Growing Your Faith

@midjourneybot: /imagine: A man illuminated from the inside with a glowing heart living in a tent surrounded by dismal obscurity

In all the earliest manuscripts of the Bible, the book of Acts isn’t followed by Romans, its followed by James.

In the previous story, “The Writings”, we discussed how Saint Jerome reorganized the Old Testament for his Latin Vulgate Bible back in 382 AD. The 22 scrolls of the Hebrew Tanakh became the 39 books of the Old Testament. Unfortunately, Saint Jerome reorganized the 27 books of the New Testament as well. He didn’t add or remove any words from the Bible, he just scrambled their overall order.

In their original order, it is much easier to see that the 49 books of the Bible have 7 distinct divisions where the target audience matures along with the spiritual age of the reader.

Old Testament (Tanakh):

  • Law (Torah) - written for elementary school audience

  • Prophets (Nevi’im) - written for middle school audience

  • Writings (Ketuvim) - written for high school audience

New Testament:

  • Gospels & Acts - written for the “bride of Christ”

  • General Epistles - written for new believers

  • Paul’s Letters - written for mature believers

  • Revelation - written for elders

The target audience even matures within each division. For example, Paul’s letters begin by addressing new believers in Romans and end by addressing church elders in Timothy, Titus, and Philemon.

The Bible makes so much more sense in its original order. If you want to learn more about it, check out “The Inspired Order of the Bible” by Dr. Judd W. Patton, Professor of Economics at Bellevue University. The university has removed the page, but you can still access it on the Internet Archive’s Way Back Machine:

@mathnerds: The earliest manuscripts of the Bible had 49 books, instead of 66. According to the Bible Key, the number 49 means “create judgment”, whereas the number 66 means “man is confused”. Is that a divinely hilarious coincidence, or what?

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@arthistorians: Maybe Saint Jerome decided that Romans should follow Acts because Acts ends with Paul living in Rome, but my guess is that his decision had more to do with him being an early Roman Catholic. The only other person to put that big a stamp on Roman Catholicism was named “Pope Paul V Borghese”. He tattooed his own name over the front door of Saint Peter’s basilica instead of “Jesus”, or even “Saint Peter”. If you read the Latin inscription carefully, Borghese even calls himself the “prince of apostles”. 🙄

I’m not complaining about this as a Christian, I’m complaining about it as an art historian. I have been to almost every museum in the Western hemisphere, and Saint Peter’s basilica maybe the most beautiful building in the entire world. The scale is monumental. The architecture is masterful. The dome is magnificent. The construction materials are superlative. The frescoes by Giotto, Michelangelo, and Raphael are unparalleled. The sculptures, canopy, throne, and pillars by Bernini are the finest in the world because Bernini is the finest sculptor who ever lived. Even the Gallery of Maps, which should be boring, is the most awe inspiring way to look at a map.

I love the Vatican, but it definitely got tagged by the Borghese family.

I love the Bible, but it definitely got tagged by Saint Jerome.

Before Saint Jerome reorganized the New Testament, Acts was followed by the General Epistles. These books are written for new believers looking to strengthen their fragile faith in Jesus Christ:

  • James

  • 1 Peter

  • 2 Peter

  • 1 John

  • 2 John

  • 3 John

  • Jude

If the Gospels were written for the “bride of Christ”, and Acts is sort of like the wedding reception that teaches us what happens after we’re “married”, doesn’t it make sense that we should hear from the “groomsmen” of the wedding next? James and Jude were the brothers of Jesus. Peter and John were the best friends of Jesus and witnessed his entire ministry. John brags about being the best friend of Jesus so often that it’s almost embarrassing. 😊

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First up is James. James was a real guy, in the real world, who walked the real streets of Jerusalem. His ossuary, or bone box, is the only one ever found that records the name of a brother. It reads, “Ya'akov son of Yosef, brother of Yeshua” or in English, “James son of Joseph, brother of Jesus”. Archaeologists know the entire inscription is original because all the letter grooves still have their ancient patinas.

Here’s how James begins his message to the chosen people of God. This chapter happens to follow the Bible Key, so I’ve included the meaning next to each verse number.

James 1: 1 (begin) James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ:

To the 12 tribes in the Dispersion.


2 (witness) Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, 3 (strong) knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 (creation/completion) But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.

5 (blessing/gift) Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him. 6 (man) But let him ask in faith without doubting. For the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind. 7 (God’s plan) That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 (new life) An indecisive man is unstable in all his ways.

9 (wisdom) The brother of humble circumstances should boast in his exaltation, 10 (new order) but the one who is rich should boast in his humiliation because he will pass away like a flower of the field. 11 (confusion/comparison) For the sun rises with its scorching heat and dries up the grass; its flower falls off, and its beautiful appearance is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will wither away while pursuing his activities.

12 (kingdom) A man who endures trials is blessed, because when he passes the test he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.

13 (rebellion) No one undergoing a trial should say, “I am being tempted by God.” For God is not tempted by evil, and He Himself doesn’t tempt anyone. 14 (God moves) But each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desires. 15 (strong blessing) Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death.

These last two verses use the inverse of the Bible Key, which is why I didn’t highlight any words.

  1. (not) God moves, or man moves

  2. (not) strong blessing, or strong curse

16 (love) Don’t be deceived, my dearly loved brothers. 17 (pour forth) Every generous act and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights; with Him there is no variation or shadow cast by turning. 18 (strong man) By His own choice, He gave us a new birth by the message of truth so that we would be the firstfruits of His creatures.

19 (test) My dearly loved brothers, understand this: Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger, 20 (witness order) for man’s anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness. 21 (strong plan) Therefore, ridding yourselves of all moral filth and evil, humbly receive the implanted word, which is able to save you.

22 (gossip/marketing) But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 (witness strength) Because if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man looking at his own face in a mirror. 24 (kingdom above/witness creation) For he looks at himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. 25 (witness blessing) But the one who looks intently into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but one who does good works—this person will be blessed in what he does.

26 (witness rebellion) If anyone thinks he is religious without controlling his tongue, then his religion is useless and he deceives himself. 27 (strong judgment) Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

When I was writing this story, I went to copy and paste James 1:1 to discuss his “I am a slave to my brother” comment, but the next verse was so much better than what I was going to say that I just kept highlighting. And then the next verse was better than what I was going to say again, 25 more times in a row. James 1 is the best thing I could imagine saying to a brand new believer.

The first important takeaway from this chapter is that James says believers should expect trials in life in order to complete our faith. That’s because our uncertainty is directly related to our faith. The more uncertainty we face in life, the more faith we need to overcome it.

@cybernerds: Did you notice how James calls some people “doubters” in verse 6? Of course we doubt. Every thought we can make will have some measure of doubt in it because our neural networks are based on Bayesian Statistics just like all the other forms of artificial intelligence.

If you want to learn more about Bayesian Statistics and why digital artificial intelligence has to overcome doubt too, check out the first story in this book:

The second important takeaway from James 1 is that Heaven is communist. We talked about this a lot in the previous story, “The Quantum Internet”. In James 1:9, he says that believers of “low position” should be proud. The New Living Translation reads, “Believers who are poor have something to boast about, for God has honored them.”

James says that any Jesus followers who are rich should feel the opposite way. When they die, they will be humiliated. James is so serious about Jesus followers not being rich that he provides another stern warning in his final chapter.

James 5: 1 (begin) Come now, you rich people! Weep and wail over the miseries that are coming on you. 2 (witness) Your wealth is ruined and your clothes are moth-eaten. 3 (strong) Your silver and gold are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You stored up treasure in the last days! 4 (create/complete) Look! The pay that you withheld from the workers who reaped your fields cries out, and the outcry of the harvesters has reached the ears of the Lord of Hosts. 5 (blessing/gift) You have lived luxuriously on the land and have indulged yourselves. You have fattened your hearts for the day of slaughter. 6 (man) You have condemned—you have murdered—the righteous man; he does not resist you.

@richpeople: Poor people do not resist you. They can’t.

Poor people struggle and die every day because rich people make all the budgets. Rich people make all the laws. Rich people pick all the politicians. Rich people pick all the judges. Rich people assign all the credit ratings. Rich people choose where to invest the world’s capital. Rich people influence who gets into college. Rich people choose who gets hired. Rich people even choose where everybody lives by hoarding all the best real estate.

I’m preaching to myself here. The members of my country club decide what happens in my town just like the members of your country club decide what happens in your town. ⛳️

Do you disagree?

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I don’t know how to solve all the world’s inequalities, but my mission for my remaining time on Earth is “to create technologies that empower the underpowered and spread the good news of Jesus Christ”. That’s why I invested a year of my life writing this free online book. My plan is to raise as much money as I can for this foundation so that it continues to help the weakest members of our society long after I’m gone.

My mission might not work for you, but you should strongly consider redeploying your capital in ways that help poor people who can’t afford to pay you back. I’m suggesting that for your sake, as your friend. Remember that story of Ananias and Sapphira dropping dead in Acts 5 because they held back proceeds from the early church? I don’t want you to drop dead—most of your heirs probably want you to drop dead bad enough already. 😁

The last thing to consider about James is that he is the younger brother of Jesus. Just think about that for a moment. James had more opportunity than anyone else on Earth to know if Jesus was a fraud. James would have known if Jesus was disobedient to his parents, or fought other kids at school, or zapped people with his magical powers. James watched his older brother die, come back to life, and then wrote a letter to everyone on Earth claiming that his older brother is his God.

That’s crazy.

Do you have siblings? Can you imagine calling your brother or sister the God of the universe if you didn’t actually believe it?

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Peter lived an amazing life. Peter just somehow knew he lived in the Matrix. Peter watched Jesus walk on water and then was crazy enough to attempt that himself. And it worked. Peter watched Jesus bring people back from the dead and then was crazy enough to attempt that himself in Acts 9. And it worked. I guess we can never know if these things are possible unless we actually try. 🤷‍♂️

Peter writes two letters to young believers intended to grow our faith. Here’s how he begins.

1 Peter: 1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ:

To the temporary residents dispersed in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, chosen 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father and set apart by the Spirit for obedience and for sprinkling with the blood of Jesus Christ. May grace and peace be multiplied to you.

Peter sees all believers as temporary residents of the Earth. He even describes his own body as “a tent” that he will soon lay down.

A Living Hope

3 Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. According to His great mercy, He has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead 4 and into an inheritance that is imperishable, uncorrupted, and unfading, kept in heaven for you. 5 You are being protected by God’s power through faith for a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 You rejoice in this, though now for a short time you have had to struggle in various trials 7 so that the genuineness of your faith—more valuable than gold, which perishes though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 You love Him, though you have not seen Him. And though not seeing Him now, you believe in Him and rejoice with inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 because you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that would come to you searched and carefully investigated. 11 They inquired into what time or what circumstances the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating when He testified in advance to the messianic sufferings and the glories that would follow. 12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you. These things have now been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Angels desire to look into these things.

A Call to Holy Living

13 Therefore, with your minds ready for action, be serious and set your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires of your former ignorance. 15 But as the One who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in all your conduct; 16 for it is written, Be holy, because I am holy.

Throughout both letters, Peter encourages Jesus followers to live a holy life that’s distinct from the rest of the world. He explains why in chapter 2.

1 Peter 2: 1 So rid yourselves of all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all slander. 2 Like newborn infants, desire the pure spiritual milk, so that you may grow by it for your salvation, 3 since you have tasted that the Lord is good. 4 Coming to Him, a living stone—rejected by men but chosen and valuable to God— 5 you yourselves, as living stones, are being built into a spiritual house for a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

Living holy lives without malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, or slander transforms us into “stumbling blocks” for non-believers. It is so unusual to meet people living this way that we cause them to pause and take notice. 🧐

1 Peter 2: 11 Dear friends, I urge you as strangers and temporary residents to abstain from fleshly desires that war against you. 12 Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that in a case where they speak against you as those who do what is evil, they will, by observing your good works, glorify God on the day of visitation.

13 Submit to every human authority because of the Lord, whether to the Emperor as the supreme authority 14 or to governors as those sent out by him to punish those who do what is evil and to praise those who do what is good. 15 For it is God’s will that you silence the ignorance of foolish people by doing good. 16 As God’s slaves, live as free people, but don’t use your freedom as a way to conceal evil. 17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the Emperor.

This is one of the most challenging chapters in the Bible. To live holy lives among the Gentiles, Peter demands that we honor all of our politicians, even the ones we hate. He goes on to encourage slaves to honor evil masters and wives to honor evil husbands. Living this way not only demonstrates the power of God to non-believers, it actually brings us all together.

1 Peter 4: 1 Therefore, since Christ suffered in the flesh, equip yourselves also with the same resolve—because the one who suffered in the flesh has finished with sin— 2 in order to live the remaining time in the flesh, no longer for human desires, but for God’s will. 3 For there has already been enough time spent in doing what the pagans choose to do: carrying on in unrestrained behavior, evil desires, drunkenness, orgies, carousing, and lawless idolatry. 4 So they are surprised that you don’t plunge with them into the same flood of wild living—and they slander you. 5 They will give an account to the One who stands ready to judge the living and the dead.

Peter says we have already had enough time carrying on in unrestrained behavior. Are you still drinking alcohol everyday? What about your other addictions? Do you eat too much? Do you gamble every day? What about tobacco? You may not be into orgies, but do you still watch porn? Those are orgies. Whatever your addictions are, you will have to “suffer in the flesh” to escape them.

I’m not judging because I’ve been addicted to everything at some point in my life. If you want to learn more about addictions and fasting, check out this story from the chapter on neuroscience:

In his second letter, Peter explains how living holy lives and doing good works strengthens the fragile faith of new believers.

2 Peter 1: 3 His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. 4 By these He has given us very great and precious promises, so that through them you may share in the divine nature, escaping the corruption that is in the world because of evil desires. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.

Peter gives us the recipe for growing our faith. Here’s that list again, along with the original greek word and an example:

  • goodness (aretēn) - public morality

  • knowledge (gnōsei) - reading the Bible regularly

  • self-control (enkrateian) - fasting all your addictions

  • perseverance (hypomonēn) - cheerful suffering

  • godliness (eusebeia) - consistent humble prayer

  • mutual affection (philadelphian) - emotionally supporting other believers

  • love (agapēn) - investing time and money into other believers

2 Peter 1: 10 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 12 So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. 13 I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, 14 because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. 15 And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things.

It’s so cool that we can read a personal letter from Peter, who experienced so many amazing adventures during his lifetime. It’s amazing actually—the guy walked on water and brought a person back from the dead. Here’s how he concludes his second letter.

2 Peter 3: 14 Therefore, dear friends, while you wait for these things, make every effort to be found at peace with Him without spot or blemish. 15 Also, regard the patience of our Lord as an opportunity for salvation, just as our dear brother Paul has written to you according to the wisdom given to him. 16 He speaks about these things in all his letters in which there are some matters that are hard to understand.

🤣Agreed—Paul is sometimes hard to understand.

The untaught and unstable twist them to their own destruction, as they also do with the rest of the Scriptures.

17 Therefore, dear friends, since you know this in advance, be on your guard, so that you are not led away by the error of lawless people and fall from your own stability. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

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Each author in the General Epistles addresses new believers in a different way. James calls them “brothers”, Peter calls them “temporary residents”, but John calls them “little children”. He explains why in 1 John 3.

1 John 3: 1 Look at how great a love the Father has given us that we should be called God’s children. And we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it didn’t know Him. 2 Dear friends, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him because we will see Him as He is. 3 And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself just as He is pure.

4 Everyone who commits sin also breaks the law; sin is the breaking of law. 5 You know that He was revealed so that He might take away sins, and there is no sin in Him. 6 Everyone who remains in Him does not sin; everyone who sins has not seen Him or known Him.

Little children, let no one deceive you! The one who does what is right is righteous, just as He is righteous. 8 The one who commits sin is of the Devil, for the Devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God was revealed for this purpose: to destroy the Devil’s works. 9 Everyone who has been born of God does not sin, because His seed remains in him; he is not able to sin, because he has been born of God. 10 This is how God’s children—and the Devil’s children—are made evident. Whoever does not do what is right is not of God, especially the one who does not love his brother.

11 For this is the message you have heard from the beginning: We should love one another, 12 unlike Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil, and his brother’s were righteous. 13 Do not be surprised, brothers, if the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed from death to life because we love our brothers. The one who does not love remains in death. 15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.

Next, John tells us exactly how we can know if we love our brothers. It’s another strong warning for rich people.

1 John 3: 16 This is how we have come to know love: He laid down His life for us. We should also lay down our lives for our brothers. 17 If anyone has this world’s goods and sees his brother in need but closes his eyes to his need—how can God’s love reside in him?

18 Little children, we must not love with word or speech, but with truth and action. 19 This is how we will know we belong to the truth and will convince our conscience in His presence, 20 even if our conscience condemns us, that God is greater than our conscience, and He knows all things.

The verses in 1 John 3 seem to follow the Bible Key as well. Read it again to see if you can figure out how each verse relates to it. My guesses are below:

  1. begin (look)

  2. witness (appears)

  3. strong (pure)

  4. create (commits)

  5. blessing/gift (take away sins)

  6. man (everyone)

  7. God’s plan (who does what is right is righteous)

  8. new life (Son of God revealed)

  9. wisdom (born of God)

  10. organize (are made evident)

  11. confusion/comparison (love one another?)

  12. kingdom (?)

  13. rebellion (world hates you)

  14. God moves (passed from death to life)

  15. strong blessing (eternal life)

  16. love (love)

  17. (not) pour forth (closes his eyes)

  18. strong man (love with action)

  19. test (how we will know)

  20. witness order (he knows all things)

You may be tired of me talking about the Number Key in the Bible, but it’s the strongest evidence that our universe is being influenced by an intelligence way, way smarter than us. 40 different authors use the same Number Key over 1500 years of time.


The last letter of the General Epistles comes from Jude, who is also a younger brother of Jesus. Like James, Peter, and John—Jude also calls himself a “slave” of Jesus. The letter is short and it mostly focuses on teaching new believers how to recognize fake believers.

Jude 1: 1 Jude, a slave of Jesus Christ and a brother of James:

To those who are the called, loved by God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ.

2 May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.

Jude’s Purpose in Writing

3 Dear friends, although I was eager to write you about the salvation we share, I found it necessary to write and exhort you to contend for the faith that was delivered to the saints once for all. 4 For some men, who were designated for this judgment long ago, have come in by stealth; they are ungodly, turning the grace of our God into promiscuity and denying Jesus Christ, our only Master and Lord.

Jude says these people “blaspheme anything they don’t understand. What they know by instinct like unreasoning animals—they destroy themselves”. Here’s how he concludes.

Jude 1: 16 These people are discontented grumblers, walking according to their desires; their mouths utter arrogant words, flattering people for their own advantage. 17 But you, dear friends, remember what was predicted by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; 18 they told you, “In the end time there will be scoffers walking according to their own ungodly desires.” 19 These people create divisions and are unbelievers, not having the Spirit.

20 But you, dear friends, as you build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, expecting the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ for eternal life. 22 Have mercy on those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them from the fire; have mercy on others but with fear, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.

The “garment defiled by the flesh” is the “tent of a body” that each person is living in.

24 Now to Him who is able to protect you from stumbling and to make you stand in the presence of His glory, blameless and with great joy, 25 to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority before all time, now and forever. Amen.

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