the beginning of Luke’s gospel, Luke says hey, I’ve done a ton of research here.  I’m compiling a great account for you, most excellent Theophilus, about the life, death, resurrection of Jesus Christ.  The Apostle John says I’m writing for an explicit purpose.  I have a motivation that’s not so hidden here.  The motivation is that you might believe that Jesus is the Messiah.  You have the Apostle Paul who says to the church at Corinth: I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name.  (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas.  Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) (1 Corin. 1:14-16)  If our perspective is that God just dropped it in our laps, we would have to say that God doesn’t remember who Paul baptized!  That’s a huge issue!  I don’t want to worship someone with that bad of a memory!!

What does it mean?  Here’s what it means.  I think Peter gives a great depiction and picture of what it means in 2 Peter 1:21—For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man… {He’s saying that this wasn’t man’s idea. This is NOT man’s thoughts about God.} …but men spoke {There are human beings involved.  That’s why you get a little different perspective when you read Peter than when you read St. Paul.  John has a little bit different flavor too.  He throws in some things that other people may have left out.  He says Peter and I were racing to the tomb and I beat Peter, because I’m faster than Peter.}   ….but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.    It’s a picture of wind coming into the sails of the sailboat and just pushing it and pushing it and moving it….some of your translations say “they were moved by God” to write this.  I love the way that Dr. Mark Strauss puts it: “This truth (the Bible) is protected through God’s providence and the guidance and oversight of the Holy Spirit.”  That God not only is the one who initiates and the one who ordains, but He is the one who sovereignly, by His hand, protects what we have.  So here is what we can say with full confidence…is that we have exactly what God wants us to have!  We can have extreme confidence in what we have, because it is God’s message to us.  It wasn’t literally every single word that God told them to write.  He didn’t whisper in their ears.  He led them and he guided them and he sovereignly ordained that we would hold the Bible that we hold right now.

If we look at the words of Jesus….Jesus seemed to think that the Old Testament Scriptures were the word of God.  If you look at Matthew 19:4-5…..Jesus is in a debate about marriage.  And he’s going to point back to Genesis 2 to make a point:  He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said…. {So Jesus is going to attribute whatever comes next to the same person that created them.  That would be God.  The only problem with that is that this is recorded in the book of Genesis.  We think Moses was the author.  He’s going no, no, no, no, no.  What you hold in the Old Testament and the Scriptures…those are the words of God.}    …’Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?    He goes on to say in Matthew 5:18 — For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law (the Scriptures) until all is accomplished.   He says it’s so significant it’s not going anywhere, not the smallest letter, and not even a punctuation symbol is going to pass away.  I would argue that Jesus took the Scriptures pretty seriously, yes?  And I’m with Jesus.  He says this is the word of God.  If you want to hear God’s  voice, you MUST NOT neglect the Scriptures.  You can’t.  They’re inspired.  God breathed them into being.  He didn’t just drop them from the sky.  It’s this beautiful intersection between heaven and the earth where God uses the personalities of the authors, uses the times and places of the authors, uses the vocabulary of the authors to sovereignly ordain and carry along His message of redemption that Jesus is the Messiah and the king of the universe.  It’s an interlocking, N.T. Wright says, between heaven and earth.  Inspired by God.  Carried along exactly what God wants us to have.  So why is the Scripture significant?  Because it’s theopneustos.  It’s inspired.  It’s God’s breath through human words.

Second reason: All Scripture is breathed out by God.  I mentioned that this is the only time in Scripture that you see this word and indeed it is.  But it’s not the only time where we see this IDEA….that God would breathe out and that something would be created.  Genesis 2:7 — Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life…  Genesis 2, God breathes and the man becomes a living creature.  God breathes on things and they come to life.  Psalm 33:6 — By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host.  He exhales and stars come into being. Galaxies exist because he breathes.  THIS is a beautiful picture, is it not?  Job 33:4 — The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.  When God breathes on things, life happens.  Life is spoken into death…into dust things come into being.  So Jesus, in John 6:63, picks up on this idea and says:  It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all.  The words that I have spoken to you are spirit (pneuma) and life.  They’re this creating force.  When you hear His words, when they sink into your soul, things start to come alive.  They are spirit and—he wants to reinforce this—they are life.

We don’t have anywhere else that theopneustos is used, but we have these ideas all over the Scriptures that when God breathes on something or through something, life starts to happen.  Not only are the Scriptures inspired, but the Scriptures are inspiring.  Not only did God breath life into them, but God breathes life through the Scriptures into human beings.  This is one of his methods for communicating with his creation, with his world.  When you open the Bible, it’s not just that God breathed into them to create them, but it’s that God breathes through them to your heart, to your soul, to speak to you.  Why are the Scriptures so significant?  Why are they banned in 51 countries?  Why, all across the globe for the last 2000 years, have people fought to get this book into people’s hands?  Because when we open them up….here’s the way I view it…..when we open them up, it’s the breath of God.  (Ryan turns on hairdryer.)  It’s just speaking through us, moving us, challenging us, teaching us, inspiring us.  I don’t know if you’ve ever gotten up in the morning, brewed your cup of coffee, went and opened your Bible, and thought man, breath of heaven.  Let’s do this!!  When you open the Bible, God is speaking.  He’s moving.  He is inspiring.  If you want to hear His voice…..friends, I don’t want to make you feel guilty, but I just firmly believe that we do not live by bread alone, but that we live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.  So if you’re hopeless here today, you don’t need to hear my voice.  You need to hear His.  If you feel like life is pointless here today, I don’t want to give you your purpose for your life….I want you to hear it from Him.  If you feel dry, if you feel weary, if you feel like life is just running out of steam, there is a breath of God available for you.  Will you come and hear from Him?  William Tyndale did not fight to have the Scriptures translated so that we could read them and get up in the morning and have a daily devotional.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  It’s just so much bigger!  It’s so much better!  It’s hearing the voice of God.  The Almighty.  The King of kings and the Lord of lords.

{Ryan introduces a video about Cooper, a deaf 2-year-old boy, who receives his cochlear implant.  The video shows his jubilant reaction as he hears his mother’s voice for the first time.}

When was the last time you heard God’s voice in the same way?  Because He’s speaking.  He breathed into this book; He breathes through this book, yet only 19% of us (one-in-five) say God, I’ve gotta meet with you.  I want to give you three ways….because I think one of the things that happens is we don’t really understand how God meets us in the Scriptures.  I want to give you three ways that the Scriptures inspire.  The Scriptures inspire, first, through invitation.  In the very beginning of the Bible, Genesis 1, we see these three famous words: In the beginning….  It’s as though we’re being invited to a story.  And we are!  It’s not a story that we stand on the sidelines of though, it’s a story that we’re involved in happening in real time.  The drama of God unfolding in human history and the Scriptures…they’re not a magic 8-ball that gives us the answer to every question we have.  They are the invitation to the ultimate question we all have and it’s who am I? and who are you, God? and in light of who you are how should I live?  That’s the invitation the Scriptures give.  Come and be part of the story of God.  The story starts in the garden where God breathes life into humanity and creates good things and it ends with God being with His creation and in everywhere in between we see this is the invitation of God.   Come and be part of my story.  If I don’t understand His story, I’ll never know how I fit into it, because it’s His story.  I have this conviction that I’ll share with you, then I’ll get off my soapbox.  I think one of the things that postmodernism has given us, in a positive way, is this language of story that our souls relate with.  That we live a story.  Some of it’s good, some of it’s tragic, some of it’s beautiful and some of it’s devastating.  What postmodernism has missed is that there’s a metanarrative that overarches every single little story.  A metanarrative is just a bigger story that every story finds itself in.  I think postmodernism has missed the fact that yes, we all have these individual stories, but all of our stories are part of the grand story that God is telling throughout history.  He created things good and wanted relationship with his people.  We rebelled against Him in sin and fell away from Him.  We struggled along the way, but in His grace and in His goodness and for His glory, He has initiated our rescue, our redemption and our restoration through Jesus Christ.  That’s the narrative.  That’s the invitation.  And God’s saying come and as you go to the Scriptures, be reminded you’re part of something far bigger and better than just your 80 years (or how many God gives you).  When we lose sight of the Scriptures, we lose sight of the invitation.

Second.  Illumination.  We’re invited back into the way that God created the world to be.  Truth is what you always run into when you’re wrong.  What the Scriptures do is they teach us the way that God wired, designed and created the world so we can get in line with what he’s doing.  Peter picks up on this as he says:  ….you will do well to pay attention to….the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place…(2 Peter 1:19)   Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. (Psalm 119:105)  I’m realigned with reality.  I’m invited back into God’s story and I see the way He’s wired us to be.  Jesus will say things like:  Forgive.  Harboring the bitterness and anger is just killing you.  So he’s inviting you into a better way of living.  Be a generous person.  It’s a better way of living.  They’re doing all this research right now, science, on how to be happy.  They’ve started to identify a few things that actually lead to human happiness.  One is to develop a rhythm for your life.  So maybe we should work six days and rest one, huh?  That we should be generous people.  That’s part of the science of happiness.  To be part of a community of other people where we just don’t do life alone.  To find a way that who we are fits into the common good and flourishing of society.  You know where they could have found all of that??  Right here.  Jesus wants to teach us how we live in reality, not in an ethereal understanding, but feet-on-the-ground how we live. We align ourselves with truth.  We’re reminded in the Scriptures that we are loved by the King of kings and the Lord of lords.  (Hairdryer blowing in background.) That we are His children redeemed by his grace and by his mercy.  Our sin is atoned for by his blood.  I didn’t make that up.  That’s straight out of the book.  You are washed clean by His blood.  You are no longer under sin and condemnation, but those who are in Christ are therefore, right now, set free to walk with Him.  It’s not my idea.  But here’s the thing.  You can’t hear it from me and be changed.  You need to hear it from Him.

Finally…..so there’s invitation, illumination and I couldn’t think of another “I” word.   It’s not for lack of trying. Restoration.  If you’re tired, if you’re worn out, if life feels pointless and purposeless and passionless, the Scriptures are this invitation to come and receive the breath of God.  It’s like divine CPR.  Hear His voice.  Allow Him to speak life into…… restore your soul.  I love the way the psalmist says it:  The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. (Psalm 19:7)   He speaks life into dead things.  God didn’t just breathe into this book, God breathes through this book as His Spirit interacts with this book in the hearts of His people and makes it alive, quickening us, making us alive to the things and purposes and person of Jesus.  Illumination.  Invitation.  Restoration.

Friends, I don’t want to be part of the 19%.  I want to be like Hien Pham who says listen, I’m so hungry to hear your word, God, that I’m willing to do anything.  I’m willing to go anywhere.  I want to be like William Tyndale who said this is so precious to me that I’ll give my life to get it into hands who don’t have it right now.  I’m not asking you to do any of these things.  All I’m asking you to do is to commit to trying to hear from God through His word and I promise you the Holy Spirit will work through that.  He will!  I don’t want to be part of a church….I don’t want to lead a church…..I don’t want to pastor a church where people come and the only time they’re fed is on Sunday morning for 45 minutes.  That’s pitiful!  I want to teach you how to feed yourself.  This is a beautiful wealth of life-giving invitation, illumination, restoration for the human soul.  Oh man, friends, let’s be hungry for it.  This year: Through the Scriptures may we feel God’s breath and then may we be the type of people who, in turn, breathe His life to everything around us.

You got a little bookmark in your bulletin as you came in.  I want to challenge you over the next 30 days….really, invite you.  I want to invite you to hear the voice of God.  So we’re going to be journeying through a number of different books and different literature and different types of books in the Bible to give you an overview of some of the things in there.  It’s two chapters every single day.  Here’s the last thing I want this to be:  Duty.  And I don’t want it to be motivated by guilt.  If it’s that….just forget it.  I want us to engage, collectively, in the Scriptures.  I want us, collectively, to hear the voice of God.  Then I want us to respond. There’s going to be a way to write blogs on our website.  If you use #breathofheaven it will feed to our site.  I want you to engage with the Scriptures, with God and I would love for you to engage with each other as well. I’ll close with this quote from George Mueller:  “The vigor of our spiritual life will be in exact proportion to the place by the Bible in our life and thoughts.”  It’s worth your time.  It’s worth your energy.  It’s inspired.  It’s inspiring.  Let’s pray.

Father, for these 66 books, 40 different authors, over 1500 years with one central message whose name is Jesus, we thank you.  For the fact that you initiated and you carried along the authors that penned the words of Scripture, we say thank you.  For the way that you breathed into them, we say thank you.  And for the way that you breathe through them.  Father, would you help us to hear your voice, maybe for the first time.  Lord, I just pray against the response of guilt.  We know that can motivate us for a short time, but it can never give us life. Instead of guilt, would you just override that with a sense of invitation to the breath of heaven, to the breath of life.  Your words are spirit, your words are life and we are people who do not live by bread alone, but every word that comes from your mouth, so we need to hear your voice.  Will you speak your love.  Will you speak your grace.  Will you speak your mercy.  Will you invite us, will you illuminate us, will you restore us all in the name of Jesus, we pray.  Amen.