Mandy Baker Johnson

Living without Shadows

Month: January 2015

Facebook Fast

This is my last post for six weeks. My church is having a forty day fast and depriving myself of social media, among other things, is my way of joining in. Facebook will be a tough one because I check in at least once a day. But I am looking forward to the break. Let me tell you why.

A couple of years ago, Adi and I were visiting the south of France. While there, the Holy Spirit highlighted to me that I was addicted to Facebook and Twitter and my smartphone. I had had some prayer counselling and deliverance ministry in the couple of months prior to this where it felt like God had been having a good rummage in my life and bringing unhealthy stuff and dark secrets to the surface. So in some ways the revelation that I had an addiction wasn’t a surprise, but at the same time it was. I hadn’t seen that one coming.

But when I thought about it, I had to agree with God that there was a problem. Most nights, I would check email, Facebook and Twitter on my smartphone over and over again compulsively. Word game apps were also a big downfall for me. Nothing wrong with them if you have self-control, but between the apps and the social media/email it could easily take me sixty to ninety minutes to put the smartphone down long enough to get to bed. I hadn’t seen the issue, but God had – and He wanted so much more for me than being chained to a bit of plastic technology.

And so I told God I was sorry and renounced my unhealthy dependence on the technology. He set me free from a spirit of addiction and filled me with His own Spirit. I deleted all the word game apps from my smartphone and took steps to not allow myself quite such easy access to Facebook and Twitter.

During that period of prayer counselling and deliverance, Jesus set me free from so many things that were like heavy chains weighing me down. I am so grateful to Him for what He has done. He is one amazing Saviour! WOO HOO HOO – HE’S BRILLIANT!

This verse has become my life motto – I want to show and tell the excellencies of the fantastic Father God who called me out of darkness and into His marvellous light. One way of doing this is through writing a book to share the wonderful and exciting story of Him healing me from a horrible illness and then turning my life upside down by setting me free from all kinds of oppression and filling me out to be the woman He always meant me to be. So one of the things I will be doing during my six week fast from social media is to concentrate on the editing of my book. Watch this space!


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I am the True Vine (Part 2)

When I was little I received an illustrated children’s dictionary for Christmas. I enjoyed reading and loved writing stories, so my older brother thought it would be fun for me to broaden my vocabulary. He offered to give me 50 p for each page of new words I learned. I wanted the money (50 p was a lot in those days – I could have got five lots of 10 p mixes with up to 20 sweets in a bag) but not the work that went with it, so I never did earn my 50 p.

So when I was meditating on John 15 with its repeated urging to abide in Christ, I wondered what abide actually meant and how could I do that?

The dictionary definition of abide is to: tolerate, remain, continue.  To abide by is to: act upon, remain faithful to.

So to abide in Christ is to continually remain in Him and be faithful to Him. Or to put it another way, to be super-glued to Him; to be so close to Him that it is impossible to tell where I end and He begins. I like the idea of being super-glued to Jesus!

In v 9, Jesus assures me that He loves me like the Father loves Him, so I should remain in His love. How do I do that? The obvious ways are to obey Him, to read the Bible and pray. But I didn’t want it to be a thought that makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside but remains a cold suggestion on a page. I want me abiding in Christ to be real.

Little GirlI got to thinking how Jesus is my Big Brother. Little sisters generally look up to their big brothers and usually go through a phase of hero-worshiping them. There is a nine year age gap between my brother and me, and as I grew up I wanted to copy the things Gary did and sought his approval.

It shouldn’t be any different with Jesus and me. Jesus is my hero because He rescued me from darkness and set me free, and it’s okay to pour everything into worshiping Him because He is God. In the Gospels, I see how Jesus remained in His Father’s love by listening and talking to Him continually through the day (and loving to spend whole nights in prayer with His Dad), and doing whatever the Father asked Him to do. So that is what I need to do: my Big Brother wants me to copy Him as a little sister who adores Him and considers Him her hero.

In v 11, Jesus said that if I abide in His love, the joy that He has will completely fill me. Joy is stronger and better than happiness because it isn’t dependent on circumstances. I first experienced Jesus’ joy bubbling up inside me when I was weak and ill with ME/chronic fatigue and cerebellar ataxia – some days just breathing took every ounce of energy and concentration, yet I knew His joy within. Jesus’ joy is supernatural and it can’t be faked.

Jesus is a safe place to pour all my love and longing, my hopes and my dreams because when I abide in Him, He gives me more of Himself. Isn’t He just the Best?! I do love Him.

Linking up with Faith Filled Fridays

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I am the True Vine (Part 1)

When I was small, my dad and uncle used to rent an allotment. They had a grapevine in one of the greenhouses. I didn’t like going in there because the glass was dingy, it was cobwebby and smelled of tomato plants. Overhead grew the grapevine. They got excited when the purple grapes were ripe enough to pick and eat. Dad would bring home a bucketful at a time (he was a classy gardener!) for us to enjoy.

One of the ‘I am’ sayings for which Jesus is well known is:  ‘I am the true vine’. For years, I classed this passage as boring and couldn’t see its relevance, so I ignored it. Until recently. After God got hold of me in the summer of 2013 and turned my life upside-down and inside out, I began learning Bible verses. It gradually dawned on me that I was learning quite a few from John 15. And actually, they were very relevant, and I was thirsty to understand more. So last October when Adi and I were on holiday in London, I spent some time meditating on what Jesus meant when He said He was the true vine.

By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be My disciples.

I started in the middle of the passage because this verse grabbed my attention.

God had already shown me that He has adopted me as His daughter. Now He was showing me His heart: what delights Him is when I bear fruit and show the world that I am a follower of His beloved Son. It’s all about God and what He does in me to make me like Jesus. All I have to do is be willing and yield to Him.

I bear fruit by believing Him – believing God is who He says He is and can do what He says He can do. Believing that what He says about me is true. My thought life or self-talk makes a massive difference. If I choose to think truth and believe it, I am more confident and enjoy peace (another fruit!). The impossible suddenly becomes possible. Like when there were demonic presences in our bedroom that bullied me – when I believed that God was my shield, I would go upstairs to bed confident that I was safe and that nothing would attack me. And I had a good night. But when I gave in to fear and doubted that God was my shield, I would have a terrible night. (Thankfully, all of those demonic presences are now gone, thanks to the power and presence of Jesus – nothing can stand in His way.)

AshamedAnother exciting way that I see God working in me is that I now have a heart of compassion. Not that long ago, I was very judgmental, critical and harsh about others. I had a superior attitude towards them. Homeless people weren’t even on my radar. I blamed the unemployed for not having a job. But then God held up a mirror and showed me myself. It wasn’t a pretty picture. I was horrified by my attitude and hard heart. As I repented, He gave me good things in place of the bad stuff. One of those things was a heart of compassion. He gave me the desire to help out at my church’s food bank; initially I worried that I would do my usual thing of getting emotional about it for a couple of weeks, then slide into cynicism. That didn’t happen – more than a year on, I still have compassion for the people I meet through the food bank. I realise that poverty isn’t black and white. Many of the people who come in have a tonne of issues to cope with. I love getting to chat with and listen to individuals, show them a little of God’s Father heart and pray with them.

Something else I never thought I’d do is have a heart full of love for women working in the sex industry. Being able to practically show God’s unconditional love for these women by giving them food, warm clothes and a hug, as well as praying with them, is one of the highlights of my month. I could never have done this if God hadn’t gotten hold of me first and showed me what I was, and then showed me who I am in Christ. He is one amazing God!

This is God’s heart for individuals:

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor:
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
…to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour;
and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn;
…to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit:
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, that He may display His beauty.

If you are a follower of Jesus, then He says you are an oak of righteousness. He Himself has planted you and nothing can ever uproot you. You are secure in Him. And in you and me, the Father wants to display all the beauty and attractiveness of the most wonderful God-Man ever to walk this earth, Jesus Christ of Nazareth. This is our calling! All we have to do is come to Him with empty hands and say: Here I am, Lord!’

 

Photo credit: Stoonn

I couldn’t love anything more…

I love the film Father of the Bride with Steve Martin. A scene that has come to mind time and again this week is one where the father George buys his daughter Annie and her future husband a quality cappuccino-maker as a wedding present.

(Up to this point, George has struggled mightily with the cost of the wedding, never mind the thought of giving away his only daughter. In the preceding scene, George has a wake up call after being arrested for a public meltdown, and is now doing everything in his power to make the wedding plans go well and to show Annie how much he loves her.)

Back to the scene:

After receiving the gift Annie turns to her dad with adoring eyes and says: ‘I couldn’t love anything more’. She is clearly happy with the gift, but she is also revealing her feelings for her dad. She loves him. As she goes off to show everyone the cappuccino-maker, George – as narrator – says: ‘My feelings exactly’.

Did you realise that that is how God feels about us? He says of us, ‘I couldn’t love anything more’.

The first time I realised this was eighteen months ago. God had been doing a lot of very necessary demolishing and rebuilding work in my life, and He relaid my foundations by revealing Bible truths I’d never properly seen before. When I read Jesus’ prayer in John 17:  ‘You… loved them even as You loved Me’, I actually texted a good friend to ask her if that was true. I was so astounded. Isn’t it amazing? To think that God the Father loves me as much as He loves Jesus. Wow! That is completely mind-blowing! WOOO HOOO!

Just like in Father of the Bride, God has given me a gift – an eternal and abundant life of being friends with Him. This gift is the most expensive present ever. It cost far beyond billions of pounds – it cost the very life-blood of Jesus, God’s only Son. And now He looks at me with eyes full of love and says of me: ‘I couldn’t love anyone more’.

Barbie Swihart

Sandra Heska King - Still Saturday
Faith Along the Way

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Joy

I rolled around on the floor laughing till my stomach ached. Adi looked on bemused. We were at a prayer meeting and there I was, belly-laughing on the floor.

A couple of days earlier God had delivered me from a spirit of fear that had been rooted deep inside since childhood. The Holy Spirit kept whispering the word joy to me. And then in the prayer meeting, His joy flooded me until it gushed out in peels of laughter – filling up and healing all those inner places where fear had reigned in my life.

Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion; shout!
Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem!
The Lord has taken away the judgments against you;
He has cleared away your enemies.
The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you shall never again fear evil.

Zechariah 3:14-15

My word for 2015 is JOY.

I have tasted God’s joy in the last eighteen months and it’s intoxicating, strengthening, healing. It is part of the inheritance Jesus died to give me, and I am keen to enjoy more of my inheritance in Him.

Sing aloud, shout, rejoice, exult (show triumphant elation/jubilation) – this is about emotion being fully engaged. I used to be conservative, even disapproving of Christians who showed any kind of emotion in worship.

We sing and shout over what we’re truly passionate about. When Jessica Ennis was running for gold in the 2012 Olympics, for all I was quiet, shy and unconfident, I stood yelling my head off for her while watching a big screen at Trent Embankment with several hundred other people – and I jumped up and down celebrating for her when she crossed the finish line. What about football supporters at a match? They sing, they shout, they put their hands in the air, they hug.

Showing such emotion makes you vulnerable. People see what is really in your heart.

Sing aloud, shout, rejoice, exult with all your heart – this is a command. Yet His commandments aren’t burdensome. God created us with emotions and He meant for us to use them.

Why should we be glad and rejoice in God?

I rejoice in Him because He has taken away my condemnation. I deserved judgment and death for rebelling against Him and going my own way. But because Jesus took the punishment I deserved, God does not condemn me.

God lives inside me. My Father has generously given me His Holy Spirit so that I can understand the things that are important to God, to prove that I’m His adopted daughter, and as a guarantee of everything He has promised me for the future.

God has cleared away my enemies. I used to be trapped in an invisible prison, the walls of which were lies and deceit, shame and defeat. But God has rescued me from the domain of darkness and brought me into His own Kingdom. The evil one has no legal right to me anymore because I’m in a new Kingdom now. He is powerless to hurt and trap me while ever I choose to believe Truth. Jesus has set me free and I don’t need to be afraid of evil. If demonic nightmares try to break in on my sleep, the name of Jesus is powerful enough to send them packing.

In these two verses, God twice calls me His daughter. That makes me so secure because to be a daughter of God is to be accepted and beloved and precious.

So I refuse to be conservative in worship. The more I comprehend what God has done for me, the more I must give him whole-hearted, emotions-fully-engaged worship. He deserves nothing less. What can I say? He has rescued me and set me free, and I love Him with every fibre of my being. That doesn’t make me perfect, but it does fill me with joy.

Joy is contagious. When Adi and I were visiting Hampton Court Palace in the autumn, I was struck by this fountain. It gushed exuberantly high into the air, scattering droplets in a pebble effect and showering us with spray. That is what the joy of the Lord is like – my prayer is that He will fill me until I overflow with His joy, and that as others see His joy in me, they will want to know Him for themselves. Because He is the most amazing and wonderful God. My Father, My Deliverer, My Hero.

© 2017 Mandy Baker Johnson

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