Great Men of the Bible: Paul

, by Christopher D. Hudson

Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength. Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus.

Paul’s life displays God’s ability to transform a person from a persecutor of the church to one of its most effective missionaries. Paul’s ministry spans many years, geographically covering almost the entire Roman Empire and thirteen books of the New Testament (Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, Philemon, Titus, and 1 and 2 Timothy) are attributed to Paul.

Paul, known as Saul before his repentance, is born in Tarsus (Acts 22:3), an important city in the Roman Empire. Paul is thoroughly Jewish, but his birthplace affords him the privileges of Roman citizenship, something he later uses to his advantage in sharing the gospel (Acts 16:12 – 40; 22:24 – 29; 23:23 – 24; 25:11 – 12).

As a young man, Paul is actively involved in persecuting the early church and imprisoning Christians for their faith (Acts 8:3; 9:1 – 2; Philippians 3:6). He is present and complicit when the first Christian martyr, Stephen, is stoned to death (Acts 7:58). As a member of the conservative Pharisee sect of Jews (Acts 23:6; Philippians 3:5), Paul attains a high level of theological education studying under Gamaliel, a well-known rabbi (Acts 22:3).

As Paul travels to the city of Damascus to arrest Christians, a light from heaven flashes around him. He hears a voice from heaven ask, “Saul, why do you persecute me?” This encounter with Christ leaves Paul blinded. When a Christian named Ananias prays for Paul, his sight is restored. Paul is then baptized and spends time with the disciples in Damascus (Acts 9:2 – 19).

Shortly after his repentance, Paul goes to the desert area of Arabia and returns to Damascus (Galatians 1:15 – 20). He spends three years there before returning to the cities of Asia Minor. Paul’s bold preaching and his repentance from persecuting Christians becomes widely known in the region, making him a target for church persecutors. A group of Jews attempts to kill him in Damascus (Acts 9:23 – 25), causing him to flee to Jerusalem.

When Paul arrives in Jerusalem, many Christians fear and do not trust him. Then Barnabas, a well-respected disciple who would later accompany Paul on his first mission, meets Paul and convinces the church that his repentance is genuine (Acts 9:27).

Paul goes on to become the greatest missionary of the early church. He takes four missionary journeys, founding, establishing, and teaching churches throughout the Roman Empire. As such, he becomes the apostle to the Gentiles, or the non-Jews. His letters instructing, correcting, and encouraging these churches and the leaders he appoints over them comprise a large percentage of the New Testament.

Paul endures many hardships during his ministry. He is persecuted, stoned, arrested, beaten, shipwrecked, and imprisoned. He preaches the gospel both when he is free and when he is imprisoned. He is ultimately sent to Rome, where, according to church tradition, he is executed by beheading because of his faith in Jesus Christ. 

This blog post has been adapted from The Most Significant People, Places, and Events in the Bible. You can learn more about it here.

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Great Men of the Bible: Simon Peter

, by Christopher D. Hudson

And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.

Simon Peter is a fisherman on the Sea of Galilee when he meets Jesus. Peter’s brother, Andrew, first hears John the Baptist declare Jesus as “God’s Chosen One” (John 1:34). Andrew immediately runs to find Peter and tells him they have found the Messiah. Jesus then meets them on the shore and calls Peter to leave behind his fishing nets and follow him to “fish for people” (John 1:35 – 42; Luke 5:1 – 11).

During his ministry, Jesus often travels with only Peter, James, and John. Because of this, Peter  experiences many miracles. For example, Peter is present when Jesus raises a synagogue leader’s daughter from the dead (Luke 8:51 – 56). Peter is one of the few to witness Jesus speaking with Moses and Elijah. During this experience, Peter also hears God affirm that Jesus is his Son (Mark 9:2 – 7).

In many instances, Peter acts as a courageous disciple. When the disciples see Jesus walking on the water and mistake him for a ghost, Peter has the boldness to come when Christ calls him. He begins to walk on the water, too (Matthew 14:22 – 31). When Jesus asks his disciples who they believe he is, Peter is the first to answer. He proclaims that Jesus is “the Messiah, the Son of the Living God” (Matthew 16:16). It is here that Jesus gives Simon the name Cephas (in Hebrew) or Peter (in Greek), meaning “rock” (Matthew 16:18).

While Peter is a key leader in Jesus’ inner circle, he also has his struggles. For example, Peter debates with Jesus about whether the Messiah must suffer and die (Matthew 16:21 – 23). In addition, though Peter says he will never forsake Jesus, he denies Jesus three times after Jesus is arrested (Mark 14:27 – 31, 69 – 72).

After Jesus dies and rises from the dead, he speaks with Peter. Though Peter feels great shame for denying Jesus, Jesus forgives him and reaffirms Peter’s calling to tend and feed God’s flock (John 21:15 – 19) before ascending to heaven.

Later, Peter is with the other disciples on the day of Pentecost as the Holy Spirit is released. That day, Peter preaches a message that leads 3,000 people to follow Christ (Acts 2). Peter’s ministry is marked by miracles, including healings (Acts 3:1 – 10; 5:12 – 16; 9:32 – 35) and raising a girl from the dead (Acts 9:36 – 41). Peter is arrested twice for preaching about Jesus (Acts 4:1 – 4; 12:3 – 5) and is freed from his second imprisonment by an angel (Acts 12:3 – 19).

This blog post has been adapted from The Most Significant People, Places, and Events in the Bible. You can learn more about the book here.

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The Love of Children and Parents

, by Christopher D. Hudson

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise—“so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. 

[[The following is an excerpt from the A Teen's Guide to the 5 Love Languages. Thanks to Moody Publishers for the permission to reprint the following]].

Breaking news: parents and teenagers don’t have to clash on everything. It’s not a moral or legal obligation. Some people expect that the parent-teen relationship will be strained, and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. While that stretch of time before you leave home can have its share of explosions, as you’re asserting your independence and your parents are weaning their control of your life and decisions, it doesn’t have to be filled with tension, arguments, and disrespect. So if you’re at peace with your parents, don’t start a nuclear war on principle.

Instead, use peacetime for diplomacy. One of the best strategies for building your relationship with your parents is this sneaky little word: honor. One of God’s original, top ten rules is “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.

Ideally, love should flow from parent to child. When this consistently takes place and children genuinely feel loved, it is easy for them to honor their parents. However, kids who felt unloved, abandoned, or abused may struggle to honor their parents. Understandably.

Honoring your parents DOES NOT

1. mean painting over the past, pretending it didn’t happen;
2. mean placing yourself in a position for more abuse (it’s important to make and keep wise boundaries);
3. instantly heal a strained relationship;
4. suggest taking responsibility for your parents or even for the parent-child relationship.

But honor DOES enhance a good relationship and breathe some life back into a dying one. When you choose to honor your parents, you pick out something specific and genuine that they did well for you, and you publicly thank and acknowledge them for that.

We may feel deeply hurt by our parents. We may feel abandoned, disappointed, frustrated, and even depressed, but we can still express love to them. Love is an attitude that takes action.

For more information about the Teen’s Guide, visit
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Love Is

, by Christopher D. Hudson

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 

[[The following is an excerpt from the A Teen's Guide to the 5 Love Languages. Thanks to Moody Publishers for the permission to reprint the following]].

The feeling of being in love doesn’t last.

Well, you might argue, that might be true for other people, but not for me. You don’t know what my relationship is like. False. No exceptions. This is an ironclad, biological/emotional/psychological fact: the high of being in love does not last. For most people, that feeling you get (like a high) from being newly in love lasts up to two years. Maybe less. After that, the emotions calibrate toward normal, and you have to make a decision: Do you scrap the relationship and move on to the next emotional high, or do you figure out what real love looks like?

Now I’m not saying you should date the same person for ten years just to prove you’re not a quitter. There’s no prize for gutting it out in the wrong dating relationship. Depending on your dating philosophy (likely colored by your parents’ advice), you may find that dating different people helps you learn a lot about yourself and how to navigate relationships. I’m not arguing for being betrothed (old-school engagement) at age fourteen. What I am saying is that once you land in a long-term relationship,  whether that’s at age 18 or 28 or 58, if you want it to last, then you must have realistic expectations.

Those expectations are rooted in a true definition of love. Love isn’t two starry-eyed lovers being drawn together by a magical, gravitational force, while a romantic soundtrack plays in the background. Love is not a feeling; it’s a choice. Love isn’t about getting everything you want and need and making sure you always feel happy. Love is a choice to meet someone else’s needs, to sacrifice for another, to want what’s best for the other—even when it’s hard.

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What Does Service Look Like?

, by Christopher D. Hudson

When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 

[[The following is an excerpt from the A Teen's Guide to the 5 Love Languages. Thanks to Moody Publishers for the permission to reprint the following]].

Want to know what service looks like? Take a look at the Master. It was the very last night of Jesus’ life on earth. He knew what was coming: betrayal, trial, torture, and death. He spent His last evening with the disciples.

Now if you knew you were on death row, wouldn’t you treat your last few hours as if they were all about you? You might invite your friends over to keep you company, ask your mom to make your favorite meal, make your siblings do your every whim so you could relax and face death with dignity.

Not Jesus. Knowing it was His last night, He spent it serving His disciples. “Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.” Jesus showed them love by a dramatic act of service. Mid-dinner, Jesus stood up, wrapped a towel around His waist, took a basin of water, and washed each disciple’s feet.

What a repulsive job. Back in the day, people wore open sandals, walked on dusty roads (shared by animals), and bathed infrequently. Their feet were caked with sweat and dirt. Gross. Jesus—their Teacher and Lord—was the One who got low and served.

He washed all twenty-four feet. Even Judas’s. Even though Jesus knew Judas was about to betray Him. And when He finished, He asked them, “Do you understand what I have done for you?” Blank stares from the disciples, still in shock over the foot-washing. “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”

Get it? Love serves.

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Serving Others

, by Christopher D. Hudson

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 

[[The following is an excerpt from the A Teen's Guide to the 5 Love Languages. Thanks to Moody Publishers for the permission to reprint the following]].

When it comes to Acts of Service, you’re not judged by the amount of time you put in or even by how hard you work. You’re judged by your effectiveness—the impact you make on the person you love.

Think of it this way. A starting pitcher in baseball may work on his delivery constantly, making sure the release point of his off-speed pitches matches that of his fastball. He may take hundreds of extra ground balls and line drives after practice in a quest to field his position better. He may study hours of film every week, learning the tendencies of various batters.

In the end, though, he’s judged by one criterion: Does he get people out? If the answer is no, then it doesn’t matter how long or hard he worked in practice. What matters is the impact he has in the game.

This lesson applies in service. We don’t show love by doing every little slave task available each day. That’s working too hard—at the wrong tasks. To fill the love tanks of our people, we have to serve selectively, considering what will have the most impact, taking the initiative to serve in the way that will be meaningful to the other, and serving with the right attitude.

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Supporting Others

, by Christopher D. Hudson

Your words have supported those who stumbled; you have strengthened faltering knees. 

[[The following is an excerpt from the A Teen's Guide to the 5 Love Languages. Thanks to Moody Publishers for the permission to reprint the following]].

There’s one dialect of gift giving that is intangible but highly important: the gift of self, or the gift of presence. Physically being there when your loved one needs you speaks loudly to the person whose primary love language is Gifts.

Don’t underestimate the tremendous power of presence. Physical presence in the time of crisis is the most powerful gift you can give; not only are you physically there, but your being present is a symbol of your love. Remove the symbol, and the sense of love evaporates. For the Gifts person in your life—when crisis strikes, show up.

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Giving Freely

, by Christopher D. Hudson

For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us. 

[[The following is an excerpt from the A Teen's Guide to the 5 Love Languages. Thanks to Moody Publishers for the permission to reprint the following]].

A gift is a tangible object that communicates “I was thinking about you. I wanted you to have this. I love you.”

This is universal and timeless. Anthropologists have never discovered a culture in which gift giving is not an expression of love. Giving gifts is one of the fundamental languages of love.

Some gifts only last for a few hours. Remember picking a dandelion (or your neighbor’s tulips) to give to your mom? The gift quickly wilted, but the memory has undoubtedly stayed with your mom for years. Other gifts endure for a lifetime, even outlasting the giver—your grandmother’s simple gold wedding band or your grandfather’s type from his printing press. What’s priceless is not the gift itself but the emotional love that was communicated by the gift. The right gift is any token, big or small, that conveys the giver’s love.

Our English word gift is derived from the Greek word charis, which means “grace” or “an undeserved gift.” By its very nature, a gift is not payment for services rendered. When someone offers, “I will give you __________ if you will __________,” this person is striking a deal, not offering a gift. A gift has no strings attached—if it does, it ceases to be a gift.

Nor is a gift a substitute for an apology or restitution. You can’t cheat on your girlfriend and then buy her flowers. Roses don’t cover a multitude of sins. You can’t scream at your brother and then buy him a Frappuccino to make it up to him. You can’t break curfew but unload the dishwasher and expect your relationship with your mom to be kosher. A gift is a gift only when given as a genuine expression of love, not as an effort to cover over past failures.

A gift is a visual symbol of love. The gift can be any size, shape, color, or price. It may be purchased, found, or made. To the individual whose primary love language is Gifts, the cost of the gift doesn’t matter. You can purchase a designer card or make a homemade card from recycled paper—as long as it reflects your thought and the recipient’s taste, then it’s meaningful.

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Quality Conversations

, by Christopher D. Hudson

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. 

The following is an excerpt from the A Teen's Guide to the 5 Love Languages. Thanks to Moody Publishers for the permission to reprint the following excerpt.

Some people are rotten listeners. They listen just long enough to get the topic of the conversation and then proceed to tell you all their stories tied to that topic. Give them any conversation thread, and within minutes, they can spin that conversation so it’s all about them. How much do you enjoy talking to self-centered people like that? And then there are the fix-it people. If you start to describe a personal struggle, these friends give you a tidy solution. They’re skilled at analyzing problems and proposing solutions but not at sympathetic listening. . .

Want to hone your skills as a listener? Try these practical ideas.

1. Maintain eye contact. This keeps your mind from wandering and communicates that the person has your full attention. No eye rolling, staring vacantly into space, or people watching.

2. Avoid multitasking. No listening + texting + driving + cooking +finishing your essay. Remember, Quality Time involves giving someone your undivided attention. If you’re in the middle of something, tell it like it is rather than faking it. “I’m interested in what you’re saying. I’m super focused on __________ right now and can’t give you my full attention. Can we pause this conversation for ten minutes?” That’s a far more elegant approach than half-listening.

3. Listen for feelings. Listen not just for events but also for emotions. When you think you’re tracking, confirm it: “It sounds like you are feeling disappointed because of . . .” or “I hear your anger.” This gives the speaker the chance to clarify his feelings and confirms that you’re listening intently to what’s being said.

4. Observe body language. Some researchers claim communication is 93 percent nonverbal and only 7 percent verbal. Others slice that number differently, but the consensus is this: content is dwarfed by tone. As you read the other person’s body language, again ask for clarification: “You said you miss him, but you look mad. Do you have mixed feelings?”

5. Don’t interrupt. If you interrupt someone to interject your own ideas, you derail her train of thought, and she may never reach her destination. Even if you feel like you need to defend yourself or set the other person straight, zip it. Your goal? To understand, not to be right or to give advice.

6. Ask reflective questions. When you think you understand what the person is saying, check it out by reflecting back what you’re hearing, like this: “What I hear you saying is __________. Is that correct?” Reflective listening allows you to confirm or correct your perception of the person’s message.

7. Express empathy. The speaker needs to know that you get it. Let’s say Noah is venting to Rachel about their yearbook sponsor. As one of the editors this year, Noah is investing a ton of his free time in yearbook, in addition to the yearbook class period every day. By empathizing, Rachel is affirming Noah’s sense of worth and legitimizing his feelings.

8. Ask if there’s anything you can do to help. Key distinction: offer your services rather than tell the person what to do. Noah doesn’t want advice. He just needs his friend to be supportive when he vents. If he’s stumped and asks for advice, then Rachel could share ideas. No unsolicited advice!

Quality conversations take time and thought. In fact, you’ll spend twice as much time listening as talking. The payoff, though, is enormous. By listening well, you make the other person feel respected, understood, and loved—which is the goal of quality conversation.

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A Gentle Answer

, by Christopher D. Hudson

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. 

The following is an excerpt from the A Teen's Guide to the 5 Love Languages. Thanks to Moody Publishers for the permission to reprint the following excerpt.

What we say matters a lot; how we say it matters just as much, if not more. Sometimes our words are saying one thing but our tone of voice is saying another. That’s a double message. People usually interpret our meaning based on our tone of voice, not only the words we use.

If your friend says in a sarcastic tone, “I would love to go running with you on the lakefront path,” you won’t hear a genuine invitation in those words. (“Ummm . . . no thanks,” you’d reply.)

On the other hand, you can hear even a hard message if it’s delivered in a kind tone: “I felt disappointed that you didn’t invite me to go running with you.” In this case, the person speaking wants to be known by the other person and is trying to build authenticity into their relationship. (The natural response: “I’m sorry, I didn’t realize you wanted to go. Want to run together tomorrow?”)

How we speak is so important. An ancient sage once said, “A gentle answer turns away wrath.” When a friend lashes out at you verbally, if you answer gently, the heat simmers down. You’ll be able to hear what the person is saying, empathize, apologize if needed, or calmly explain your perspective. You won’t assume your point of view is the only way to interpret what’s happened. That response shows maturity. Mature love speaks kindly.

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