1 Peter 5:13-14(NLT) “Your sister church here in Babylon sends you greetings, and so does my son Mark. Greet each other with a kiss of love. Peace be with all of you who are in Christ.”

Dear friend, I must admit I’m sad that our time together here is coming to a close. I have enjoyed sharing this time together, as we’ve learned about Peter and his friends from the early church. I hope and pray that you love Jesus more now than ever. I am trusting that the Holy Spirit has placed inside of you a hunger and passion for the Word of God like never before!

Before we finish our last day together, let’s invite the Lord to join us one more time. King Jesus, we declare our love for you today. Your name is worthy of praise. Help our hearts be opened to your word today. Please speak to us. There is nothing we want more than to be in your presence and hear from you today.

Several years ago, Stacie had reconstructive jaw surgery. I will spare you the medical details, but it was necessary for her long-term health. The six hours I spent in the lobby of the waiting room were the six longest hours of my life. I tried not to think about them breaking open her face and putting it back together. I tried not to think what might happen if this thing went bad. I tried to just pray and not eat too much. When the doctor came out with good news of a successful surgery, my heart was so happy.

There is a sad part of this story, however. Stacie experienced some pretty significant nerve damage during surgery. She lives with a constant pain that makes it hard for her to drink cold drinks or step outside when there is a cold wind. The saddest part is, we can’t kiss on the lips anymore, at least not without Stacie experiencing pain. Before this happened, I never truly realized how important and beautiful a kiss could be. There is something so divine about a kiss. It is a gift from God, especially between a husband and a wife.

I have said before that there are only three women I’ll kiss—one is 60 years old, one is 38, and the other is 6. You probably guessed it’s my mom, my wife, and my daughter. At some point kissing Karis will get awkward, but I’m sure my mom will still be trying to kiss me on the lips when she’s 80. For my Mom and Karis, I always turn my head just a half inch to the side right before the lips touch. Not sure why, it’s just so personal to touch lips with another human, no matter how close they are. There are different types of kisses. We won’t get into those details here, but we can all agree that a kiss is a form of intimacy.

I’m glad we don’t kiss to greet one another at church services. Even if that used to be a thing, it’s highly unlikely that people would be kissing after COVID-19. Maybe there will be a “mask kiss” that emerges through this season.

COVID-19 has hit me in different ways than expected. There are certain aspects of my old way of life that I don’t miss, but there are some things I have had to grieve deeply. I love to hug people. Just like kisses, there are different types of hugs. Admittedly, I think some people hug weird; I even used to have a “back hugger” at Echo. Our security team helped me eliminate the approach from behind after a couple of instances of my being enveloped without my consent.

Although some people get it wrong and really mess it up, we were made for each other. The body of Christ was made for togetherness. God created us to fellowship. We weren’t made for separation or walls. We were made to come in close and extend peace and love. I have felt this love from Peter throughout this whole letter. Our lives are to be lived with deep love for God and one another.

Where do you think Peter got this tenderness? I’m sure you can guess. Three years by Jesus’ side changed him. His boldness was now coupled with kindness. Jesus had returned to Heaven, but He left love here. You know where this love comes from? It is a by-product of the hope the Holy Spirit gives to our lives.

Romans 5:4-5 (NLT) says, “And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with love.”

History tells us that Peter was murdered upside down on a cross for his faith in Jesus. When Jesus was crucified, Peter cowered in fear. I just recently discovered that many historians believe that Peter first watched his wife be martyred. He then requested his cross be turned upside down because he was unworthy of being killed in the same manner as Jesus. By the power of the Holy Spirit, Grandpa Peter stayed faithful all the way to the end!

Peter is gone, Jesus is in heaven, but the Holy Spirit remains with us to fill our hearts with hope. No matter what our circumstances, His presence is our hope. We have become conduits of this hope to a dark world. Like Peter, we too are waiting for the day when He returns. But for now we can walk with living hope.

That hope fills our hearts with love and brings peace to our communities, our churches, our businesses, and our families. Our 40-day journey together is coming to close, but our hope journey continues. Hope is a person, not an event. Because Jesus is our hope, the best is always ahead of us.

Thank you for hanging in there. Don’t give up, soldier! Keep seeking the heart of God. Humble yourself. Recommit your ways to the King. Remember, this life is so short. When it’s all over, you will stand before the King. It will be worth it when you hear those words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Father, thank you for leading us during this time. We love you! Help us stay faithful all the way to the end.

In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

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