For 12 weeks the talks in our online services are going to work through the book of Ephesians. There’s no central theme – we’re going to see what ‘gems’ come out of the text.
Our spiritual practice alongside this is “Digging for Gems” – an activity to interact with the Bible text that really suits the dense, meaning-packed New Testament letters.
Digging for Gems
Basically this is rewriting the passage in your own words. The aim is to capture and unpack the meaning from the text. It’s about allowing yourself to get carried away with some of the wonderful spiritual truths and their implications. Ephesians, like the other New Testament letters, is packed with meaning, much of which we often don’t realise because we end up skimming over it.
You need a bit of time to do this, maybe half-an-hour for a sizeable passage.
Here is the process, and rules, for Digging for Gems:
1 – Pray – we invite the Holy Spirit to be present with us. This isn’t about just rewriting the passage, it’s for God to reveal himself to us and to prompt us along our journey of discipleship.
2 – Read – read the passage in your head. It might be you need to back up and read a bit before to understand the context. Next read it again, but this time out loud. This slows you down and adds emphasis and intonation to the passage.
3 – Write – get a nice clean page and a good pen and start to write, following these rules:
–> The aim is to capture the meaning – so don’t just try to replace one word with a different word. Instead unpack the words to make the meaning really plain.
–> No religious jargon – imagine you’re writing this for someone who has never been to church to read. So words like, holy, peace, grace, righteous, messiah, justified, even church all need to be unpacked and explained
–> Take as many words as you want – if there’s something in the passage that excites you then get excited. Let your creative juices flow. When it comes to God’s goodness you can’t over exaggerate! The writing is often very packed up, with lots of subordinate clauses. Use your writing to detangle the mass of ideas. Whatever helps you – bullet points, new paragraphs… even a diagram! And even a single word, like grace or peace, might need several paragraphs to capture the amazing meaning!
The aim is to discover what the passage is really saying and to see how this impacts your own life. These are the ‘gems’ you’re digging up and they’re so much more precious when you find them yourself, rather than reading someone else’s in a devotional or commentary.
Sometimes there are terms that you might struggle to understand. When we read the Bible normally we can skim over them (as general religious words) but this isn’t an option when we need to rewrite them. You can search the web for definitions, but below are a couple of helpful sites.
A word of warning though – don’t end up just using other people’s interpretation of the passage… these are their gems, not yours. So try not to seek out someone else’s meaning of the passage. Often, when you read something and think, “I have no idea what that means!” once you get to writing it out, the problem sort of detangles itself and you find the meaning as you write it.
Also, sometimes the information can be technical; for example, one meaning of Holy is ‘set apart’, but what does that mean in the context of your passage? Is that a good way to capture the meaning or is there a different way you could say it?
So if possible, just prayerfully use the Bible for this exercise. The spiritual practice of Study is really important and valuable, but it’s different from Digging for Gems.
David Guzik’s commentaries on the Bible – these are really, really detailed, but can help with information about a particular word or phrase
Plan for Ephesians
The date is when the passage will be in the online service – week commencing on the Sunday.
Week 1 – Ephesians 1:1-14 (18 April)
Week 2 – Ephesians 1:15-23 (25 April)
Week 3 – Ephesians 2:1-10 (2 May)
Week 4 – Ephesians 2:11-18 (9 May)
Week 5 – Ephesians 2:19-3:9 (16 May)
Week 6 – Ephesians 3:10-21 (23 May)
Week 7 – Ephesians 4:1-10 (30 May)
Week 8 – Ephesians 4:11-16 (6 June)
Week 9 – Ephesians 4:17-32 (13 June)
Week 10 – Ephesians 5:1-20 (20 June)
Week 11 – Ephesians 5:21-6:9 (27 June)
Week 12 – Ephesians 6:10-24 (4 July)