5 posts categorized "Summer Bible Study"

The Ephesians Study: It's a Wrap

Well, we have reached the end of the Ephesians study. Ephesians 3

I hope you enjoyed it like we have. I say this every now and again on here, but it is just such a good exercise to focus our minds periodically on something other than our spiritually mismatched marriages.

As we wrap up the study, perhaps over the weekend you can take some time to ask God 'What do you most want me to remember from this study?'

There were some great prayers in there that we can use in the future.

There were some great truths.

And, there were some great perspective-shifting comments. Not only in the blog posts themselves but also in the comments.

Well, here's to us walking now with an even greater understanding of the heavenly bank account that is available to us.

And next week we will back with some other things. Stay tuned, and have a great weekend, all of you.


Book of Ephesians -- Chapter Four

Dear SUM community,Ephesians 3

I am knitted to you.

I am committed to you.

I say this as a motto as we embark on chapter four of our study of Ephesians; and I say it because one of the well-known themes of the book of Ephesians is unity. It is in this particular chapter that Paul brings that -- unity -- to life.

We are knitted + committed to one another.

My friends, I think that's one reason we struggle so much in a spiritually mismatched marriage: It's that we feel truly knitted to the church. As Ian said on Monday, church is very, very important to God. 

Yet, our spouse pulls us back from that, and so unity with the church becomes something we have to fight for.

Of course, we fight for our marriages too, critically so. Paul addresses that next, in chapter 5. But for today let's consider unity with the church.

If you would, read Ephesians 4 now, and then we'll snack on a few verses. 

First, I just love that image of being knitted with you, and the other Christians who God has brought into my life purposely. It's like we're joined by ligaments, muscles, skin, and deeply threaded around each other. 

...Christ -- from whom the whole body joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love (v. 16, NKJV)

... the Head, from whom all the body nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God. (Colossians 2:19, NKJV)

This 'being knitted' means I must care for your best. We must care for each other's best. 

Practically, for me, I can see that God has put certain people in my life who are meant to be there. For a start, you the SUM community are important to me. The SUM leaders are special people to me alongside that. Then there's a lady I lead the prayer team with at my house: She's important to me, even though I don't know her well. And there are other friends who God has put in my life, about whom I can say: 'I've got your back'.Knitting

The whole body of Christ is important, but certain people are pointed out to us in our lives because God asks us to steward certain things with them, or steward the relationship itself. And I'll fight for those relationships if they're attacked.

In the chapter we're looking at now, Paul gives us many pointers about how to walk in unity. It's perhaps summed up best by the last verse which reads:

And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. (v. 32, NKJV)

But what about those Christians who are 'difficult'? What then? What if someone makes it really difficult to be in unity with them?

Lynn gave me a great prayer once for this. She suggested we bless a difficult relationship with a spirit of unity and cooperation.  Let's not underestimate the power of our words when we do that. So, we can say (behind their backs):

I bless you, and my relationship with you, with a spirit of unity and cooperation.

That said, Paul said you should note those who cause divisions and offences and avoid them (Romans 16:17). That's ok: We don't have to be knitted around everyone, and some people in the church are too divisive to be in relationship with. We can still love them from afar.

BUT, back to being positive because this chapter is deliciously glorious: Our chapter speaks of how there is one Spirit, from whom we drink. We are to walk as if we celebrate and remember that Spirit, and especially as we see it in others.

I'll finish with Paul's words there:

I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling;

One Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. (Ephesians 4:1-6, NKJV)

My friends, what experiences have you had of being knitted together with other believers? Let's chat more!



Book of Ephesians – Chapter 3

6a00d83451ee9f69e202c1a6cc4dc3200b-320wiWhat a great introduction we’ve had from both Lynn and Ann on this wonderful epistle of Paul’s. Ann mentioned how much I love Ephesians and one of the reasons is that Paul is prayerful throughout it. It starts with a prayer, includes a couple of great prayers (chapter 1 and 3) and then ends with prayer. And I love to pray!

Now we come to Chapter 3. I want to focus on the prayer that ends this chapter because it’s one of my favourites and one I pray often.

The First Half 

The chapter starts with Paul sharing how God told Paul to bring the gospel to everyone, and not just to the Jews. As we know this caused a dispute with the disciples and Paul (with the Spirit’s help) had to win them over. As Paul states in verse 6, the Gospel is for everyone, and is ‘welcoming to everyone’. I love that notion of welcoming.

Paul sees his role is to help everyone to understand the mysteries of God, ‘to make plain’ what God has been doing all along.

The Prayer

There’s more to learn in those opening verses but I really want to spend time on this great prayer. We’re at the halfway point of his letter and here he brings us back to prayer. The epistle pivots after this prayer.

Firstly, I invite you to read it. Here it is in NIVUK version:

“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

And simply sit with it. And read it again. IS there a word or a statement that jumps out or shimmers for you? If yes, ask God about it. What might He be saying to you?

A few points that I especially love about it are:

  • Paul kneels before the Father, this magnificent Father (MSG version). Straight away, Paul adopts a posture of surrender, acknowledging who He is praying to. It’s simply breathtaking. I’ve been challenged in recent weeks that I’ve been a little too casual with God, adopting the ‘human’ aspect of Jesus’ nature and not reflecting enough on His divinity.
  • Paul intercedes for the Ephesian church (and us) with four powerful statements: ‘strengthen you with power through His Spirit’, ‘Christ may dwell in our hearts’, ‘that we grasp how wide …’ and finally, ‘may be filled with His fullness.’ They’re powerful statements to pray. I encourage you to pray these over yourselves, your family and community.
  • This is a highly relational prayer. It’s a prayer that demonstrates the prayer, Paul, has a close bond with God. He asks God to give more of Himself to the church of Ephesus. He doesn’t pray for healing, for provision, but He asks God for more of Himself. I think one of the great reasons why we struggle to pray is we’ve grown up with a transactional view of prayer. We ask God for things. Don’t get me wrong, God wants us to pray these prayers but what happens when we don’t receive what we’ve prayed for? We lose interest in prayer? But prayer is highly relational. Paul demonstrates that for us.
  • Fullness of God. Wow! How does healing come? How are our needs met? How do we evangelise? How do our spouses find Jesus? With the fullness of God. Think of yourself overflowing with the fullness of love. God is love! That’s His essence. If we’re overflowing with His fullness, we become incredibly attractive to everyone. Because people see God in us!
  • What does fullness bring? Immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine! Wow! I want that fullness. It makes me weak at the knees just picturing it. God wants to pour through and out of us with Himself. The fullness of His love.

The prayer ends with a desire for God to be glorified by the church. Church is very very important to God. And therefore, to Paul. The divine and human elements of the church. With His power flowing through us, His community, His church is glorified.

Let me stop there. I could go on as there is so much ion this great prayer. May I invite you to pray it over the next few days. Pray it boldly and with reverence and we might be surprised how God moves us all.

Why not share in the comments what particularly stood out for you as you read this chapter. We'll see you there.

Go well, dear Sumites. Grace and peace.

Book of Ephesians -- Chapter Two

My friends, we are now up to chapter two. I love the fact that it is a favorite book of both Lynn and Ian. Doesn’t the book just … glitter … so far? Ephesians 3

It glitters in its promise.

But you know what? The overriding thing about this chapter, for me, was that it gave me a great big portion of humble pie! It humbled me because it made me consider my life before I was a Christian. I can tell you, that life wasn’t pretty.

What were you like in your pre-believing days, I wonder? Me: Well, I was a different Ann to the one you see here. And I’m guessing many of you would say the same.

Verses 1-5 press the point that we all writhed around in an evil state before we became Christians. As children of wrath, we conducted ourselves in the lusts of the flesh. Thoroughly. All of us.

For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles – when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries. 1 Peter 4:3 (NKJV)

I was brought forth in iniquity and in sin my mother conceived me Psalm 51:5 (NKJV)

This fact alone shifts my perspective. See, as the only Christian around often, I can get a bit self-righteous. A bit? Haha .. Mm. I am extremely frustrated by the fact ‘they’re rejecting God’. The way I see it is it’s their free will, and they’re rebelling.

But this chapter reminds me that… ahem… There went I, until HE came and changed me.

How could I possibly boast of what he’s done to me and for me? It was all His doing, the change that happened in me when I converted.

With that fact in place, verses 6-10 specify what He did:

There we were writhing around in our muck, when he swooped down with love, plucked us from the mud, and flew us high, seating us in Heavenly Places and somehow turning us into a ‘masterpiece’ of goodness.

I need to spend some time reflecting on that visual.

Ephesians 2 is all about what HE has done, and verses 11-22 spell it out. He has:

Lifted us up and ‘seated us in Heavenly places’. This speaks of a new elevated view of life, a new positioning.

Made us alive, when we were previously dead. We used to be ignorant, blind, alienated, dead, enemies, a target of God’s wrath, aligned with the enemy, the sons of disobedience, children of wrath, full of the lusts of the flesh, hopeless, without God. No longer! We are ALIVE! And here we are, now, suddenly finding ourselves rich with a heavenly bank account.

Reconciled us to him so that we are no longer far away from him.

Given us access to him. Wow.

Made us into a brand new creation, a masterpiece.

And finally, woven us together with other believers into a living, breathing body – A temple, that carries His presence; a body that shares one Spirit – His Spirit.

It’s all a bit mind-blowing, really. It feels like I’ve gone from a grubby Cinderella slave to a princess.

A page turned, a new leaf, God did this to us:

Now therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God. (v. 19).

So here’s a final thought on the household of God:

I mentioned I’m on holiday this week. Well, I’ve had a young friend house-sit who doesn’t have parents around. I wanted her to feel a ‘daughter of the house’, so as I got the house ready I thought of that sentiment. I deliberately told her to just use any food she wanted from the cupboards so that she would feel like my kids feel: At home.

I remember an older lady doing the same for me when I was at uni: ‘Come over and bake!’ she said once, knowing that I was far from home. I felt like a daughter of her house.

Well, we’re sons and daughters of HIS house.

And so we finish another glittering chapter.

Did you enjoy this chapter, SUMites? What does it look like to you to be a daughter/son of God’s house? What else in this chapter particularly spoke to you?

Summer Bible Study - Book of Ephesians- Chapter One

Letter to ephesiansBook of Ephesians

Lynn Donovan here. SUM Nation the book of Ephesians is one of my all-time favorite books of the Bible. That’s because this is a letter to the church that has overcome. This group of believers lived in the middle of a morally bankrupt society that is filled with idol worship and every kind of debauchery. However, they found Jesus. AND they have learned how to live and thrive in difficult surroundings.

Sound familiar?

What I find fascinating is this church is powerful and faith-filled body of believers, however just a mere 30 years later, the Apostle John writes to the Ephesians and reminds them of the many miraculous things they have done and how they have persevered. Yet, he calls them out in verse 4: Nevertheless, I have this against you, that you have left your first love.

This is the call of the Ephesians letters: Never relent, persevere and LOVE. Love God. Love people in an ever-increasing capacity of the heart.

Open your Bible to Ephesians, chapter one. I’m teaching from the NKJV. We know that the Apostle Paul is writing to the believers in Ephesus and offers these believers some astonishing reminders of what belongs to them.

Read from verse one through verse twelve. This greeting and introduction is filled with promises of completeness. What IS ALREADY accomplished for our benefit through the atonement. THIS IS OUR HEAVENLY BANK ACCOUNT. Let’s take a look:

  • Every spiritual blessing
  • Chosen, before time began to be holy, blameless and in His (Christ’s) love.
  • Adopted because it pleased our Father. (If we can wrap our head around this, we will never give into the fear of man, manipulation or deception. We KNOW who we are and whose we are.)
  • Redemption from sin, transgression and iniquity. (I could write books about this stuff. What we are redeemed from is so massive and horrendous, that most believers don’t fully understand our greatest gift is redemption.)
  • Riches of grace abounding toward us in wisdom and prudence. (Does anyone want to give an explanation of these amazing attributes in the comments? I would love to read your take.)
  • Obtained and inheritance in accordance with His will and all of this to the glory of God in Christ Jesus.

These are amazing. If you dwell upon each and research their possibilities and ask God to reveal their reality in your life today, it will blow your mind. Let me give you an example.

We have every spiritual blessing. What does this mean. It means that everything in the spiritual Kingdom of God that we need or desire is already ours. It is our great privilege to learn to apprehend these spiritual blessings. Many of these blessings look like the gifts of the spirit (Galatians 5). Spiritual blessings also is angelic support and influence in the heavenly places because we are seated with Christ. It’s everything we need and more. 

Blessing aren't just spiritual. It is God's great pleasure to give us the Kingdom. Blessings in the here and now. Health, family, finances, community, weather, etc.

What does this mean practically? I don’t need to beg God for a morsel of His goodness, kindness and provision. I can believe He has provided me with all that I need to accomplish my work here on earth and thrive. I pray in support of these purposes. For example: Lord, this book I’ve been writing is creating great demonic attack, so I call upon your protection that is mine as your child. Also, Father, I need downloads of the words to write and time and the energy to write them down. I thank you that you hear my prayers as I am seated in the heavenly realms with Christ. And now I wait expectantly for your provision of words, protection and everything I need to thrive in my home and relationships as we write together. In Jesus name. AMEN

I could spend weeks unpacking all of these blessings. But alas, we must move on to the BEST PART of the entire chapter.

Paul’s prayer for the overcoming church, beginning in verse fifteen.

I’m going to pray this passage how I prayed it for months and months a number of years ago when I was in the middle of my search for my true identity and to really KNOW God. This is how I prayed this scripture:

Father, God of my Lord Jesus Christ, you are the Father of glory! I ask that you give to me the Spirit of Wisdom (read more about this spirit in Proverbs, beginning in chapter one.) that I may be wise on earth in my work, my worship, my relationship with You and others and in everything I do and say. I also ask for the Spirit of Revelation that I may really know you in a deep and abiding and powerful intimacy. Father, open my eyes to understanding and enlighten me to the amazing truth that you have a calling on my life. Reveal my calling(s) and teach me to walk in them now. Father may Your calling fill me with great hope and contentment. I also ask for understanding of the riches of glory because I have an inheritance here on earth and also in heaven. Reveal this to me.

Father, what is the exceeding greatness of power that is granted to me as a believer? Reveal this working of your mighty power in my life. This same astonishing power is made available to me which is the power that raised Christ from the dead. Teach me how to partner with Your power. And show me how to engage this power with Christ over and far above all principality and power and might and dominion and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come! Hallelujah! I will defeat the Kingdom of darkness for the cause of Christ Jesus!

And I declare Jesus Christ is over all things and all things are under the power and dominion of His church AMEN and AMEN!

SUMITE, if you don’t know what to pray, pray this prayer. Open your Bible to Ephesians one and just pray the words aloud straight from the pages.

As our world darkens, I see all of us SUMites who have walked this long road of challenges to our families and faith, as Kingdom leaders who walk in all these promises of Ephesians. We, who have persevered in long crushings of worldly desires to arrive in a life of power and connection in Christ. We are those who will bring healing to many. Who will share God’s wisdom and perseverance to show the people who are deceived the truth that shall set them free.

And that truth is a person. He is Jesus.

Can I get an amen in the comments. I bless you today to perceive the spiritual blessings that are all around you and that you feel deep in your person the abiding and transforming love of our Lord and our God. Amen

I adore you, Lynn