Mandy Baker Johnson

Living without Shadows

Month: June 2012

Does God Heal Today?

I used to think that people who claimed God healed today were full of emotional hype and was deeply skeptical of any healing stories I heard.  That is, I was skeptical of healing stories in the West.

‘Why would God need to heal us?’  I wondered.  ‘We have the Bible and that’s all the revelation of God that we need.’

For people in other countries, especially those far from any medical aid and who didn’t have much, if any, of the Bible in their own language, it was a different story.  For them, I did believe God healed them, because it was a way of Him revealing Himself to them.  But as soon as they had the Bible, I concluded, God would stop healing them, because they didn’t need Him.

Put like that, it sounds crazy and illogical doesn’t it?  Yet I’m positive I wasn’t alone in believing this.

My other argument for never praying for healing (I was happy to ask God to ‘guide the surgeon’s hands’ and to ‘give wisdom to the doctors’ but not ‘please heal’) was that I had a vague idea that God sends illness and, therefore, we should just accept it and pray for His grace to cope with it.

Again, I was wrong.  Sometimes God does allow illness and He can teach us much through our suffering.  Indeed, often the way to experience a deeper and more intimate knowledge of God’s grace is through suffering.  But that doesn’t mean that we should simply accept it and live with it.  Because sometimes God does want to heal us and give us a precious knowledge of His grace through doing so.

How did I change?

During my time working with a mission agency in the Arab world, I heard stories of Muslims encountering Jesus through dreams and visions and through miraculous healing, and having their lives radically changed as they came to know Him as God.  I rejoiced with them while gradually longing for this kind of revelation from God for myself.  ‘Why does He just reveal Himself to people from other religions?’ I wondered, rather wistfully.

Then in 2010, I became very ill with debilitating cerebellar ataxia and ME.  At first, I was reluctant to ask for healing, believing that God had lessons to teach me through the illness.  I was convinced I would have to live with the reality of using a wheelchair and of being unable to look after myself for the rest of my life.  And God did teach me much through the illness, and I got to know Him more intimately than I had ever imagined possible.  But in the October of that year, good friends fasted and prayed for me along with friends/leaders at church and I had a wonderful breakthrough healing.  From then on, I pursued healing from God every day and in February 2011, He healed me of ME.  Since then, He has gradually restored my confidence, my strength and my memory.

Through my own experience of being healed, the wonderfully compassionate side of God’s nature was personally revealed to me.  Jesus became more real and for the first time, I could wholeheartedly enthuse about my saviour who answers prayer in real and tangible ways and cares deeply for us. I now appreciate that on the cross He was wounded for my transgressions; He was crushed for my iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought me peace, and with His stripes I am healed.  (Isaiah 53:5)

God gets the glory in our suffering and He gets the glory when He heals us.  Either way is perfect in His will, because He gets the glory.  I don’t know why He doesn’t always choose to heal miraculously.  I don’t know why He chose to heal me (but I praise Him that He did!).  But I know that you will never know what He wants to do in your life unless you take the plunge and ask Him to actually heal you.

Here is a wonderful testimony to inspire you to seek God for all that He has for you.

The Scarlet Thread

‘… it is the men who dream of Oregon.  It is as though Heaven itself beckons them and we must all cross hell to get to it.’

Set across different centures, The Scarlet Thread follows the lives of two women who are joined through an old, tatty journal as they each grapple with their husband’s ambition.

Twenty-first century woman Sierra Madrid is less than thrilled when her husband Alex announces that he has accepted a job offer which means they must move hundreds of miles to Los Angeles.  She is so upset about the family being uprooted that she fails to see how God could have a hand in any of this, despite her mother’s insistance that God has a plan for her life.  Suspicious of her husband’s new work colleagues and superficial new friendships, Sierra begins to feel like an uneducated country bumpkin and, therefore, worthless in Alex’s eyes.  In her loneliness, she turns to an old family journal – wrapped in a scarlet-embroidered quilt – and finds her life becoming intertwined with her ancestor Mary Kathryn McMurray.

Mary is a feisty young woman whose husband James insists on travelling to Oregan in a covered wagon in the 1840s.  Like Sierra, Mary is reluctant to uproot her family and move hundreds of miles away.  But she has promised to obey her husband and so – with bad grace – she packs up and prepares for the long, dangerous journey through Indian territory with her young family.

The hardships for both Sierra and Mary are real, and there are many ups and downs for them.  They doubt themselves, their husbands, and God.  But eventually, they each come to recognise that God really does have a plan for their lives.  Mary’s faith journey is carefully embroidered in scarlet thread onto a ‘friendship’ quilt.  It’s only when Sierra submits herself to God’s plan for her life and learns to forgive and be reconciled with Alex that she understands what the scarlet-embroidered quilt means.

I loved this book.  Any wife will identify with some of the things Sierra and Mary go through with their husbands; every marriage has its ups and downs.  The fact that it is set in two different times drew me like metal to a magnet – I love this type of storyline.  Like all of Francine Rivers‘ books, there is tragedy, drama, love, forgiveness, grace.  Wondering how Sierra and Mary will cope with each new incident that comes along kept me turning the pages, eager to read on.  Skillfully written, it brings history to life while showing us modern-day women that we can learn from the past.

 

The Humble Leader ~ John Stott

John Stott was both radical and gentle, as this new biography by Julia Cameron reveals.  By the end of the book, you will want to call this great man of God ‘Uncle John’ as his real-life friends did.

I enjoyed the way the book was set out, each chapter being followed by fact files which either explain further something that was mentioned in the preceeding chapter (Rugby school where John Stott was educated for example) or give sound advice, relevant to what has just been read.  At the very end of the book, there is a John Stott timeline, questions to think about and discuss, and ideas of activities relevant to John Stott’s life.  These are excellent ways of encouraging children to engage on a deeper level with what they have read in the book.

John Stott learned as a child that when bad things happen, God can turn them into good.  For him, this resulted in a life-long passion for bird-watching, and he enjoyed studying birds all over the world as part of God’s majestic creation.  Later in life, he wrote The Birds our Teachers which contains the theological lessons he learned from the birds.

His other major priorities were students and pastors.  He invested much time and effort into these two groups.  John Stott recognised that students are the people who tend to shape future thinking and he saw the worth of investing time in them, encouraging them in thinking through and valuing biblical principles.  He knew that pastors would, in their turn, influence others and it was important for them too, to have a godly example before them.  In addition to discipling others, John Stott spent much time preaching and writing.  His writing hideway was a rambling country house on the coast called ‘The Hookses’ which he lovingly renovated in his younger days with the help of friends.

John Stott was a young man during the Second World War and grieved his parents by becoming a conscientious objector.  His parents put great pressure on him to rethink his decision, and his father even resolved not to pay the fees for him to remain at the University of Cambridge after his first year.  Instead of rebelling aginst or turning his back on them, he continued to lovingly honour them in every way (apart from going to war).  He prayed hard throughout this time and God graciously answered His prayers.

God was the undisputed passion of his life, as demonstrated by his habit of going to bed early so that he could get up early to spend uninterrupted time with his Bible and in prayer.  This resulted in an overflow of love to those around him.  John Stott had a big heart for the poor, even sleeping rough for a few nights disguised as a down-and-out so that he could empathise as much as possible with them.  He practiced hospitality continuously.  John Stott wanted everyone to feel welcome in his church (All Souls, Langham Place) and radically did away with the rented pews so that no one need feel awkward by accidentally sitting in someone else’s seat.  He interacted with the rich, the poor, the uneducated and the intelligent alike, valuing each individual as someone Christ loved and died for.

John Stott was instrumental in the setting up of The Lausanne Movement, which looks strategically at world mission, and was the Founder and lifelong President of The Langham Partnership, which provides books and training for pastors in the developing world.

In 1959, John Stott received an unexpected honour of becoming Extra Chaplain to Queen Elizabeth the Second.  He held this position, offered to very few, for the rest of his life.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading about this humble leader, who was incredibly intelligent and godly, yet gracious, loving and thoughtful.  This was a man with an attractive character, which comes through the pages of the book strongly.

The Humble Leader is part of the Christian Focus Trailblazers series.  This is a superb book and I highly recommend it.

I am grateful to Christian Focus for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book for the purpose of writing a review.

The Serpent And The Salesman

Do you ever get frustrated with salesmen who come knocking on your door at the most inopportune times, peddling their latest offers?  I certainly do!

Some friends and I were chatting about this recently.  Well, maybe ‘having a rant’ would be more accurate – complete with finger wagging and arm waving, only just stopping short of a hearty ‘hear hear’!  Anyway, one friend described an experience she’d had with a film company, and it got me thinking….

Despite her lack of interest, the salesman was desperate for her to sign up.  She eventually argued that she and her husband didn’t really watch many films so it wouldn’t be worth it.  His answer to that?  An incredulous look and:  ‘What, you don’t watch any films?’

Doesn’t this remind you of an experience another woman once had?  Think back – quite far back – to Genesis 3 (Genesis 3:1-6 if you want a bit of homework) and how the serpent persuaded Eve to eat the fruit on the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

Now, tempting as it is, I’m not saying that door-to-door salespeople are the devil!  However, a couple of things did strike me hearing my friend’s story.

1)  Temptation is so easy to give in to!

I know, this is stating the obvious – we are fallen people living in a fallen world, and the devil uses every trick possible to tempt us.  My friend found herself arguing her way out of a hole because the salesman twisted her words back at her – just as the serpent misquoted God’s instruction to Adam and Eve.  The fall came not so much because they ate the fruit, but because they first entertained the serpent’s argument, listening to and reasoning with him.  It’s so easy to be enticed by clever arguments (a challenge for me and my big mouth, for sure!) – if you don’t want to get into trouble, don’t go near it in the first place!  My friend would have probably been much better off had she shut the door on him from the beginning.  James 4:7 says:  ‘…Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.’

2)  Shoulda woulda coulda…

That’s all great in theory, but – not to repeat myself (well, okay, to blatantly repeat myself) – we are fallen people living in a fallen world.  Our lives are filled with daily ‘shoulda woulda couldas’.  BUT… we have grace!  Or, rather, God has freely given us grace, sending Jesus to die for us then raising Him up again.  So every time we mess up and go back to Him sorry and broken all over again, He forgives us.  Not only that – He sees us in the light of Jesus’ perfect holiness.  I reckon Isaac Watts had it pretty spot on – ‘amazing grace’ indeed!  (Check out 2 Corinthians 12:9 if you don’t believe me.…)

So what?  Well, it’s quite obvious, really.  If I’m a recipient of such amazing grace, surely I also have a responsibility?  I have a responsibility to share this grace:  by telling others about this amazing gift from God to everyone who will accept it, and by living it out myself.

 Put on, then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other….
Colossians 3:12-13

Now there’s a challenge if I ever heard one!

So the next time a salesman comes knocking on my door, I’ll probably get stroppy, shut the door in his face, regret my missed opportunity and be reminded, once again, of my need for grace…!

  Ceri Skinner

Jubilee Thoughts

This weekend has made me proud to be British.  I’ve often thought that we’re not, generally speaking, very patriotic in Britain.  We don’t seem to take pride in our country and I’ve never heard any Brits say that they love the motherland (or fatherland, if you prefer), like other nationalities do.  But this weekend, I’ve been proved wrong:  we do love our country and we are proud to be citizens of it.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed seeing the pageantry (no one does pomp and ceremony quite like us!) as the country has excelled itself in celebrating Queen Elizabeth the Second’s Diamond Jubilee.  From the pageant on the Thames of 1,000 vessels, to the huge open air concert outside Buckingham Palace, to the climax of the Thankgiving Service in St Paul’s followed by the Balcony Appearance and Fly Past, we have revelled in three exciting days of celebration.

But I couldn’t help but think that, proud as I am to be British, I’m much prouder (in a non-arrogant sense) to be a citizen of Heaven.  I’m so excited that when I asked Jesus to be my saviour and Lord some thirty odd years ago, I was immediately adopted by His Dad and became a citizen of Heaven.  Heaven is real and it’s where I absolutely belong, and one day I’m going there.  Paul (an apostle in the Bible) prayed that we would know the hope we’ve been called to – it’s not hope as in ‘I hope it doesn’t rain tomorrow’ but this hope is a sure fact that will happen.  God wants us to rejoice in the hope He has given us – of citizenship in Heaven.

Forget British pomp and pageantry, a feast for the eyes though it is.  When it comes to Heaven it’s all about glory, God’s glory, and that will be a feast for our souls!

Whenever Queen Elizabeth entered or departed from a building, her arrival or departure was announced by trumpets.  This definitely added to the sense of occasion and warned everyone that she was about to arrive or depart.  This so reminded me of Jesus.  The Bible promises that Jesus is going to come back one day, and the first we’ll know about it is the sounding of a trumpet.  When Jesus returns, He’ll be both arriving and departing – arriving here to judge the world and bring rewards with Him, and departing from Heaven along with all its armies.  Why are Heaven’s armies needed?  Because that will be the great day of judgement.  Jesus will be seen by everyone who has ever lived as the glorious King of Kings (even if they spent their whole lives denying His existence).  Even the deaf will hear His trumpet call and the dead will actually be raised to life!  No one will be allowed to miss the greatest event this world has ever or will ever see.

Jesus has promised that He will bring rewards with Him, for those who love Him and are faithful to Him.  At the end of the Jubilee Concert on Monday evening, Prince Charles publicly thanked Gary Barlow by name for all his hard work – and rightly so.  But I got goose bumps imagining what it will be like for Jesus to publicly acknowledge us by name when He comes again?  He will do this, whether we are famous in His service or insignificant.  Every single believer is deeply and intimately loved by Jesus.  Don’t worry, if like me you’re a bit shy, because when Jesus comes again you WILL NOT BE OVERLOOKED.  There’s no way He’ll let you blend in with the crowd.  You’re precious to Him and He will make sure that you know that with every fibre of your (brand-new heavenly) being!

However, if you’re not a believer, Jesus is coming as Judge.  And that will be utterly terrifying.  Make sure you get right with Him before that happens.

Queen Elizabeth has seen twelve Prime Ministers come and go during her sixty year reign.  She has remained constant and faithful throughout.  But one day, her reign will end.  But Jesus is a magnificent King who is also constant and faithful, and His reign will never end!

© 2017 Mandy Baker Johnson

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