Eugene Peterson’s book Eat this Book teaches us to chew on a passage of scripture, digest it, and then put it to use in practical ways. Use this pattern of Bible study to go deeper into Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3:14-19.
Ephesians 3: 14-19 (The Message)
“My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth.
I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in.
And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.”
I chose The Message version of Ephesians 3:14-19 because I just finished reading Winn Collier’s masterful biography of Eugene Peterson, A Burning in my Bones. After Peterson spent decades studying, serving as a pastor, teaching, and writing dozens of books, he devoted his final years to writing this beautiful version of Scripture: The Message.
In the verses preceding this passage, Paul reveals to the church at Ephesus that helping people understand and respond to the God’s message is his life work. He admits (shouldn’t we all?)) that he is preaching and writing things that are way over his head: the inexhaustible riches and generosity of God.
And then he begins to pray for his friends in Ephesus and (by extension) us:
- To be strengthened in our hearts and souls by God’s Spirit
- To join be rooted in the extravagant love of Christ.
- To explore that love and test its dimensions so we can live in the fullness of God.
Don’t you love the description of a Creator Father who “parcels out all heaven and earth”? Spend time praising God for parceling out your special spots on earth. Describe what makes them your favorite. Share your findings in a journal or with a friend.
Paul encourages us by saying that Christ will live in us as we open the door and invite him in. In other words, Jesus will teach us to live as apprentices, but we have to ask first. Think about what you need to learn and practice to become Jesus’ helper. Perhaps you need to overcome your fear of sharing yourself with others. Maybe you need to live more deeply in Scripture. Perhaps there are practices or habits that you need to give up. How strong is your trust that Jesus will do what he says he will? Make your list of wishes and tell Jesus the door is open for him to help you grow.
Peter is someone with whom I can easily identify. Pick a favorite Bible character and re-read some stories about his/her life. What characteristics that made him/her a beloved friend of God? What mistakes did he/she need to correct on the journey to becoming an apprentice?
MORE FOOD FOR THOUGHT
“If you have been to Yosemite or Sequoia National Park you have enjoyed the beauty of the majestic Redwood. They are so huge that cars can drive through them, and dances can be held on their stumps. There is an interesting fact about the giant Sequoia Redwood trees. These trees, which reach so high you can’t see their tops, have a very shallow root system. The roots practically lay on top of the ground. When you consider the height and weight of the trees and the high winds in the Sierra Nevada’s, it is amazing that these trees don’t come crashing down during a storm.
Why don’t they? It is the grove factor, the tree growing in close proximity to one another, that help the great Redwoods to withstand nature’s onslaught. What happens is the roots reach out in all directions and they get tangled up with the roots from other Redwoods. The roots grow together, intertwining with each other and creating a stabilizing root bed that helps each tree continue to stand. A lone Redwood tree growing by itself wouldn’t last long, but a Redwood Forest can last for thousands of years.
That’s the way it should be with us as believers. We need to be “knit together in love” to grow strong, to be stable and to be able to stand as people of faith. God has established the forest, which we call the church in which we are to grow. We sink our roots into the local body and become entwined with each other’s lives. Then when the storms of life start blowing, we too, are stabilized and able to withstand the winds of affliction, temptation and/or persecution” (Dr. Keith Wagner from Sermon Writer)