I WANTED TO WORK ON A HAPPY BOOK in the Bible, as I continue paraphrasing for the Casual English Bible.
It has been a vicious year for those of us who follow the news—and especially for news journalists and former news journalists like myself. We still seek the truth in a day when people instantly accept rumors and lies as God’s honest truth…even after the facts finally surface.
It’s kind of impossible to imagine that 2017 will be any different?
So at least in my work, I wanted to hear an upbeat message of hope.
I turned to Paul’s letter to first-generation Christians in Ephesus, a city on the west coast of Turkey. It’s in ruins today, and a tourist stop for folks tracking the travels of Paul.
Turns out, the book of Ephesians is shaping up to be one tough paraphrase. Lots of abstract ideas and religious clichés that don’t mean much to folks outside the church. And then there’s stuff that even the Bible experts can’t understand.
Here’s my first pass at the first chapter—just a rough draft. See what you think. I’m open to suggestions. But keep in mind that I’m doing this for Bible newcomers.
Ephesians 1. Say good things about God
“Hello. Paul here.”
To: God’s devoted people—all the followers of Jesus living in Ephesus.
1:2. May you experience the kindness and peace that come from God our Father and from our leader Jesus, the Messiah.
Why we compliment God
1:3. We owe thanks to God, the father of our leader, Jesus the Messiah. He has given us every wonderful gift that’s available in heaven. He has done that because we’re family now—the family of the Messiah.
1:4. God chose us. Even before he created the world, he decided that we should be his children, devoted to him and goodhearted.
1:5. Before we ever gave God a thought, he decided to adopt us into his family. He worked the adoption through Jesus and was delighted with how it turned out.
1:6. We thank him for his kindness. He honors us by the way he has treated us through his beloved Son.
1:7. We’re free, no longer held hostage by our sins. We are forgiven. God paid our ransom out of the wealth of his kindness and through the blood of his Son.
1:8. He lavished us with his kindness, which shows how well he knows us and understands us.
1:9. God let us in on his secret plan involving his Son. God did this because it delights him.
1:10. Here’s the plan. When the time comes, God is going to bring everyone and everything together—in heaven and earth. The Messiah will rule it all.
1:11. We’ve got an inheritance waiting for us. It’s something God planned long ago. He has the power to do whatever he decides to do.
1:12. Those of us who have already put our hope in the Messiah did so because God chose us long ago. Through us, others will see God in his glory and rave about him.
1:13. You heard the Good News, the true story of how God saved you. You believed in the Messiah. When you made that decision, God claimed you as one of his own. He sealed that relationship with you by giving you the Holy Spirit—as he promised he would do for us a long time ago.
1:14. That’s our guarantee, people. God’s Spirit in us guarantees that we’re in his family and we’ve got the family inheritance waiting for us. God saved us, we belong to him, and we thank him for being such a glorious savior.
Paul’s prayer for Christians
1:15. I have heard about you folks. I’ve heard that you put your faith in the Lord Jesus. And I’ve heard that you express your love to all believers.
1:16. I want you to know something. I can’t stop thinking about you or thanking God for you. You’re always in my prayers.
1:17. I ask the glorious God of our leader, Jesus the Messiah, to give you spiritual wisdom. I’m asking that he allows you to see what others can’t, and that he helps you get to know him better.
1:18. I’m praying that you will grow in your understanding of the hope God gave you. Because he has called you one of his own, you are rich. The wealth of his inheritance is yours, as it is for all people devoted to him.
1:19. I’m praying, too, that you will one day discover how incredibly powerful God is—and that this power is available to those of us who believe in him. How much power is it? Well, it’s the same power
1:20. that raised the Messiah from the dead and that gave him a seat on a throne at the right hand of God in the spiritual dimension of heaven.
1:21. God put him in charge. The Messiah is the boss of everyone—every ruler, authority, power, government. You name it, he’s the boss of it. Not only now, but in the days to come.
1:22. God gathered up everything and set it at the feet of the Messiah. Everyone looks up to Jesus now because he’s in charge. He looks out for the church, too.
1:23. The church is his body on earth. His presence fills the church—and can fill everyone in every way.
 1:1. The word in the language Paul used, Greek, is apostolos, from which we get the English word apostle. The word means “official messenger,” such as a delegate or an ambassador sent to deliver a message. The title “apostle” came to mean disciples handpicked by Jesus to tell his story and spread his teachings. The title usually referred to the 12 original disciples of Jesus as well as Paul, who met Jesus in a miraculous encounter while traveling to Damascus to arrest Christians (Acts 9:5).
 1:1. “Messiah” in the original Greek language of the New Testament is Christos, from which we get the word Christ. It means “Anointed One,” as in “anointed by God.”
 1:2. “Ephesus” doesn’t show up in the oldest copies of this letter. One presumption is that it was added later.
 1:2. The original Greek word for “leader” is kyrios, often translated “lord” or “master.”
 1:13. Joel 2:28-29.
 1:23. More literally, and cryptically, the church is “his body, the fullness who fills all in every way.”