Slowly……Slowly….isn’t it good to sometimes take things slow and appreciate the journey not just rush to get to the destination. We can be so focussed on arriving that we sometimes miss the sights on the way. Getting somewhere as quickly as possible is often our goal but I’ve learnt this week in the beautiful county of Suffolk to appreciate a slower pace of life.
There are no motorways in this County of Suffolk and no Cities. It’s “B” Road heaven with lots of small country lanes and enforced taking it slow. No motorways racing through the countryside here.
Whatever journey God is taking us on at the moment, at whatever speed, whether slow but steady or times of acceleration and speed, through the valleys or on the mountains, let’s not forget to “see” what God is showing us on the way.
I have really enjoyed this beautiful County this week and want to share just some of the lovely sights I’ve seen and hope they bless you too.
“I was glad when Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus arrived, because they have supplied what was lacking from you. For they refreshed my spirit and yours also. Such men deserve recognition”. 1 Corinthians 16:17-18
These bible verses really inspired me today. Oh how blessed we are to have people like a Stephanus, Fortunatus and Achaicus in our lives and in the body of Christ. People who refresh us.
These type of Christian believers are commended by Paul. They must have been a great source of encouragement and Godly wisdom to the early church.
We all need times of refreshing. One of those ways of refreshing is also through other believers, just as Paul and the Corinthians were refreshed by the visit of these 3 men.
As Paul says, such people deserve recognition.
Can I encourage us all to take some time to think about the people who are the refreshing company in our lives. They make us happy when we see them. They give and impart good things. Positive people.
Let’s thank God for them. They are a blessing.
Let’s also make a point of thanking them. It’s good to let such people know that we value them.
Finally, let’s all try to be the “refreshing” company we enjoy so people are happy to see and hear from us. We can be that source of refreshment to others.
There’s a great book, a classic, called Pride & Prejudice written by Jane Austen in the 1800s which has been made into various film adaptations. Although written during a different era, it’s message is still very relevant today. In the book, we encounter characters who make decisions (some very hasty) based on their own initial judgments & prejudices and how others appear initially to influence them.
The initial title for the book was apparently “First Impressions”.
We all make first impressions. When I started my first job in sales, I was always taught that you only had one chance to make a first impression on the customer so make it a good one. No pressure!!!
People make first impressions on us. There are lots of factors which can influence our first impression of someone and prejudice is one of those influences we need to recognise and if it’s there then choose to reject.
So I’ve been giving this topic of prejudice some thought. Do I really understand what it means to be prejudiced and do I harbour any prejudices in my own heart.
When I think of the word “prejudice” I think of pre-judging – my mind has already reached a conclusion – it’s judged a person or situation already without really knowing the truth.
It’s so easy to make snap decisions or judgments based on our “eyes” – what we initially see or by what we hear (which can unfortunately include hearsay), but discerning whether those arise from prejudice in our hearts is sometimes difficult to recognise unless it’s pretty obvious.
The dictionary defines “prejudice” as a “preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience.”
Sometimes, it is easy to recognise prejudice – it makes no effort to hide itself. I worked with a lady once who had a racial prejudice which was from ignorance and lack of relationships and experience of different cultures. She didn’t hide this prejudice and we had some very uncomfortable and difficult conversations about it. She couldn’t recognise the problem however.
When she was very ill in hospital with cancer, I went to visit her and the first thing she did was introduce me to her “new friend” who just happened to be a person of race that she had harboured great prejudice against previously.
I discovered that my friend had been placed in a hospital room for two. Initially, she was very unhappy with the arrangement – her prejudice influenced her first impressions of her room mate. However as they started to talk she discovered they had lots in common. She also experienced such great kindness and compassion from her new friend and his family whilst she was so ill that her eyes were opened to the truth and her prejudices disappeared. Her first impressions were changed.
My friend was truly sorry for the years that she had allowed this prejudice to rob her of forming friendships and relationships with people of other cultures and races and for the wrong things she had thought, said and done.
Sadly my friend died not many weeks after her stay in hospital but I’m truly grateful that before she died she had the opportunity to discover truth not prejudice. God works in amazing and gracious ways to bring us into truth.
The Lord knows that we as humans have a tendency to be swayed by our first impressions which is why he showed us that God isn’t influenced by those things.
But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
I wonder what our first impressions of Jesus would have been? Isaiah the Prophet said this about him.
“For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, And as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him, There is no beauty that we should desire Him.” Isaiah 53:2
From these verses it would seem that Jesus would not have initially drawn people to him through his appearance. It was his teachings, his character and his good works. He showed great compassion and love which drew people. His words of wisdom and understanding would have been like precious jewels.
James gives us good advice in these bible verses because prejudice can lead to favouritism.
“My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favouritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, ‘Here’s a good seat for you,’ but say to the poor man, ‘You stand there’ or ‘Sit on the floor by my feet,’ have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?” James 2:1-4
So my prayer this week is that the Lord will help me identify any prejudice in my heart and show me what influences my first impressions. May it be Godly discernment and wisdom with eyes of love which are not blinkered or blind. Eyes and ears that see the heart and character of a person not influenced by outward appearance.
Do you know or remember this song called “Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina and the Waves? It’s one of those songs that makes me smile every time I hear it. There’s a particular lyric which says “I’m walking on sunshine yeah and don’t it feel great”.
These lyrics remind me what our new life in Jesus is like – Walking on Sunshine and doesn’t it feel great!!!
Isn’t it good to reflect on that truth -that as Christians we are no longer walking in darkness- the darkness of sin, death, judgment and ignorance of our minds but we’ve discovered the truth about God through Jesus our Saviour and through his death and resurrection, we have crossed over from darkness into the light.
We are now light and walking in the light of Christ.
This is what the bible says. Ephesians 5:8 – “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord”
It’s so good to remind ourselves constantly of that truth. We have been rescued from the darkness of sin and death- Praise God. Not from our own efforts but through God’s rich love and mercy. Last Sunday the preacher encouraged us to thank God each day this week for the gift of salvation. Thank you God for saving me.
Now truthfully do I “feel” like I’m walking on sunshine all the time. I’d be lying if I said yes but the truth of what Christ has done for me is not altered by my feelings or circumstances. The truth does not change and is based on God’s Word and I make the decision to choose to believe it whether I “feel” like it or not. If I let my feelings rule then I’m on a slippery slope of trouble.
I am light in the Lord. I am a child of the light.
Now we know that as Christians once we’ve become light we are called to live as children of light – to continue walking in righteousness living godly lives. We encourage each other to walk worthy of our calling in Christ and help each other to pursue godliness. Being accountable and challenging each other in the right loving way. Not being all judgmental, gossiping and trying to dress it up as “telling the truth in love” – that’s not right or helpful. Let’s not forget gentleness and loving kindness when dealing with each other.
Ephesians 5:8-10 – “Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases God”
What a great instruction. Live right, produce fruit through the Spirit of God now at work in us and…….Find out what pleases God. That’s the mandate.
Some Christians I know wonder or fret about what they should be doing for God. They worry in case they get it “wrong”. Paul gives us some simple instructions to help us here in these verses – find out what pleases God and then let’s just get on and do it.
So what pleases God?
We find that out from reading the bible for ourselves (no shortcuts here – you need to read and study it) and in being in fellowship with other believers where we are taught and discipled.
Here’s just a few things the bible says please God:
Faith in Him – Hebrews 11:6 – “without faith it is impossible to please God”.
Generosity and an unselfish attitude – God loves a cheerful giver – 2 Corinthians 9:7
A humble attitude – God does not like pride. In fact God opposes the proud. James 4:6 tell us that God’s face is against the proud.
An obedient attitude – Obedience is better than Sacrifice -1 Samuel 15:22
A peacemaker – Matthew 5:9
Jesus pleased God – “This is my son in whom I am well pleased”. Luke 3:22
So, we learn what pleases God from studying Jesus.
Jesus himself was:
Humble – “But made himself of no reputation and took upon him the form of a servant” Philippians 2:7
Selfless – He gave himself freely for us.
Obedient – “and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross”. He said to His father “not my will but yours be done”.
Forgiving – “Father forgive them for they know not what they do”. Luke 23:34
Compassionate – “When He saw the crowds his heart moved with compassion” Matthew 9:36
Loving – “nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” Romans 8:39
These are just a few things which please God. There’s more you can discover in the bible.
That might be the extent of your faith for a particular situation today.
If so then I want to encourage you today to keep faith in God and in His word. He is the God of the impossible. He can work with that small seed of faith (if that is all you have at this given moment for a particular situation). If you have faith then don’t give up as the Lord is faithful and is working out His purposes and plans according to His Will. Trust in His unfailing love, mercy and justice.
If you are struggling with something today, praying for a situation for yourself or someone else -whether a family member, friend or even someone who is a stranger to you then be encouraged because as a believer in Christ you have already exercised great faith in accepting Jesus as your saviour and receiving through faith the gift of salvation and eternal life.
You have believed through faith that Jesus died for your sins, was raised to life by the power of God and has redeemed you. You are sanctified and righteous in God’s sight because of Jesus’ blood which has cleansed you from sin.
You have already shown great faith to believe for the greatest miracle of all..the gift of salvation and Jesus’ victory over sin and death. I believe that the Lord is reminding you today that you have shown such incredible faith in Him so persevere and don’t give up.
If you have faith the size of a mustard seed then be encouraged because you still have faith and where there is faith then there is hope. I pray that the gift of faith in you will grow and increase by the power of the Holy Spirit. Bless you today in Jesus name.
These bible verses from Isaiah 43 have been on my heart today and I hope they bless you too.
“But now, thus says the Lord, who created you, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you. For I am the Lord your God, The Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I gave Egypt for your ransom, Ethiopia and Seba in your place. Since you were precious in My sight, You have been honored, And I have loved you; Therefore I will give men for you, And people for your life. Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your descendants from the east, And gather you from the west; I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ And to the south, ‘Do not keep them back!’ Bring My sons from afar, And My daughters from the ends of the earth— Everyone who is called by My name, Whom I have created for My glory; I have formed him, yes, I have made him.” Isaiah 43:1-7