Mandy Baker Johnson

Living without Shadows

Month: December 2012

Happy New Year!

I love New Year.  I love that there are are 365 fresh new days ahead of me.  For me, it’s a time to pause and take stock, before breathing in deep and jumping into the year ahead.  How about you?  Are you making any New Year resolutions?  I don’t tend to make them, although in 2013 I am aiming to write for at least 15 minutes every day….

2012 has been a year of lows and highs.  It began with changing from a frustrating job where I was a square peg in a round hole to working for myself as a medical secretary from home.  A bit of a dream come true!  Then there was a series of quite serious misunderstandings that I suspect God allowed into my life to teach me the necessity of pleasing God rather than man and the importance of forgiveness.  The Lord stripped away key friends who would have helped to clear up the misunderstandings, forcing me to lean on Him.  And by doing so, somehow showed me something of my worth and the value He has put on me.  When I know I am precious to God, misunderstandings – though deeply hurtful – begin to fade into insignificance.

I lived in a happy dream bubble during the Jubilee and the Olympics, revelling in all the pomp and ceremony that we Brits do so well.  I was glued to the television at certain times….  I’m sure I’m not the only person who forgot to breathe during Louis Smith’s near-perfect pommel horse routine.  I screamed when Beth Tweddle won bronze on bars and leaped around the lounge when Andy Murray won gold.  I even yelled encouragement for athletes when I had no idea who they were, but they were wearing British colours and that was good enough for me.

Our church weekend away in June was an amazing time of connecting with God in a deeper way than ever before, enjoying chilling with friends and laughing till it hurt at our crazy church cabaret.

And then in September, the Lord restored to me the final thing that had been taken from me by the illness two years ago – my work with a mission organisation.  It’s as though He has now drawn a line under that period of illness and said ‘no more’, leaving me to simply enjoy and build on all the benefits I received from that time.

And this brings me onto a verse that I’m going to take with me into 2013 from Psalm 90:

Satisfy me each morning with your unfailing love,
so I may sing for joy to the end of my life.

I love that I have a history with Jesus.  I love that I have special memories of our times together (like when I was between healings and kept saying to Him, ‘I love You’ but worried in case I was being irreverent or something.  I still remember tears welling up when He whispered to my heart, ‘I died to hear you say that’).  I love that when I was drowning in shame over the misunderstandings last spring, He had a prophetic word for me in church which replaced the feeling of shame with one of hope and comfort.  I love that recently when I’d fallen into a particular temptation yet again and was beating myself up over it, I told Jesus in despair that He could do anything He wanted with me to get this wrong thing out of my life.  That Sunday, He had another prophetic word in church for me telling me not to fix my attention on the sin but to concentrate on Him.  Always grace and gentleness and understanding.  Even when He has to be stern, He is incredibly gentle with me.  He knows how easy it would be to break me.  I love that I’m loved like that.  He is my protector against demons in the night and nightmares.  He is my healer and the one who is working tirelessly to make me whole.  I love Him.

And so, my desire and prayer for 2013 is that He will satisfy me every single morning with His unfailing love.  Because then I will sing for joy, and I want to be a joyful person for the rest of my days.  Do you know the best thing about knowing Jesus?  It will never end!  This relationship that is gradually deepening in intimacy will just get better and better and better.

What’s your New Year resolution?  I hope part of it will be to get to know Jesus better.

‘I Have Not Been Afraid To Speak Out…’

I have told all your people about your justice.
I have not been afraid to speak out, as you, O Lord, well know.
I have not kept the good news of your justice hidden in my heart;
I have talked about your faithfulness and saving power.
I have told everyone in the great assembly of your unfailing love and faithfulness.
Psalm 40:9-10 (New Living Translation)

Telling others what God has done for us flows out of a full and grateful heart.  For years, I had a vague idea that if I could just get excited enough about God, my love for Him would overflow naturally to other people.  But it was just a vague idea.  When I did pluck up the courage to mention God in everyday conversation, it was stilted and awkward.

The breakthrough happened when I was ill.  Jesus’s presence was so tangible to me during those months I was ill, that He became precious to me.  I could no more have denied what Adrian did for me in looking after me physically as deny what Jesus did for me – physically (keeping me safe on the stairs and giving me strength when I literally had none), spiritually, mentally and emotionally.  And then when He healed me, I really had something to shout about.  As I’d always suspected, geniune passion for God does spill over into everyday conversations in a non-awkward way.  Of course, I am still shy and don’t always find talking about someone so special and personal easy, but it certainly comes a lot more naturally than it used to.

What did David in this Psalm get excited about?  What words did he use to describe what God had done?

*  Justice
*  Good news
*  Faithfulness
*  Saving power
*  Unfailing love.

There is a lot of injustice in our world and in our society.  I sometimes get angry about unjust and unfair things – war where there are all too many innocent victims, abortion, rapists walking free, a school massacre, paparazzi hounding famous people, etc, etc.  But God is just.  He is so just that even though we choose to reject Him, ignore Him, even refuse – in some cases – to believe He exists, Jesus died to take the punishment we deserve.  A helpful way to think about this is:  imagine you’re in a court room.  A woman is in the dock and the judge has just pronounced her guilty and passed sentence.  But a door opens and a young man comes in, moves the woman out of the dock and takes her place.  The guard then puts the handcuffs on the man and leads him away, leaving the woman to go free.  In this scenario, the judge is God, the prisoner is us, and the young man taking her place is Jesus.  This is a picture of what Jesus has done.  This is good news!

God is faithful.  He never lets us down, never gets in a mood, will never desert us.  We may not always understand what He’s up to, but we can rest assured that He knows what He’s doing, and that He’s faithful.

Because of what Jesus did by dying on the cross and taking God’s punishment for us, He has saving power.  There is nothing and no one more powerful than God.  He is the only one who has overcome all the evil powers of darkness, and can rescue people from the power of the occult.  He put all those powers to shame when He died on the cross, and they have no control over Him at all.

The Bible says God is love.  That doesn’t mean He’s wimpy and wishy-washy (who would want a God like that?!  Eugh!).  His love and justice met at the cross.  Because God loves us, Jesus bore the brunt of His justice when He took the punishment we deserve.  Without Jesus dying in our place, we could never have a relationship with God because even our best efforts at being good and pleasing Him fall well short of His perfect standards.

Do you know the good news of Jesus’s saving power, love and faithfulness for yourself?  Would you like to?  If so, please get in touch.  I would love to share more about it, and try to answer your questions.

If you do know this good news, are you excited about it?  Does your love and passion for Jesus spill out of your life to others?  If not, ask the Holy Spirit to make Him more real and more precious to you.  It’s a prayer I think He loves to answer with a big, fat YES.

Royal Baby Or Royal Fetus?

Like the majority of people in the UK, indeed in the Commonwealth, I’m delighted that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting their first baby.  People are excited about this new life, already discussing names and speculating on whether this little one will be a boy or a girl, even whether the Duchess will have twins!

Yesterday, I came across Denny Burk’s comments about our reaction to the news and, particularly, the fact that we are talking about a baby.  Not a blob or a fetus, but a baby.  Interesting the way our terminology changes when we consider a pregnancy and new life to be precious….

Why aren’t we calling it the ‘royal fetus’?

God Wants What?

You take no delight in sacrifices or offerings.
Now that you have made me listen, I finally understand –
you don’t require burnt offerings or sin offerings.
Then I said, ‘Look, I have come.
As is written about me in the Scriptures:
I take joy in doing your will, my God,
for your instructions are written on my heart.’
Psalm 40:6-8 (New Living Translation)

This Psalm became important to me after my first healing breakthrough in the autumn of 2010 and I’ve spent time since then meditating on it and pondering what it means.  These verses were a bit of a puzzle for a while, but the meaning is becoming clearer.  So I’m going to share here where I’m at with my thoughts on obedience and sacrifice and who has God’s instructions written on their hearts.

Why doesn’t God delight in sacrifices and offerings?  Whole chunks of the Old Testament are dedicated to exactly how sacrifices were to be made.  The Israelites would have been in big trouble had they neglected to make sacrifices and bring offerings to God.  But even in the Old Testament, God is more concerned with what’s going on in people’s hearts than what we show outwardly.  Anyone can make sacrifices.  Obedience is harder because it can cost more.  We can make sacrifices and look good, but still be doing what we want and going our own way.  Obedience requires that we put someone else first (in this instance, God) and yield to what they want.  Israel’s first king, Saul, was given specific instructions by God through the prophet Samuel to destroy the Amalekite people and their animals because of their sin.  But Saul kept the Amalekite king alive along with the best of the cows, sheep and goats.  When confronted about it, Saul said he’d kept the animals to make sacrifices and offerings to God.  He didn’t realise until Samuel pointed it out, that:  ‘obedience is better than sacrifice’  (1 Samuel 15).  God wanted obedience, not sacrifice.  Sacrifice can be a cop out.

Obedience is much more important to God because when we obey Him, we show Him we love Him.  Jesus explained this to His disciples a few hours before He was arrested and executed (John 14).  Being a Christian isn’t about keeping a list of rules – that’s legalism – but about a relationship with God.  Jesus had an incredibly close and intimate relationship with His Father and He delighted to obey His Dad because God’s instructions were written on His heart.  And, if you know God, He has done the same thing for you.

This is the covenant I will establish with the house of Israel after that time, declares the LORD.  I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts.  I will be their God, and they will be my people… they will all know me, from the least to the greatest (Hebrews 8).

Do you love Jesus?  Then just love Him.  You don’t have to do anything to earn His love and grace – He’s done it all, even to the point of putting His law in your heart.  Aim to please Him because you love Him.  Obeying Him is a joyful thing.  Jesus didn’t walk around miserable, He was full of joy (I know Isaiah described Him as a ‘man of sorrows and acquainted with grief’ but that was when He was on the cross carrying your grief and sorrows and sin).  Jesus was an attractive person to be around – look at the crowds He drew.  I love being around joyful people who are radiant with their love for Jesus, and I want to be like that.  I’m not so fussed on being around people who are full of woe with a daunting list of do’s and don’ts!  Christians aren’t meant to be weighed down with rules; we joyfully obey God because we love Him.

I AM…

…’Who are you, Jesus?’  He is the great I AM who exists from eternity to eternity, and yet comes into our world and says, ‘I am the bread of life, the light of the world, the true vine,’…

Iain D Campbell’s new book I AM… is a bite-sized 121 pages divided into seven chapters.  Each chapter considers a different ‘I am’ statement that Jesus said of Himself, as recorded in John’s Gospel.  Dr Campbell has a flowing, easy-to-read style that I enjoyed.  In fact, it was one of those books I found hard to put down (I read it on a recent flight to Marseille).  The book is aesthetically pleasing – the pages are printed on smooth paper and the printing is in a modern style with clear sub headings and divisions.  Each chapter concludes with three or four questions for further reflection and study.

Dr Campbell looks at Jesus’s ‘I am’ statements in the context in which they were made, pulls in other biblical examples as appropriate, and ponders on what these titles of Jesus mean for us today.  The book is full of scriptural content and constantly points to the Son of God.  As I sat reading it, several thousand feet above the earth, my heart was warmed and thrilled by the way this book renewed my focus on Jesus.

I AM… looks at these familiar statements in a fresh and heart-warming way and I’m glad I was reminded of these wonderful truths as I read this book.  I like the fact that because it is a short book, it’s suitable for readers and non-readers alike.  I think it could be easily adapted for a small group study, used for individual devotions, or simply enjoyed as an uplifting and encouraging read.

My thanks to Cross Focused Reviews and Evangelical Press for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book for the purpose of writing a review.  I can happily recommend it.  In fact, I will post a copy of I AM… to the first person to leave a comment below.  UK participants only, I’m afraid.

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