Holy Kisses, Holy Hugs, and Holy Elbow Bumps

Holy Kisses, Holy Hugs, and Holy Elbow Bumps

“By this shall all men know that you are my disciples because you love one another” (John 13:35). Love is seen in the way we react to each other as we meet and then as we later leave. The love of the father for the prodigal son was visibly seen as he rushed toward him. What did the father do to the barefooted son in ragged clothes who had been among the swine? He embraced him and kissed him. Contrast this with how the older brother reacted.

holy kiss

What came after?

When Paul spoke of greeting one another with a holy kiss, he was not instituting a new form of greeting. Some focus only on the kiss, while Paul’s emphasis was on the nature of the kiss. The kiss of Judas in Gethsemane was far removed from being holy—it was hypocritical.

Kissing is only one way to greet. It varies in different cultures. Some reverently bow toward the other person with folded hands. In other places, there is kissing on the cheeks—either one or both. Then, there are those where greetings are shown by rubbing one’s nose against another’s. How each of these is done can show respect, honor or love. Paul’s emphasis was not on the kiss, but its genuine sincerity.

It is interesting to note how often the Bible talks about what happened after the kiss. Joseph revealed himself to his brethren. The text says he embraced Benjamin, kissed all his brothers and “…after that his brothers talked with him” (Gen. 45:14). The kiss was just the beginning. It was what followed that really showed his heart. Think again of the kiss of Judas and what followed.

In Acts 21, Paul arrived in Jerusalem and greeted the elders. What happened next? “He told in detail the things God had done among the Gentiles.” The emphasis is not on the greeting but what followed. Paul greeted in writings. He greeted 24 people in just 13 verses in Romans 16. Culture often determines the nature of the greeting. The heart determines how sincere it is.

We see genuine brotherly love so often. Think of what spontaneously happens after one is baptized and is welcomed into the kingdom. You see it again when one is restored. It is seen in the compassion at funerals.

In recent days, we have experienced new ways of greeting. In view of the contagious virus, there are still shaking hands or embracing others. Far more will bump fists—where did that come from? Some teens bump toes as they greet. Who would have ever thought Americans would ever greet by bumping elbows! Remember there are holy kisses, holy hugs, holy fists, and holy elbows. It is what follows the greetings that matters!

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Enlightened, Empowered, Lost

Enlightened, Empowered, Lost

Dear friend, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen you smile. Oh, I see you “smiling” in social media posts, but there is a distinct difference in your smile today, versus 2-3 years ago. You’ve lost that spark that used to light up your entire face. There is a bitterness and hardness in your posts that makes me sad. It seems that you have gone off to college and have been “enlightened” by professors who want you to have a more open mind, and in the process, you have turned your back on almost everything you were taught when you were younger. And that “enlightenment” has brought with it a dark cloud that hovers over you.

enlightened girl

Enlightened by the world, but not God?

You now champion the pro-choice movement. You protest at Black Lives Matter rallies. You demand gender equality in everything. Your posts center around things like being empowered, toxic masculinity, and white privilege. You have surrounded yourself with likeminded liberal friends and have stopped talking to the Christians you grew up with. And, sadly, your relationship with God has grown cold. It’s painfully obvious to anyone who has known you for a few years.

I realize that according to your college courses I am a big part of the “problem.” I am a conservative white male, which according to some of your professors ranks me just slightly above being a terrorist. And I also realize that you are likely not to pay much attention to what I say because I am a white male.

However, I would beg you for just a few minutes to focus on a single word: soul. Do your newfound political alliances enrich the soul God gave you? Do your friends honestly care about where your soul will spend eternity? Do your professors that are filling your head with all of this new liberal information even believe you have a soul? If you died tonight, where would your soul spend eternity? When is the last time you thought about your own soul?

Deep down in the recesses of your mind you know the evidence is there that Jesus walked the earth. You know the tomb was empty. You probably even miss some of the songs you grew up singing. Please reconsider the path you have started down.

You probably suspect I am going to make this plea about “us” versus “them.” That’s not my goal. I am a sinner, just like your new friends… and so my goal is not to have you pick sides—my goal is to rekindle your love with the only person who has walked this earth who was not a sinner—Jesus Christ. It’s not about whether I agree politically with your new ideology. It’s not about taking “sides.” It’s about whether we can be united in Christ, and redeemed by His blood.

Yes, I will freely admit to you that the church has not gotten everything right. I will admit there are hypocrites in the church (just like there are in all groups). Hypocrites (and everyone else) need the blood of Jesus! I will even admit that I grew up in an educational system that emphasized the accomplishments of white men. But none of that changes the very real fact that you and I need Jesus. He (and He alone) is the source of true peace, joy, and salvation.

I beg you to take some time over the next few days and think about your soul. Think about your inner peace and where your allegiance is. Consider how much true joy and happiness you have in your life. And then ask yourself, am I on His side—because at the end of the day that is the only side that matters. I hope you will think on these things.

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LA MUERTE EN LA VENTANA

LA MUERTE EN LA VENTANA

Recientemente observé en los pasillos de Walmart un libro; el titulado “La mujer en la ventana”. No tengo ni la más mínima idea de que trata el libro, sin embargo inmediatamente me hizo pensar en el profeta Jeremías y su pluma cuando dijo: “Porque la muerte ha subido por nuestras ventanas, ha entrado en nuestros palacios, para exterminar a los niños de las calles, a los jóvenes de las plazas.” (Jr.9:21).

Ventana mujer

LA MUERTE EN LA VENTANA

Jeremías era un hombre verdaderamente excepcional. Nadie más podía ser tan fuerte en carácter y tan amoroso al mismo tiempo para predicar tan claro y vivido a la gente de su tiempo más que él. Sin embargo, no importa lo que Jeremías podía hacer con Dios, sino lo que Dios podía hacer con Jeremías. Ninguna educación elevada, salud o Riqueza podía salvar al pueblo de Israel del merecido castigo de Dios. De hecho esas tres cosas son de lo más valorado y apreciado para el mundo en nuestros días. Dios no depende de dignatarios, presidente de una nación, productividad financiera, ejército o influencia política. Él se deleita en la Justicia, la gentileza, el amor de personas que conocen al Señor y obedecen en alguna nación. Dios había prometido prosperidad y bendición para la gente del pacto antiguo que le obedeciera.

Dios advierte a su pueblo y los llama a lamentarse porque pronto tendrían que estar presentes en un funeral en este caso su propio sepelio. La muerte estaba en la ventana y ningún poder político ni una compañía de profetas falsos podría detenerla. La muerte es ejemplificada aquí como un ladrón que sube por la ventana (ver diseño de casas en tiempos antiguos) lista para robar de esas vidas tan apreciadas. Los Judíos se jactaban de su pacto y la circuncisión pero era solo en la carne puesto que no habían alcanzado la circuncisión que es del corazón (4:4; Deut. 10:16; Hech.7:51; Rom. 2:25-29). La gente de hoy en día que depende del gobierno, familia, amigos y demás en vez de poner al Dios de la Gloria y sus estatutos se encuentran en la misma condición que aquellos en los tiempos de Jeremías. Todos cuantos están bajo la idea que la religiosidad, la Iglesia de mis padres o la tradición oral son suficientes para la salvación pueden quedar muy avergonzados. Incluso quienes hemos sido convertidos al Dios de la Biblia y añadidos a su Iglesia necesitamos entender que eso no nos exime de pecado y que Dios no está en deuda con nosotros. Nos alarmarnos y dolemos al escuchar la muerte de muchos de nuestros amigos cercanos o familiares. Realmente es de humanos dolerse, pero al mismo tiempo el cristiano no debe olvidar el terror de la muerte segunda, que es la separación eterna de Dios. (Ap.20:14). De este versículo en Jeremías aprendemos que la muerte física está en la ventana y como ladrón vendrá sin poderla evitar, (Heb.9:27) pero también uno se da cuenta inmediatamente que el corazón no arrepentido de Israel les traería la desgracia física cuando serían llevados cautivos hasta Babilonia en exilio.

En Salmos 137 tenemos en récord las palabras de Jeremías por parte de los Judíos que ya estaban en el exilio. El lloro, los recuerdos de todas las veces que fueron exhortados y advertidos por parte de Dios eran expresados en lágrimas y melancolía. En Jeremías 9 podemos observar el pasado, presente y futuro de la nación de Israel pero también el nuestro. La Muerte para quienes han obedecido la verdad es tan solo una vieja amiga que nos ha seguido de lejos pero ahora nos llevará al hogar eterno.

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You Don’t Care About Me!

“You Don’t Care about Me!”

Recently I received a phone call from someone asking for benevolence. After she explained her situation, I offered to take her information so that our deacon of benevolence could get in touch. Most people are satisfied with allowing us an opportunity to get back in touch with them. However, on this phone call, the person said, “You don’t care about me!” and hung up. Have you ever heard someone say this before? It is a very hurtful thing to say and indicates deep resentment and anger. This statement is almost always false because someone cared enough to listen initially, which indicates that there is at least some level of care being displayed. Why, then, would someone make such a statement?

care lady

You don’t care about me!

Self-pity is largely to blame for such a comment. The person making this statement desires another to feel sorry for them at the same level that they feel sorry for themselves. If the other person does not express that depth of sorry, then he/she must not care for them at all. This is really a passive-aggressive technique of manipulating others to get them to do what one wants. When someone makes such an outrageous claim, a good person will feel guilty for not being more sympathetic and seek to act better. Hence, it’s all about control. “You didn’t behave like I wanted you to behave,” the passive-aggressive person is saying; “Therefore, I will make you feel guilty, so you will do what I want you to do!” This is ungodly and sinful behavior that seeks self above others. Paul wrote, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself” (Philippians 2:3).

 

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Looking at the Cross

Looking at the Cross

The way Christians look at the cross of Jesus is vastly different from the way the ungodly look at it. Paul sums it all up in these words, “It pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For the Jews request a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness” (1 Cor. 1:21-23). This is so far removed from the way saints see the cross.

Cross sunset

What do you see?

Pagans look at the cross. Every god of every pagan was powerful—more powerful than any man. The very concept of deity being killed by mortals was beyond comprehension. As the early church brought the message of the cross to the entire world, it was foolishness.

Jews look at the cross. They were expecting the coming of the Messiah. Those who understood could see that God had promised to someday send a prophet, priest and king to live among them. With their view of the Messiah, the cross became a stumbling block. One does not have to submit to a king who is so helpless or listen to a mortal who claims to be a prophet. Jesus may have said, “You have heard that it was said, but I say to you…,” but who cares what Jesus said, for he is just a man claiming to be someone great. One cannot put their trust in a priest like Jesus to save them. What was said at the cross sums it up: “He saved others; let Him save Himself if He is the Christ, the chosen of God” (Luke 23:35).

Christians look at the cross. Read the rest of the words of Paul to the Corinthians. “We preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” It is truly amazing how differently a pagan, a Jew and a Christian would hear the same sermon. What is the right view? Look at the cross through the eyes of God.

Built within God’s eternal plan is a weekly communion with Jesus at His table. As you remember Him every week, make sure you truly see who He is. Remember His body and His blood. As you remember Him every week, look at yourself—let a man examine himself. As you remember Him every week, see the future—proclaim His death until He comes.

God has no other message for mankind. The Jews asked for a sign and the only sign given was the cross. The Greeks sought wisdom, but the only wisdom God had for them was Christ crucified. We must never forget the cross and what happened there. A failure to look at the cross, to remember what happened for us, will result in us being “barren and unfruitful and blind” (2 Pet. 1:8-9). See the cross like God sees it!

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