How Not to Run a Church

In the Bible, the letters from Paul are much different from those written by James, Peter, John, and Jude. That’s because Paul didn’t follow Jesus during his time here on Earth. In fact, before his conversion, Paul spent most of his time hunting Jesus followers, not encouraging them.

Check out this quote from Paul in first Corinthians.

1 Corinthians 15: 6 After that, [Jesus] appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. 9 For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.”

The original Greek word translated as “persecuted” means “to aggressively chase” or “to hunt down”. Paul felt so guilty about his past that he refers to himself as an apostle who was “abnormally born”. That original Greek word means “miscarriage” or “lifeless abortion”. Paul calls himself an abortion. Paul’s letters can be harsh sometimes because he demands so much from himself and others.

Paul is the 13th apostle because he demonstrates the “strong change” that God can perform in our lives. Paul went from hunting Jesus followers to planting churches for them all over the Mediterranean.

This quote in 1 Corinthians 15 is yet another Biblical reason why the letters of James, Peter, John, and Jude should come before the letters from Paul in the New Testament. Jesus appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and then to Paul. In the original order of the Bible before the Latin Vulgate translation, the letters from James, Peter, John, and Jude are followed by:

  • Romans

  • 1 Corinthians

  • 2 Corinthians

  • Galatians

  • Ephesians

  • Philippians

  • Colossians

  • 1 Thessalonians

  • 2 Thessalonians

  • Hebrews

  • 1 Timothy

  • 2 Timothy

  • Titus

  • Philemon

Like we mentioned in the previous story, “Growing Your Faith”, these letters are in a very specific order based on the spiritual age of the reader. Romans is an open letter to new believers, just like the letters from James, Peter, John, and Jude. But Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians are not written for young believers with a fragile faith, they are written for young churches with a fragile congregation. The letters to the churches are followed by Hebrews, which is an absolute masterclass in rabbinical theology. Finally, Paul writes letters to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon, which discuss topics for elders and church planters.

See how the Bible is written in the spiritual age of the reader, not the chronological age of the universe?


All Roads Lead to Rome

In the opening chapter of Romans, we learn why the Jesus followers in Rome were so important to Paul. Starting in 300 BC, the ancient Romans constructed a massive road network that connected all of Western civilization. 50,000 miles of it was paved with stone. Planet Earth didn't see road construction on this scale again until America’s National Interstate and Defense Highways Act of 1956 (48,000 miles).

Think about that time gap for a moment.

Before social media, before the Internet, before 24-hour news networks, all the information of the world went in and out of Rome.

Romans 1: 7 To all who are in Rome, loved by God, called as saints.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you because the news of your faith is being reported in all the world. 9 For God, whom I serve with my spirit in telling the good news about His Son, is my witness that I constantly mention you, 10 always asking in my prayers that if it is somehow in God’s will, I may now at last succeed in coming to you. 11 For I want very much to see you, so I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you, 12 that is, to be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.

13 Now I want you to know, brothers, that I often planned to come to you (but was prevented until now) in order that I might have a fruitful ministry among you, just as among the rest of the Gentiles. 14 I am obligated both to Greeks and barbarians, both to the wise and the foolish. 15 So I am eager to preach the good news to you also who are in Rome.

Preaching in Rome was a way for Paul to preach to the whole world. If Paul was writing this same letter today, he might address it to “all who are on Twitter” or to “all who are on Facebook”. When Jesus returns to Earth one day, like most Christians and Muslims believe, his return will be live streamed on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Twitch, and YouTube. So, to all who are on the Internet, Paul’s letter to the Romans is a letter to you. 🫵

Romans 1:14 reveals a lot about the purpose of the letter. Paul was obligated to preach to the Greeks, which meant “non-Jews” to Jewish people; and to the barbarians, which meant “non-Romans” to Roman people. So it was Paul’s job to explain the Messiah to people who may not have any background or understanding of the Jewish faith.

The result is one of the most important letters ever written. Just listen to the way some of the greatest theologians in history describe Romans:

  • Martin Luther: This epistle is really the chief part of the New Testament, and is truly the purest gospel. It is worthy not only that every Christian should know it word for word, by heart, but also that he should occupy himself with it every day, as the daily bread of the soul. We can never read it or ponder over it too much; for the more we deal with it, the more precious it becomes and the better it tastes.

  • John Calvin: When any one understands this Epistle, he has a passage opened to him to the understanding of the whole Scripture.

  • J. I. Packer: All roads in the Bible lead to Romans, and all views afforded by the Bible are seen most clearly from Romans, and when the message of Romans gets into a person’s heart there is no telling what may happen.

  • John Piper: Romans is the most important theological, Christian work ever written.

Paul’s letter to the Romans takes about an hour to read in its entirety. I highly encourage everyone to read it for themselves. Don’t wait for your church to read it to you three verses at a time over 52 weeks. Read what all the great theologians are raving about for yourself.

Better yet, listen to it over and over again with sleep headphones. 🎧

Romans has 16 chapters because it teaches us how to love one other. When we love each other, our individual parts become a whole. Let’s quickly have a look at chapter 12, which spells this out for us.

Romans 12: 1 Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.

Many Gifts but One Body

3 For by the grace given to me, I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think. Instead, think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one. 4 Now as we have many parts in one body, and all the parts do not have the same function, 5 in the same way we who are many are one body in Christ and individually members of one another. 6 According to the grace given to us, we have different gifts:

    If prophecy, use it according to the standard of one’s faith; 
    7 if service, in service; 
    if teaching, in teaching;
    8 if exhorting, in exhortation; 
    giving, with generosity; 
    leading, with diligence; 
    showing mercy, with cheerfulness.

Every believer specializes in one or more of these gifts. The original Greek word translated as prophecy means “foretelling” or “predicting”. Exhortation simply means “counseling”.

Next, Paul tells us exactly how to come together as one body.

Romans 12: 9 Love must be without hypocrisy. Detest evil; cling to what is good. 10 Show family affection to one another with brotherly love. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not lack diligence; be fervent in spirit; serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer. 13 Share with the saints in their needs; pursue hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. 16 Be in agreement with one another. Do not be proud; instead, associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own estimation. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Try to do what is honorable in everyone’s eyes. 18 If possible, on your part, live at peace with everyone. 19 Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for His wrath. For it is written:

    Vengeance belongs to Me; 
    I will repay, says the Lord. 
    20 But if your enemy is hungry, 
    feed him. 
    If he is thirsty, 
    give him something to drink. 
    For in so doing 
    you will be heaping fiery coals
    on his head.

21 Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good.

Coming together as one body in Christ is much easier said than done. That’s why Paul says that we have to present ourselves to God as a “living sacrifice” in the first verse. We will have to die a little every day. It will take a lot of work to live at peace with everyone—especially all those Christian democrats or republicans. It will take a lot of work to share with the other saints in need—especially the ones living under bridges. It will take a lot of work to be patient in affliction and persistent in prayer. If it doesn’t feel like work to be a Jesus follower, you are doing it wrong.

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Letters to the Churches

Paul traveled all throughout the Mediterranean planting and growing the first churches. It’s important to understand that a church is not a building, a church is any group of people who follow Jesus. The original Greek word translated as church is “ekklésia”, which literally means people who are “called out” from the rest of the world. Most of these groups met in houses.

Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians are instructional letters from Paul to the groups of Jesus followers meeting in those areas. On the map below, see if you can find the cities of Corinth, Ephesus, Philippi, and Thessalonica. Colossae isn’t on this map, but it’s a small town near Ephesus. Galatia is the region in modern day Turkey that included the cities of Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra.

According to the Bible, Paul traveled to more than 50 cities between Jerusalem and Rome to plant the first churches in his 20+ years of ministry. He spent more than 2 years in Ephesus, which had one of the greatest amphitheaters in antiquity. You can still watch concerts today on the same stage that Paul used to preach the good news of Jesus Christ almost 2,000 years ago. Paul could preach to 24,000 Ephesians, Greeks, barbarians, and Jews—all at the same time.

When you read Paul’s letters to the churches, it’s easy to see that he was the de facto leader of the early Jesus movement. To paraphrase his style, Paul is like, “Do what I’m telling you, and charge it all to my account, because I’m the reason you even exist in the first place”. 🫡

And just when you think he’s conceited, Paul reminds you that he’s a lifeless abortion who hunted Jesus followers. 🤣

That quote is one of the many reasons I believe the Bible is true. Why else would anyone who hunted Jesus followers admit that to a church they just planted? It doesn’t make sense unless it was actually true.

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This story is titled “How Not to Run a Church” because the letters to the churches discuss their various struggles. Nobody knew the “right way” to do “The Way” because they didn’t even have a Bible yet. Many of the first Jesus followers were Jewish, so these churches were founded with Jewish traditions, but the huge influx of Gentiles created chaos and confusion. There was infighting about who was in charge, who was allowed in, and which traditions they should all follow.

Paul was having none of it. In his letter to the Colossians, he writes,

Colossians 3: 11 In Christ there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all.”

See, The Way” to Heaven is egalitarian, which means we are all equal. If you are Christian and you are racist, then you are wrong. In Christ there is not Greek and Jew, there’s no black and white, Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant, slave and free; but Christ is all. That’s it. The Bible says that in whatever way you judge other people, that same judgment will be used unto you. So be careful, you don’t want God to look at you the same way that you look at any of those “inferior people” in your life. Even worse, God may actually treat you the same way that you treat “those people”. 😳

I really enjoy how the Bible threatens all its followers with their own judgment. 😊

Paul points out all kinds of problems in these early churches, not just their racism:

  • The Corinthians struggled to stay united. They had multiple lawsuits against each other. Some members wanted to follow Paul, others wanted to follow Apollos, and the rest wanted to follow Peter.

  • The Galatians struggled with legalism. Some members wanted all the new Gentiles to get circumcised into the faith.

  • The Ephesians struggled with some unruly, foul-mouthed Gentiles.

  • The Philippians struggled with heavy persecution from external adversaries.

  • The Colossians struggled with heresies and false teachings that were a blend of Jewish legalism, pagan mysticism, and asceticism.

  • The Thessalonians struggled with idleness, religious persecution, and confusion over the second coming of Christ. Paul discusses the second coming in both his letters to them.

Like Peter said, Paul can be difficult to understand, but most of the time these letters clarify the technical aspects of our faith. One of my favorite examples of this is the “Fruits of the Flesh” in Galatians 5.

Galatians 5: 16 I say then, walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is against the Spirit, and the Spirit desires what is against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you don’t do what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

@cybernerds: Of course we have two desires within us that are “opposed to each other”. Our neural networks are organized as Generative Adversarial Networks. If you want to learn more about this form of artificial intelligence, check out our previous story:

19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, 21 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar. I tell you about these things in advance—as I told you before—that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, we must also follow the Spirit. 26 We must not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

The Fruits of the Flesh are way more interesting in the original Greek. For example, what is sexual immorality? Sexual immorality is all the weird, kinky sex that other people are having, right? Well the original word written by Paul is “porneia”, which is where we get the English word “pornography”.

Porn is 30-35% of all the data traveling across the Internet right now.


Another interesting Fruit of the Flesh is sorcery. The original Greek word written by Paul is “pharmakeia”, which is where we get the English word “pharmacy”. Pharmakeia means drugs, and not just heroin. Think about it—if you could travel back in time to 1611 and give the translators of the King James Bible a bottle of Advil or Penicillin, they would probably call you a sorcerer. If you gave them Valium or a weed gummy, they might just burn you at the stake.

And for all you high-horse judgers out there who don’t use drugs, coffee is drugs. Beer and wine are drugs. Beer and wine are actually a Fruit of the Flesh. The original Greek word translated as drunkenness is “methai”, which literally means “full of alcohol. Drugs, coffee, beer, and wine are all things that help us cope with the harshness of reality. Check out this quote about methai from the cult of Dionysus, which was a contemporary religion with the early churches planted by Paul.

Let us be merry and drink wine and sing of Bacchus . . . thanks to him Drunkenness (Methe) was brought forth, the Joy (Charis) was born, Pain (Lype) takes rest and Trouble (Ania) goes to sleep.

Isn’t this why we all still love alcohol today—Pain takes a rest and Trouble goes to sleep?

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Another Fruit of the Flesh that is more interesting in Greek is outbursts of anger. The original word written by Paul is “thymoi”, which means “to heat up”. Thymoi gives us the English root word “thermo”, as in thermometer. When we get really angry, and our bodies heat up, that’s a fruit of our flesh.🌡️

Here’s how I translate all the Fruits of the Flesh into English:

  1. sexual immorality (porneia) - using sex workers, physically or virtually

  2. moral impurity (akatharsia) - dirty thoughts

  3. promiscuity (aselgeia) - lewd, public indecency

  4. idolatry (eidōlolatria) - addictions, “mirage slavery”

  5. sorcery (pharmakeia) - drugs

  6. hatreds (echthrai) - hostility, enmity

  7. strife (eris) - argumentative, readiness to quarrel

  8. jealousy (zēlos) - jealous

  9. outbursts of anger (thymoi) - anger, impulsiveness

  10. selfish ambitions (eritheiai) - the seeking of followers

  11. dissensions (dichostasiai) - opinionated, literally to “stand apart”

  12. factions (haireseis) - racism

  13. envy (phthonoi) - schadenfreude, feeling happy when bad things happen to others

  14. drunkenness (methai) - alcoholism

  15. carousing (kōmoi) - partying, revelry, festivals

Ever felt any of those desires coming from your body? I feel them every day. If you want to read more about our natural addictions to sex, drugs, and rock and roll—check out this story from the chapter on neuroscience.

The Spirit of God transforms our minds to help us conquer the flesh. Here are my English translations for the Fruits of the Spirit:

  1. love (agapē) - sacrifice, a cost to you for the benefit of another

  2. joy (chara) - gratitude, thankfulness

  3. peace (eirēnē) - serenity, not needing anything

  4. patience (makrothymia) - long tempered, cool under pressure

  5. kindness (chrēstotēs) - useful, generous with your abilities

  6. goodness (agathōsynē) - good from within

  7. faithfulness (pistis) - persuadable by God

  8. gentleness (prautēs) - meekness, strong power used with elegance

  9. self-control (enkrateia) - mastery from within

So, if the purpose of this life is to teach us all the Knowledge of Good and Evil, these are the two checklists that allow us to know how well we’re doing.

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Masters of Divinity (M. Div.)

If you look at any English Bible, the book that follows 2 Thessalonians is 1 Timothy. But in all the earliest manuscripts of the Bible, Hebrews follows 2 Thessalonians.

If you listen to the Bible in its original order one hundred times in a row, Hebrews will quickly become one of your favorite books because it’s basically the key to the puzzle of the Old Testament. Hebrews explains some very complex rabbinical theology, which is why Paul quotes the Old Testament in 11 of its 13 chapters. Some scholars argue that Hebrews wasn’t written by Paul since the author never identifies himself, but the author of Hebrews is super smart, bossy, and uses a similar closing to the rest of Paul’s letters.

@mathnerds: There’s a reason Hebrews has 13 chapters and Romans has 16. There’s a reason Matthew has 28, Mark has 16, Luke has 24, and John has 21. The Bible is that sophisticated mathematically.

My favorite examples of Hebrews explaining the Old Testament are the stories of Melchizedek in chapter 7, and the Faith Hall of Fame in chapter 11.

Hebrews 7: 1 For this Melchizedek—

    King of Salem, priest of the Most High God, 
    who met Abraham and blessed him 
    as he returned from defeating the kings, 
     2 and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything; 
    first, his name means king of righteousness, 
    then also, king of Salem, 
    meaning king of peace; 
     3 without father, mother, or genealogy, 
    having neither beginning of days nor end of life, 
    but resembling the Son of God— 
    remains a priest forever.

4 Now consider how great this man was—even Abraham the patriarch gave a tenth of the plunder to him! 5 The sons of Levi who receive the priestly office have a command according to the law to collect a tenth from the people—that is, from their brothers—though they have also descended from Abraham. 6 But one without this lineage collected tenths from Abraham and blessed the one who had the promises. 7 Without a doubt, the inferior is blessed by the superior. 8 In the one case, men who will die receive tenths, but in the other case, Scripture testifies that he lives. 9 And in a sense Levi himself, who receives tenths, has paid tenths through Abraham, 10 for he was still within his ancestor when Melchizedek met him.

Okay, that’s an astounding argument.

11 If then, perfection came through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need was there for another priest to appear, said to be in the order of Melchizedek and not in the order of Aaron? 12 For when there is a change of the priesthood, there must be a change of law as well. 13 For the One these things are spoken about belonged to a different tribe. No one from it has served at the altar. 14 Now it is evident that our Lord came from Judah, and Moses said nothing about that tribe concerning priests.

15 And this becomes clearer if another priest like Melchizedek appears, 16 who did not become a priest based on a legal command concerning physical descent but based on the power of an indestructible life. 17 For it has been testified:

    You are a priest forever 
    in the order of Melchizedek.

18 So the previous command is annulled because it was weak and unprofitable 19 (for the law perfected nothing), but a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God.

20 None of this happened without an oath. For others became priests without an oath, 21 but He became a priest with an oath made by the One who said to Him:

    The Lord has sworn, 
    and He will not change His mind, 
    You are a priest forever.

22 So Jesus has also become the guarantee of a better covenant.

23 Now many have become Levitical priests, since they are prevented by death from remaining in office. 24 But because He remains forever, He holds His priesthood permanently. 25 Therefore, He is always able to save those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to intercede for them.

26 For this is the kind of high priest we need: holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. 27 He doesn’t need to offer sacrifices every day, as high priests do—first for their own sins, then for those of the people. He did this once for all when He offered Himself. 28 For the law appoints as high priests men who are weak, but the promise of the oath, which came after the law, appoints a Son, who has been perfected forever.

🫠 Has your brain melted?

This is what the whole book of Hebrews is like. It’s very rabbinical. Hebrews 7 teaches us that Melchizedek is the high priest of God who is without a beginning, or ending, or genealogy. Melchizedek is the opposite of the “corrupt high priest” we learned about in Ezekiel 28.

You can learn more about the corrupt high priest in:

Hebrews 7:26 says Melchizedek is the kind of high priest that we all need: holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners, and exalted above all the heavens. See, Jesus isn’t just a movement here on Earth, Jesus is a movement across the whole multiverse. Treating (or trading) your neighbor as yourself is a movement across the heavens and above the heavens. That’s the only way for all the heavens to find peace. The inferior is blessed by the superior because Heaven is communist, I’ve pointed that out several times in this chapter. Do you actually think there are rich people and poor people in Heaven?

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Just think about what Christians say when we recite our Lord’s prayer every day: Our Father in Heaven, holy is your name. Your kingdom come, YOUR WILL BE DONE ON EARTH, as it is in Heaven. What is God’s will? Peace, in the order of Melchizedek. When Jesus returns to this Earth one day, there will be 1,000 years of what? Peace, in the order of Melchizedek.

My other favorite example of Hebrews explaining the Old Testament is chapter 11, which is often called the “Faith Hall of Fame”.

Hebrews 11: 1 Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen. 2 For our ancestors won God’s approval by it. 3 By faith we understand that the universe was created by God’s command, so that what is seen has been made from things that are not visible.

🤯. This statement is more profound than it looks at first glance. You can read more about how the visible is made from the invisible in:

By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was approved as a righteous man, because God approved his gifts, and even though he is dead, he still speaks through his faith.

Will the faith you demonstrate on Earth still speak after you are dead?

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By faith Enoch was taken away so he did not experience death, and he was not to be found because God took him away. For prior to his removal he was approved, since he had pleased God. 6 Now without faith it is impossible to please God, for the one who draws near to Him must believe that He exists and rewards those who seek Him.

By faith Noah, after he was warned about what was not yet seen and motivated by godly fear, built an ark to deliver his family. By faith he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.

Rejecting this world as a lie seems to be a common theme in the Bible.


By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed and went out to a place he was going to receive as an inheritance. He went out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he stayed as a foreigner in the land of promise, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, coheirs of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

11 By faith even Sarah herself, when she was unable to have children, received power to conceive offspring, even though she was past the age, since she considered that the One who had promised was faithful. 12 Therefore from one man—in fact, from one as good as dead—came offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven and as innumerable as the grains of sand by the seashore.

13 These all died in faith without having received the promises, but they saw them from a distance, greeted them, and confessed that they were foreigners and temporary residents on the earth. 14 Now those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they were thinking about where they came from, they would have had an opportunity to return. 16 But they now desire a better place—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.

Are you a temporary resident on the earth?

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17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac. He received the promises and he was offering his unique son, 18 the one it had been said about, Your seed will be traced through Isaac. 19 He considered God to be able even to raise someone from the dead, and as an illustration, he received him back.

@mathnerds: Verse 19 describes Abraham’s biggest test.

20 By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come. 21 By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and he worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff. 22 By faith Joseph, as he was nearing the end of his life, mentioned the exodus of the Israelites and gave instructions concerning his bones.

23 By faith, after Moses was born, he was hidden by his parents for three months, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they didn’t fear the king’s edict. 24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter 25 and chose to suffer with the people of God rather than to enjoy the short-lived pleasure of sin. 26 For he considered the reproach because of the Messiah to be greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, since his attention was on the reward.

How are you choosing to suffer for your faith?

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27 By faith he left Egypt behind, not being afraid of the king’s anger, for Moses persevered as one who sees Him who is invisible. 28 By faith he instituted the Passover and the sprinkling of the blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn might not touch the Israelites. 29 By faith they crossed the Red Sea as though they were on dry land. When the Egyptians attempted to do this, they were drowned.

30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after being encircled by the Israelites for seven days. 31 By faith Rahab the prostitute received the spies in peace and didn’t perish with those who disobeyed.

32 And what more can I say? Time is too short for me to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets, 33 who by faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the raging of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, gained strength after being weak, became mighty in battle, and put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received their dead—they were raised to life again. Some men were tortured, not accepting release, so that they might gain a better resurrection, 36 and others experienced mockings and scourgings, as well as bonds and imprisonment.

37 They were stoned, they were sawed in two, they died by the sword, they wandered about in sheepskins, in goatskins, destitute, afflicted, and mistreated. 38 The world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and on mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground.

39 All these were approved through their faith, but they did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, so that they would not be made perfect without us.

Some of these men were stoned, sawn in half, or refused to accept release from torture to gain a better resurrection. That’s incredible. See, that’s why these people are all in the Faith Hall of Fame and we are not. I don’t know how God is personally challenging your faith right now, but I’m sure he is. So remember, “without faith it is impossible to please God, for the one who draws near to Him must believe that He exists and rewards those who seek Him.”

Share this story with someone who has faith worthy of the Hebrews Hall of Fame.


Church Elders and Church Growers

The last letters from Paul were written to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon. These letters are written for elders and church planters—people who have already mastered all the prior material in the Bible. In these letters, Paul explains how to find and develop the human capital needed to sustain a local church. Here’s an example in 1 Timothy 3.

1 Timothy 3: 1 This saying is trustworthy: “If anyone aspires to be an overseer, he desires a noble work.” 2 An overseer, therefore, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, self-controlled, sensible, respectable, hospitable, an able teacher, 3 not addicted to wine, not a bully but gentle, not quarrelsome, not greedy— 4 one who manages his own household competently, having his children under control with all dignity. 5 (If anyone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of God’s church?) 6 He must not be a new convert, or he might become conceited and fall into the condemnation of the Devil. 7 Furthermore, he must have a good reputation among outsiders, so that he does not fall into disgrace and the Devil’s trap.

Deacons, likewise, should be worthy of respect, not hypocritical, not drinking a lot of wine, not greedy for money, 9 holding the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 And they must also be tested first; if they prove blameless, then they can serve as deacons. 11 Wives, too, must be worthy of respect, not slanderers, self-controlled, faithful in everything. 12 Deacons must be husbands of one wife, managing their children and their own households competently. 13 For those who have served well as deacons acquire a good standing for themselves, and great boldness in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.

Paul’s letter to Titus is similar to this. Philemon, on the other hand, was already running a church in his house. Paul simply requests that Philemon keep an open mind about a man named Onesimus, who may have caused problems for Philemon’s church in the past.

Philemon 1: 8 For this reason, although I have great boldness in Christ to command you to do what is right, 9 I appeal to you, instead, on the basis of love. I, Paul, as an elderly man and now also as a prisoner of Christ Jesus, 10 appeal to you for my son, Onesimus. I fathered him while I was in chains. 11 Once he was useless to you, but now he is useful both to you and to me. 12 I am sending him back to you as a part of myself. 13 I wanted to keep him with me, so that in my imprisonment for the gospel he might serve me in your place. 14 But I didn’t want to do anything without your consent, so that your good deed might not be out of obligation, but of your own free will. 15 For perhaps this is why he was separated from you for a brief time, so that you might get him back permanently, 16 no longer as a slave, but more than a slave—as a dearly loved brother. He is especially so to me, but even more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.

In the original order of the Bible, Philemon is the last book before the Revelation.

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