Mandy Baker Johnson

Living without Shadows

Rest

You may have woken up today rejoicing at the outcome of yesterday’s vote. Or maybe you are disappointed and wondering what on earth is going to happen now.

To be honest, whatever the outcome you were hoping for, it’s all rather unsettling. There are big changes ahead as we go forward; we don’t really know what to expect. What promises will hold true and what were lies?

I’ve been pondering today on various truths, just to anchor myself in all the uncertainty.

I woke up today feeling somewhat overwhelmed. But to God, the nations – the UK and the whole of Europe – are like a small drop of water in a bucket. This comparison puts things in perspective! Yet it doesn’t mean that God doesn’t care, He loves each individual in every nation.

When God promised the birth of the ultimate ruler and deliverer several hundred years before Jesus actually arrived, God said that the government would rest on Jesus’ shoulders. His government and its peace will never end. Jesus will rule with fairness and justice forever.

I don’t know what exiting Europe will look like. I don’t know how it will affect me personally or how it will affect the UK as a whole. But I do know that one day all of this will come to an end. One day, King Jesus will appear in the clouds (it may sound fanciful but this is no fairy tale) and take His rightful place as supreme ruler. He will be the perfect king who will work everything for everyone’s good, and there will be no dissatisfaction or disappointment ever again. His is a kingdom that could not be any better: full of love, peace, rest, light, joy, fulfilment, fairness.

A couple of things before I finish.

Some of us on Facebook are using Friday 8th July as a day of prayer for our nation. Our government needs much wisdom for the days ahead. Please join us: https://www.facebook.com/events/1098981783507359/

If you’re rejoicing today, please be sensitive to friends who are disappointed at the outcome. Rejoice but please don’t rub it in.

If you’re disappointed today, talk it out with someone you trust (and to God if you are a praying person), take time to process it and grieve. Don’t let it eat into you and take root.

Rest in the truth of who God is and the glorious future on offer with Him.

Not What I Expected…

This wasn’t supposed to happen. How did I end up here?

I lay on my back, staring at the ceiling, my face deadpan, counting in my head until he had finished. He was my twelfth customer of the day.

I hated what I was doing but there was no choice. He had made that clear. ‘If you don’t do as you’re told, I will kill your family.’ It made me feel sick and clammy.

My parents thought I was on my way to the UK to work in a hotel. They had been so excited. There were no career opportunities in my village, it was too small. And I’d always wanted to learn English. It made me feel so grown up and sophisticated when that man came and interviewed me. He was so charming, showing me photos of where I’d be working and assuring my parents that he would accompany me so I’d be safe.

Safe? Ha. That was a joke. If only….

There was no job and no hotel. Just a bunch of other girls naively hoping for a better life.

He took away our passports and gave each of us a small room with a bed in it. This is where we work and where we sleep. There are four of us in this house. I seem popular with the customers, so I earn lots of money. Not that I get to keep any of it.

This is not what I expected. Will I ever get free? 

 

Last weekend I was at an ACW writers’ retreat at Scargill House in North Yorkshire, hosted by Adrian and Bridget Plass with Tony Collins of Lion Hudson and Monarch Books as main speaker. Tony gave us a challenge to write about a journey. So I wrote it from the point of view of a young woman trafficked to the UK from Eastern Europe. Although it is fiction, this actually happens.

The Great Escape

Did you know that a group of writers is called a worship? That’s what was happening at Scargill House last weekend. A bunch of people worshiping.

Many of us have become friends online and it was good to meet for the first time ‘in the flesh’ or catch up with real rather than virtual hugs.

Adrian and Bridget Plass were our hosts along with Tony Collins, standing in for his wife Pen Wilcock who was at home because of family commitments.

The theme of the weekend was the great escape. Bridget began on Friday evening by reminding us read more.

Cheer: When Jesus Jumps For Joy

There was a time when Jesus the man jumped and skipped with ecstatic, exuberant joy.

He had sent out seventy two of His friends on a mission trip. He told them to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse disfiguring skin diseases and set people free from evil spirits.

When His friends returned, they excitedly told Him how they’d done these supernatural acts in His name. Wow. No wonder they were thrilled.

It’s easy to miss Jesus’ reaction when reading the Gospels because of how our English translates it: ‘He rejoiced in the Spirit.’ Yeah, He definitely did. The word used for rejoice is agalliao which means to exult, leap and skip for joy, physically showing excessive and ecstatic delight.

Jesus rejoiced because they were grasping the truth of who they were: children of God and secure in Christ.

It’s easy to nod my head to Bible truths. Yes, I believe I’m saved by grace and don’t need to strive for God’s attention, and that I am accepted and beloved. But when that knowledge starts to slip into my heart, I rejoice because it becomes real and changes me.

And that’s when Jesus jumps for joy.

Drawn from Words

You’ll recall that I blogged every day through Lent as part of a word-a-day challenge by Rethink Church. Some of my friends journaled every day and one lady who became a friend through the challenge drew a picture for each word prompt.

The result of this was that three of us decided to put our favourite pieces in a book: Drawn from Words.

This has fulfilled a lifetime’s dream for me of being an author 🙂  God is so good!

Grow

And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord,
you must continue to follow Him.
Let your roots grow down into Him,
and let your lives be built on Him.
Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught
and you will overflow with thankfulness.

When we feed something, it grows.

When I eat food, especially now I’m in middle age, my tummy grows. Sad but true! But when I exercise, my fitness level increases so that I can do more exercise. Hopefully, if I keep running, my muscles will develop and my tummy will stop growing. Hopefully….

It’s the same with my spiritual life. These verses urge me to keep following Jesus.

How do I do that?

I need to put down roots in Jesus. That means learning more-and-more to rely on Him, to be settled in Him. I want to get to know Him well and the only way to do that is by spending time with Him like I would any friend. My Bible is full of Jesus: His character, what He does, what He likes and doesn’t like. When I read it and pray, my roots are growing .

Building my life on Jesus is being secure in Him and in who He says I am. He gives me the freedom to be the person He made me to be.

And then I find that my faith grows as I get to know the truth. Jesus said that the truth sets free, and it really, truly does. When I think of how much Jesus has done for me it brings a huge smile to my face. I do overflow with thankfulness.

YEEE HAAAAH! YAY JESUS!! WHOOP!

Let me finish with a story.

When I was thirteen, my parents and I went on holiday to the Norfolk coast. It was a last minute booking because my dad had just come out of hospital. Amazingly we found a chalet near the beach that was available.

Hmm. It had been closed up all winter and we were the first people in. It hadn’t been cleaned. And it was full of spiders. Big, small and every size in-between. There was a monster under the kitchen table that even my dad wouldn’t tackle. They were literally everywhere.

Somehow we stayed in that horrible chalet for a week.

But I came home with a fear of spiders. It got so bad that I wouldn’t enter a room without quickly checking out floor, ceiling and walls first. I almost crashed the car when I spotted a tiny money-spider on the rearview mirror.

I had secular counselling which helped a little.

But the fear was still there. I never even prayed about it because I was scared of not being afraid. And if I’m honest, I didn’t think God could handle it anyway. Not even He could do the impossible, could He?

Three years ago, God stepped in. I was going through prayer counselling and He set me free from fear.

The result is that last Monday, my mum had a biggish spider in her kitchen that I was calmly able to deal with. No hyperventilation, no screams, no shaking.

This is truth: God’s perfect love casts out fear. My roots are in Jesus and I’m building my life on Him. My faith in Him is growing. The truth is setting me free and I’m so grateful.

Freedom in Christ – Part 2

How will knowing who I am in Christ affect things?

Worship

Knowing I am a child of God frees me from being self-absorbed. Magnifying Jesus (focusing on Him) puts everything else in the right perspective.

Show emotion in worship. Remember the woman who wept over Jesus’ feet. God has given us emotions; it’s right to use them when worshiping Him.

Go to war in worship. When I’m shrivelling up inside with fear or rejection or feeling ‘down’ for no apparent reason, I need to choose to worship God. I try to take myself in hand and go to the kitchen and sing. I have to be deliberate about it. And usually the negative feeling either lifts enough to give me some breathing space or disappears altogether like sun on mist.

Truth

Believe that God’s promises are for me, not someone else. Jesus invitation for is for ‘anyone’. If you are anyone, then you qualify.

Renew my mind with truth. Old thought patterns creep up on me when I’m vulnerable. I used to wish I’d never been born or that I could sink into oblivion. Thanks to God persistently showing me how loved and precious I am, I no longer think that way.

All the positive things God says about us are true. Pick a verse like Romans 8:1 about there being no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. Instead of thinking negative stuff (lies) about yourself, focus on the truth that God doesn’t condemn you. He loves you and has made you secure in Christ. Focus on the truth until it becomes a part of who you are.

Thinking lies about myself brings condemnation and fear. Thinking truth about myself brings peace and freedom. Training ourselves to think truth about ourselves is an on-going process, but we must pursue it if we are to know anything of the abundant life Jesus offers.

White flowersPurity

Am I living in purity so that I can enter in to everything God has for me? Living in purity isn’t a passive thing.

Giving in to small temptations leads to big temptations, and big things can destroy you. Especially secret things; things you hope no one ever finds out about. I know, I’ve been there. Telling someone you trust breaks the power of sin. The Bible urges us to confess our sins to one another.

The Holy Spirit is the holiness expert. If I’m holy, I’ll be attractive to be around because my life will point people to Jesus.

Fruitfulness

Fruitfulness is not what I do, it’s how I live my life. Believing and living by God’s promises makes me fruitful. The Holy Spirit will grow His beautiful fruit in my character: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

If I am living in grace and am at peace with myself, if I’m living as a daughter of the King and confident of who I am in Christ, then my behaviour will be affected.

 

Based on my notes from a talk by Liz Holden. Used by permission.

Freedom in Christ: Part 1

We are made to live in freedom.

I get upset when I see animals and birds in cages, whether in a home or in a zoo. They are meant to be free.

Before God began setting me free from emotional and mental baggage three years ago, it was like being squashed into a tiny space where I couldn’t breathe. But He had a far better plan for me than that; He has brought me out into a spacious place where I can stand with my arms outstretched and breathe deeply.

Jesus came to bring abundant life. The thief steals, kills and destroys anything good in our lives. Jesus doesn’t want that for any of us.

The key to freedom is identity. It’s vital to know who I am. More than thirty years ago, I was born of the Spirit (became a follower of Jesus). This meant that I had a noble birth.

It doesn’t matter that I was born to working class parents on a council estate, had an average education and didn’t go to university. Why? Because I became a daughter of the King of kings, making me a princess (in the best sense). Nothing can change my position ever. I am fully accepted by God, now and for always.

As a member of God’s royal family, I get to use the front door of the palace and sit on the family seats. I don’t have to creep in like a servant through the back door.

This is His tremendous gift to me. I could never earn His favour. It’s something He gives because He loves me.

Knowing who I am makes a difference. If I have a wrong view of myself, I think that other people see me like that.

LocustWhen the Israelites spied out the promised land, they said: ‘…we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.’ They felt small and insignificant in the eyes of their enemies, leading to doubt and fear. That generation of Israelites never did make it into the promised land.

Jesus’ desire is for us to live in on-going freedom every day. He hides us in His perfection.

When God began having a good rummage in my life, chucking out the rubbish I didn’t need, and bringing me into a freedom I’d never known, it felt as though I was expanding to be the person I was always meant to be. There were unexpected changes: a sudden liking of the colour pink (I’d always despised pink in the past), and enjoying baking and knitting. I also have a freedom in worship that I never experienced before. He is growing in me compassion, resulting in inclusive friendships rather than jealousy and exclusivity.

If you are reading this, know that God is absolutely crackers about you. Ask Him to show you any areas in your life where you don’t have freedom so that He can come and break chains. Jesus wants you to be yourself.

Be content in who you are and in who God made you to be.

 

Based on my notes from a talk by Liz Holden. Used by permission.

Featured image used courtesy of stock images at freedigitalphotos.

Two Little Dicky Birds….

Earlier this month, my friend Elizabeth and I went on holiday to the wilds of Norfolk.

Without wanting to sound super-spiritual or boring, one of our favourite things is praying together. There is something exciting and exhilarating about enjoying God with a trusted friend…. Anything can happen. And sometimes it does!

After one delightful session of prayer, I [read more]

 

Unite

Jogging by the sea this week, I loved observing the oyster catchers unite to fly in a group. Seeing the odd one was nice but nothing out of the ordinary. But as a group, it was pure joy watching them dip and wheel on the breeze. One moment they moved in a circle of silver against the blue sky, the next they were almost invisible. Lovely.

I enjoy watching starlings congregate on the roof tops in autumn, preparing for their great migration south. There is power and beauty in seeing the large group wheeling on the wind.

In their unity, birds reflect their creator so well. God is united: Father, Son and Spirit in happy agreement with one heart and mind. Nowhere is this more evident that in His magnificent plan of salvation. In full agreement, the Father sent the Son so that I could know Him, and the Spirit lives within to whisper I am loved.

« Older posts

© 2016 Mandy Baker Johnson

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑