Caring about and acknowledging others impacts joy, health, and even the effective spreading of the gospel.
John said in III John 1:14 to salute and greet Christian friends by name. The Greek word used for salute and greet was originally described this way. When you see your brothers and sisters in Christ, you are to warmly receive them, fold them in your arms, embrace them, and receive joyfully. The word is used over 60 times in the Bible.
The University of Wroclaw, Poland, researched the subject of “emotional touch” in 2021. The research gave insight into the pandemic’s impact on the health and well-being of others. The study involved 14,000 people from 45 different countries. While different cultures have different ways of greeting, acknowledging, and showing affection toward one another, the focus was on “emotional touch.” In other words, the act of communicating genuine love and care. While people from different cultures greet one another in different ways, the fact that being surrounded by people who genuinely care about you has many positive benefits such as lower stress levels, a higher level of happiness with life, and even better health. The study showed that older people who are hugged often versus those rarely hugged have significantly better health.
Churches are shrinking. Many people claim the church is shrinking because people just aren’t interested in church anymore. I’d like to suggest a different perspective. Maybe the problem isn’t that people aren’t interested in the church anymore; perhaps it’s that the church isn’t as interested in people anymore.
If you do this one thing, show genuine interest in others, you will not be able to keep people from coming back to your church. And you will not have to worry about people coming back to you to learn more about how Jesus has changed your life. They will come back with intriguing questions and a desire to know what makes you so different.
So when the Bible says things like greet the brethren with a holy kiss, don’t get freaked out about that! You don’t have to do THAT, but there is something vital and even Biblical about the way we choose to care about one another. Learn to be better at friendship, look people in the eye, speak, listen, show interest, and care about others. Jesus kept it pretty simple when He said the greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart and love people with all your heart.
When the Bible tells us to “greet” or “salute” one another, it isn’t something we should overlook. People everywhere are looking for authentic connections with others who genuinely care. After searching the Bible and reading each place the word is used, I found a pattern that shows a variety of ways we can become better at putting this into practice. In place of the word “greet” or “salute,” I will use the word acknowledge to describe how we can impact those around us. Here are the ways scripture instructs us to acknowledge others.
Acknowledge Jesus And straightway all the people, when they beheld him, were greatly amazed, and running to him saluted him. Mark 9:15. The most important person you will ever acknowledge in life is the person of Jesus Christ. Make it a priority each day to listen to Him, talk to Him and allow Him to be your master teacher in all things.
A Single Acknowledgment by an Individual Peace be to thee. Our friends salute thee. Greet the friends by name. 3rd John 1:14. When you as an individual pause to acknowledge another person, by name, you are showing more than just friendliness, you are proving to a hurting world that each person matters to God and each person matters to you. Of the 60+ times the word is used in scripture, this is the way it is used most often. An individual person acknowledging another person speaks volumes about the love of Christ that is in us. A few years ago, my wife and I visited a church in Tennessee to hear a young youth evangelist preach who grew up under our ministry. When we walked up to the church entrance, a small neighborhood dog was waiting at the door and excited to see us. We petted the dog, and after the service ended, we stood around for several minutes thinking we might meet people. People looked at us talked to their own friends and family, but no one spoke to us. We made our way to the parking lot, and on our way to the car, we looked at people everywhere, expecting someone might speak to us. No one did. After we got in our car and closed the doors, we realized something ironic. The only person who cared about us was the dog. Unfortunately, people walk in and out of churches every week without ever being acknowledged.
A Group Acknowledgment by a Friend or Family All that are with me salute thee. Greet them that love us in the faith. Grace be with you all. Titus 3:15. To communicate that you and your friends or you and your family acknowledge a person says that it’s not just me, but my whole tribe thinks you matter, you are important, and you are cared about. When you realize not every person has a strong, loving family, and you choose to link a friend into your extended family, you give a priceless gift to a lonely person.
A Corporate Acknowledgement by a Faith Family Salute every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren which are with me greet you. All the saints salute you, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Philippians 4:21-23. The message of care can come from a higher level. The message is that our entire church family cares for you; we pray for you and are here for your spiritual needs. Even though a person has a friend at church, they need to know the church as a body cares.
A Goodbye Acknowledgement as People Come and Go Acknowledgments send a subtle message at two significant moments. To acknowledge a person when you meet and when you leave sends a much more authentic message of care. Everyone has experienced the odd moment when a person “just left without saying goodbye.” The extra care at both ends of a connection are important and mentioned in scripture.
A Generous Non-Exclusive Acknowledgement And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Matthew 5:47. One of the greatest pains people have with the current church culture is the experience people have with believers clustering together and creating insiders and outsiders around the worship experience. Only acknowledging your own friends, your own relatives, your own neighbors, people who are only in your small group or Sunday school, from your own area of town, those with students in your own school, or even those of your own economic status or race, are all ways we divide ourselves. But as the Bible says… how does that make us different because even the unsaved world does that?
I read a story years ago about missionaries who visited an orphanage in the former Soviet Union. When they were taken into the room where the babies were kept, they saw a room full of cribs but noticed the only sounds they heard were the squeaks of the cribs as the babies moved around. The missionaries asked why none of the babies were crying. The staff explained that while all babies cry sometimes, the babies in the orphanage learn that when they cry and no one comes, there is no reason to cry. Our world is full of people who still need God’s love and need to hear the gospel’s message. It may seem that they aren’t interested but don’t let that fool you. They just need to know that someone cares.
There was a time in my life when reading the Bible was a real struggle. I was reading the Bible and spending time in prayer but five minutes with God often seemed more like thirty minutes and I was confused about the reasons for this.
I began keeping a spiritual journal. My first spiritual journals were simply steno pads I purchased at the local drug store for less than $1.00 each. I approached the journal with a simple concept in mind.
Starting A Spiritual Journal
My first goal was to write in my journal as if I was writing a letter to God. I often began my entry with “Dear Father” and continued from there. I also have at times kept a prayer list in the back of my spiritual journal. Now that I have kept spiritual journals for over two decades I can say it has been one of the most meaningful practices of my Christian life. Now, when I buy a new journal I purchase a nice leather or bonded leather blank journal from a local bookstore.
What To Include In Your Spiritual Journal
Approach your spiritual journal with openness. I found this to be an adjustment. In the Christian life it is sometimes hard to be completely open with other Christians. There is a fear of “what will they think of me?” But remember this is a journal written to God. So be transparent.
Include your thoughts from your Bible reading.
You might even write out a few verses word for word or a summary of them.
Talk to God on paper. Write your thoughts to God as if it were a letter to Him.
Write a summary or even details of the circumstances of your life today.
Write down the key event, worry or concern in your life right now.
Write down the great things that are happening as well.
There is no right or wrong approach to keeping a personal spiritual journal. Keep in mind that this is your personal journey with God. It is very personal and private.
Protecting Your Journal
I feel it is important to keep your journal as private as you choose. I am careful about these journals. There are things I have experienced with God that I have never shared with others. There are also moments I have had with God that I have found impossible to keep to myself… I must tell those close to me of the great things God is doing.
The Result of Spiritual Journaling
In the past I may have spent five minutes with God and found it seemed like 30 minutes. After beginning the practice of keeping a spiritual journal, I find I can spend 30-45 minutes with God and it seems like five minutes. The journals have also become a great source of encouragement to me as I look back and read of the ways God has led in my life!
So, may I challenge you to consider the practice of keeping a spiritual journal. Don’t stress over whether you write in your journal every day, a few times each week or just an occasional entry. Anything that improves the quality of time you spend with God will be a move in the right direction.
If you are interested, I created a journal for teens several years ago. Over 15,000 teens have used it. It’s called the High Impact Teen Spiritual Journal and you can learn more about it here. Just realize that when people start keeping a spiritual, they average reading the Bible at least four days per week or more. And time spent growing in your relationship with God is time well spent.
It was the summer between my junior and senior year of college. In the grand scheme of things, it should have been one of the greatest times of my life. I was 21 years old, probably in the best shape of my life, close to the finish line in getting a college degree, growing in my relationship with God (I think I read my Bible almost every day that summer) and I was heading back to my Christian college having just been selected as student body chaplain. I worked hard that summer. I wasn’t sitting around waiting on God to hand over money for college in some mysterious way… I worked all summer in sales for the Varsity Company, a summer door to door sales program for college students and a division of Thomas Nelson Publishers. This was my third summer selling books and Bibles door to door. We worked 81 hours each week, all summer long and I had recruited a large team of students I had trained in sales and was managing them as well. If I can go out on a limb here and say that in my mind, if a guy was in a position to receive God’s favor, be blessed of Him, and see success, I must certainly have been in that place. I was growing mentally, spiritually, physically and socially just like He said we should.
What happened that August summer night felt like the farthest thing from God’s favor. I didn’t feel loved by Him, blessed by Him or rewarded in any way whatsoever for my choices to serve Him faithfully. When that drunk driver came over that hill on the wrong side of the road traveling 80-90 miles per hour and hit us, my world changed in an instant. My view of God changed within that same millisecond. My friend and I went on a short walk in this tiny town in Georgia where I had lived all summer. We were walking and talking when the drunk driver flew up behind us at 80-90 miles per hour and hit us after drifting off the left side of the road. It was a long way down the road before he could get the car stopped. He spun around in the road, shined his lights toward us and then chose to speed away down a side street. I was okay, but my friend was killed instantly. In that moment, with my friend who was just taken into eternity, I looked up at the sky filled with stars and I said out loud, “God … what are you doing?”
The weeks ahead were hard but for some reason it felt like I was going to be okay. I forged ahead with a spirit of determination, a will to win and come out on the other side somehow victorious. About a month later, settling into the routine of life back at college, the weight of all that had happened overtook me in ways I don’t think I could ever explain. I was breaking. I couldn’t keep myself moving forward anymore. A dark cloud seemed to be overtaking me in a powerful way. I was down, hurting, struggling with horrible nightmares. I started thinking things through and processing it all. All of a sudden it didn’t feel like God was good, that He was blessing me and taking care of me. I started thinking about the trials of my life and how I had expectations that God was going to take better care of me than this. I couldn’t focus and it was hard to keep up with senior level classes. I got mad … really mad and life began to get a lot worse.
It takes time to heal from a major trial of life. It’s a process and it took me about eighteen months to experience real freedom from the pain and confusion of my trial. It seemed like such a long time but today as I think back on it, eighteen months isn’t really that long in the grand scheme of things. I’m so glad I began to take the steps that led me back into a place where God and I were “on the same page” again. Because you really don’t want to live out your life in a war with God, blaming Him, angry with Him and challenging Him about why He hasn’t performed better for you. If that’s where you are right now, stop for a moment and realize this truth. Many others, throughout the history of mankind, have experienced hardship but that doesn’t prove that somehow God is not good or that you in some way are less important to Him or loved less by Him. Here are a few of the steps that led me out of the darkness of a trial.
I prayed honestly and ask God for help.
In Psalm 51:10 David prayed, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” For me, I found my way out of the forest of pain and confusion when I started asking God to lead me out and I asked Him openly and honestly to “renew a right spirit inside of me.” I could honestly say to God that I had a horrible attitude about what had happened in my life and I needed Him to heal my hurts and lead me to a place of reconciliation with Him and He answered that prayer and helped me heal.
I stopped asking, “Why me?”
When bad things happen to us, I guess it’s normal to ask why. It took a while for me to understand that there are many reasons God allows trials. I studied and found a list of several different purposes God has in the trials of our life. I found that not every trial is the consequence of sin in our life and usually that is our first assumption. It’s important to understand that not every trial of life is coming as some form of discipline from God because you or I deserve to be “spanked” by Him. There are actually some very positive outcomes from our “fiery trials” and when we understand that it helps a lot. So I started to look around and recognize that so many people go through very difficult things and why should I expect to be exempt from trials. So instead of asking, “Why me?” it was better to just understand that we live in a pretty wicked world and bad things happen to a lot of people so the better question is, “What now?” What amazing plan does God have for me as a result of this?
I realized I could choose to become bitter or better, but it really was my choice.
Job 23:10, “But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.”
Hebrews addresses three ways we can respond to a trial. Hebrews 12:5, “And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:” Hebrews 12:11, “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.”
Your response to your trial are to:
Despise It: Get mad and live a bitter life.
Faint Under It: Give up and quit.
Be exercised By It: Become the better, stronger person God wants you to be, allowing God to use the trial of your life as a launching pad into a life and ministry you might not have ever experienced without the opportunity to become “gold” through God’s refinery.
Great days are ahead for you as you move forward trusting God. He has proven to me over and over that He is a God of love, power and strength. As a matter of fact, God has shown me a hundred times over how he can use my trials. I work with high-risk youth and have had conversations with so many teens who are asking “why do I have to live life without a father, why is my mom a drug addict and why does my family have to live in poverty? If God loves me, why isn’t my life different?”
Instead of asking, “Why did He allow this?” I now say, “What would I have done without Him?” He’s not trying to crush you, He actually shows up at the scene of the accident to pick you up and carry you through it. He is in your surgery room, He is in your home during turmoil, He is standing by you and feeling your pain. Don’t tell the Great Physician to go away, invite Him in and let Him make you whole again. He’s really good at that.
As a youth minister Part of my “job” is to have an answer to give when a teenager comes to me with a problem. I’m usually okay with that but one day a few years ago I found myself in a conversation with a very distraught teenage boy and when he asked for advice, I said, “I don’t know what to tell you.” I still remember that moment of total helplessness.
I met Anthony in a juvenile detention center where I was leading a Bible study with a room full of teenage guys. During the Bible study Anthony began to get emotional and eventually his emotions got the best of him. He left, went to his cell and sat on his bed and began to cry. We could hear him crying while we were downstairs in a common area finishing our study. Our study quickly ended and I asked a security guard if I could talk to Anthony and she encouraged me to go up to his room to see if he would want to talk.
Sitting on the edge of his bed, I asked Anthony to tell me what was wrong and if I could help. After several minutes he calmed down enough to talk. He went on to tell me that he has no one and Christmas is coming soon and he feels all alone and scared. He told me how he lost his parents at age two, his 21-year-old sister is addicted to drugs and can’t help him and his grandparents passed away. He looked me in the eye with tears flowing and said, “Don’t you see… I don’t have anyone.” And I said, “I don’t know what to tell you.” Then we both began to shed tears.
Immediately, God reminded me… I am with Anthony. So I said, “Anthony! Wait a minute! You are not alone. Remember a few weeks ago when you accepted Jesus as your Savior? Well He is with you. As a matter of fact, God is with you and you are not alone… you are not fatherless… God is with you now and he will be with you for the rest of your life! This is great news.”
Anthony began to smile as I said we need to pray! The more I prayed for God’s peace and presence in his life the more happy he became. As soon as I said “amen” Anthony looked at me with a huge smile and said, “I feel so much better now, I know God is with me and I know I am not alone.” I heard from from Anthony a few weeks later through a friend. He said, “Tell Ken God is good… He placed me in a great home and I’m doing great now!”
Guess what? If you know Christ as your Savior, He’s with you always. Psalm 139 is a great chapter to read today. There are four key truths God is teaching us in Psalm 139.
God Knows You – Psalm 139: 1 – O Lord thou has searched me and known me. He knows when you sit down and rise up… He knows everything about you.
God Is with You – Psalm 139:3-12 – God is behind you and in front of you, has His hand on you, and always covers you with His presence.
God Made You – Psalm 139:13-18 – He covered you in the womb, He saw you when you were an “unformed substance” and He fashioned all of you.
God Leads You – Psalm 139:23-24 – Allow Him to search your heart, and reveal any wickedness and know that He promises to “lead you into the way everlasting.”
I’ll never forget the lesson I learned on my first trip to Mexico as a youth pastor. I slept on a wooden bench which sat on a dirt floor in a back room of a church on top of a mountain in a village with no running water. We took baths in the river each day and the pastor would walk for miles to preach to his people. I brought nearly thirty teenagers from, let’s be honest here… an affluent church in Indiana. None of us lived in these conditions at home but we were sure immersed in it now! And I noticed the youth from the village… and the differences between us. The local youth came to church services early… sang loud… smiled big… and dressed nice. It was convicting to us all. They were so happy and seemed to have something we didn’t. I remember spending a lot of time that week trying to figure it all out and to be honest… trying to keep our teens, well… uh… happy.
Over the years I’ve met others who seem to have this “happiness thing” figured out a lot better than others. Here is what I see in happy people…
It’s hard to be happy when you don’t have peace. Peace comes when your conscience is clear and you know you are “right with God and right with others.” To be at peace you need to do some “soul-searching” and be honest about where you are in your relationships. Did you lose your peace along the way when you chose to hold on to something hurtful or maybe just choose to do life your way instead of God’s way?
It’s really hard to be thankful for what you think you deserve. If your perspective is that you deserve so much more than you have… you are going to really struggle to be happy. But when you put it in perspective… there is always so much to be thankful for and in that place of gratitude you will find so much joy.
Hurt people hurt people. Think about that for a moment. There are so many things in life that “offend” and it is not always an easy task to completely forgive others… but you just won’t find true happiness while living in bitterness… you must accept this truth. In Psalm 51:10 David asked God to “renew a right spirit within him.” If you are really struggling with anger and bitterness toward someone who hurt you… please start the journey today toward forgiveness. Your happiness depends on it!
Those kids in Mexico taught me a lot. The smiles, the laughter, the genuine joy of God in their heart was amazing. During one “testimony time” with our youth group I’ll never forget one of our teenage boys putting it this way when he said, “I’ve met people that helped me see that I am so rich materially, but so poor spiritually… and they are so poor materially… yet so rich spiritually.” So guess what? You may be richer than you think… but you won’t be happy without peace, perspective and forgiveness.
Psalm 139 speaks volumes to us on the intimacy of God. We learn that:
1. He Knows Us, 2. He’s With Us, 3. He Made Us and 4. He Leads Us.
According to the BBC Website’s calculator on “where do you fit in to human life” I was the 3,173,426,221st person alive on Earth and 76,947,364,311th person to have lived since history began.
God made you. Let the thought of that sink in for a moment.
Psalm 139:14, “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.”
Of the 7 billion+ human beings living on the planet we call earth, you are masterfully created by God.
He Has A Plan For You. – And He Still Does
He said of you, “My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.” When you were still an unformed substance that looked more like a peanut, God was at work shaping and creating you in to the person He intended you to be. While you were still “a secret” and your own mother didn’t know you existed… God had you in His grip. Psalm 139:15
He Made You This Way For A Reason
God was shaping the “members” or the parts of your body from the very beginning. He was making decisions about the color of your eyes, the shape of your nose and just exactly how tall you would be. “Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.” Psalm 139:16
He Is Fully Aware of Your Circumstances and He Wants To Help
And He was thinking about you. As a matter of fact, He’s still doing that. If He tried to count how many times He thought about you the number would be greater than the number of grains of sand on the sea shore. “How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee.” Psalm 139:17-18
So take time to meditate on just how intimately God is involved in your life and your current situation. He desires to help you and He has the power to change your life. It’s time to start trusting Him.
If you want to see where you fit in to the 7 billion people God has created and are living on earth today, check out this calculator… you can enter your date of birth and see where you “fit in.” http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-15391515
After twenty-one years in church youth ministry I established an outreach ministry in 2008 with a key focus on reaching troubled youth in the community of Indianapolis, Indiana. Our ministry moved to Tennessee in July 2010 and I continue to minister to high-risk and fatherless youth.