We had a walk the other day around Gartmorn Dam in Clackmannanshire, Scotland. A three mile or so walk. A challenge for some but just a stroll for others. Our overweight Westie did some huffing and puffing at times but even he made it, although he made straight for the dog water dish before collapsing for a sleep at the Visitor Centre, when we finally arrived. A cup of tea and a scone were very welcome!
While other communities in our country’s urban sprawls struggle with finding any space without people to relax in, we in rural, and semi-rural, Scotland have had plenty of opportunities to get out in the open air and this has no doubt helped both the Covid infection rates and our mental health.
But one thing touched me during the walk, and that was that there were several family groups out for a walk. Young and old. Large and small. Having fun together, chatting, laughing, enjoying the whole experience of family life in a beautiful setting, the lake on one side and mixed woodland on the other.
God is right into families. He wants a big family, and we, amazingly, have the opportunity to join His. Ephesians 1:5 says, “God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.” And Jesus is our elder Brother – it says in Hebrews 2:11, “So now Jesus and the ones he makes holy have the same Father. That is why Jesus is not ashamed to call them his brothers and sisters“.
There’s plenty of room in God’s family for more of us. It doesn’t matter how old we are, or what race we are from. It doesn’t matter what mistakes we have made, or sins we have committed. Through Jesus, God welcomes everyone regardless. If there is anyone reading this today who wants to be part of God’s family, please get in touch and we can help you choose the most important step you will ever take. You’ll never regret it. In this life or the next.
In these times of lockdown and social distancing, there is an unfortunate side effect that is particularly hard on single people. I’m talking about a loving touch or a friendly hug. A handshake or a high-five. A person to person contact that somehow communicates our feelings beyond what can be achieved through words. Sadly, even when we’re out and about, face masks obscure that part of the face that we rely on so much for feedback and spoken words. So the sense of isolation for people who live on their own must be very real and debilitating.
We have a kind and loving God who delights in touching people. Jesus went through the communities in Palestine always willing and ready to touch those people desperate for healing. For example, in Matthew 8 we read of the occasion when Jesus touched a man with leprosy. Jesus was out and about and, “Suddenly, a man with leprosy approached him and knelt before him. “Lord,” the man said, “if you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean.” Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” And instantly the leprosy disappeared. Jesus committed a hugely significant act – in those days you kept well away from people with leprosy because it was such a contagious and horrible disease. He could have just said the word, and the man would have been healed. But He touched him, demonstrating love as well as healing. What a loving Saviour!
In these Covid times we may be restricted from touching those around us, but God isn’t. If we know a lonely person today, let’s pick up the phone or pay a socially distanced visit, doing whatever it takes to connect. And if you are a lonely person reading this today please contact us and we’ll introduce you to the wonderful Saviour who delights in touching people. You’ll never regret it.
Can I ask you a personal question this morning? During the lockdown, did you add a few pounds to your weight? Or kilos if you think it sounds better? I must confess to a 3 kilo extra burden, and the despatch of three pairs of jeans to the local recycling point – I just can’t understand why they shrank so much in the wash! I changed the battery in the scales just in case, but to no avail. Someone I know reckons that the average lockdown weight increase has been about a pound per person per lockdown week. Why is it that the pounds go on quickly and easily but take forever to remove?
In the Book of Hebrews, chapter 12 it says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.”
Every athlete knows that to win a physical race he has to achieve a peak level of fitness, which includes being just the right weight. And it is the same with our spiritual race. Are we carrying too much baggage? What will weigh us down through our walk with God? What sin is tripping us up? What about all the anxieties and cares that are clamouring for attention from our thoughts? Are we being weighed down by religiosity, denying the freedom of the Holy Spirit in our lives? There are many hindrances and weights that can creep into our lives and any one of them will hold us back in our Christian walk.
One weight that holds back many a Christian is the habit of looking backwards, to the “good old days” when everything seemed to be so much better than today. But the Apostle Paul encourages us in Philippians 4 to, “press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus”. Athletes don’t look back – they fix their eyes on the finishing post. And so must we. So Christian, don’t give up! Start a diet and get rid of those extra pounds.