Paul is my favorite character out of all the stories in the Bible. He wrote most of the New Testament. Paul was brilliant, articulate and had a encyclopedic memory. But all his smarts got him into trouble, inflated his pride and people died because of it. His vendetta against Jews that followed Jesus was murderous.

Then everything changed as he traveled on the road to Damascus. Jesus appeared to him and stopped in his self-righteous tracks. In his thirties, Paul’s life was significantly transformed. Against all odds, this strict Pharisee became a Christ-follower and a Christ- preacher from Jerusalem to Rome.

Originally named after the first king of Israel, Saul, he was renamed Paul -- which means “small.”

Here are some others reasons I am drawn to Paul --

● Paul kept on going. Indeed he was humbled and then became a beloved missionary of Jesus’ good news. Humiliation did not destroy him, but actually improved him. Humility brought Paul to highly value love -- especially in the local church.

● Paul knew himself and had come to terms with himself. Check out Romans 7.

● Paul was a scrapper. He pushed back at his detractors and betrayers. And there were plenty of them who wanted to do him personal damage, even death. I love his truthfulness that blasts those who were doing the church damage. Like Jesus, Paul was at times sarcastic and combative (2 Corinthians 10:8). He put the Apostle Peter, one of the most revered Christian disciples, in his place (Galatians 2:11). Paul could confront people, and he did!

● Paul loved people. He was a thankful man, because all of the love that he experienced during his missionary travels. “But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord. . .” (2 Thessalonians 2:13). He remembered names. Check out all the names he recalled in Romans 16. In a farewell meeting he wept with the Ephesian elders on a beach. This man knew how to cry, grieve, and be human.

● Paul came to terms with the bigness and intimacy of God. To Paul God was truly in charge of the universe. Everything was planned by Lord of Heaven and Earth. For Paul, nothing held God back. God was able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20) in very personal or in cosmically large ways.

● Paul was crystal clear about Jesus. He did not mince words. “The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). Jesus was clearly the only Savior of the world.

● Paul was unafraid to deal with difficult issues. Whether is was gender roles, other religions, dress, sex, divorce, speaking in tongues, predestination, hell, money, politics. . .Paul could speak on any controversy. He was informed and courageous.

● Paul had skin in the game. He underwent all sorts of discomfort and rejection. When he encouraged church members to persevere through rough times, he knew what he was talking about. “We commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger. . .” (2 Corinthians 6:4-5).

● Paul was open to whatever or to whomever God presented to him. He traveled the Roman world. He visited the capitals of the Empire. He was the most influential Christian of all time - with the exception of Jesus himself -- and took the gospel beyond the Jews. He discipled and worked with men and women in ministry from Asia Minor to Rome. By sea and by land he went. He had a first row seat into how powerful, cross cultural, and international the gospel was.

To me Paul was a genuine human being who was deeply moved by love and frequently challenged by this life. He has much to teach us all.