Mandy Baker Johnson

Living without Shadows

Month: February 2016 (page 1 of 2)

Thirst

There are a couple of occasions that I remember being really thirsty.

The first was when I had my wisdom teeth out under a general anaesthetic in hospital. My gums had been stitched but continued oozing blood. The nurse checked them every half-hour or so but refused to let me have a drink until the bleeding had stopped. I was obsessed with getting a drink of cool water. I could almost feel it, taste it, I was desperate for it. But every time she shone her little torch into my mouth she said no. I felt like I hated her. I prayed. Water, water, water. It was all I could think about.

Oh the beautiful moment when she shone her torch on my gums, smiled and poured me a small glass of water with ice cubes clinking. It was the best drink I’ve ever had.

The second was when I was on a work trip in Al Ain and we drove out into the desert for a picnic. A few of us thought it would be fun to climb the hugest sand dune you’ve ever seen. It towered above us like high rise flats. My boss David manfully climbed to the top holding a two litre bottle of water. At first climbing up was fun. But about three quarters of the way to the top, I wondered if I’d make it. I’d take one step forward and slide several back. There was nothing to grip onto. Sand slipped from under my scrabbling feet and hands and it was all to easy to slide down. Desert sand is fine, almost like dust, and it got in my throat, drying it out. I sprawled on the steep dune and gazed longingly at the bottle of water far out of my reach, balanced on the ridge. (David heartlessly took a photo of my moment of desperation). I had to keep going.

Oh the exhilaration of sprawling over the ridge of the dune and reaching for the water. Mmmmhhhhh.

King David longed for God like that: as the deer pants for water, my soul pants for You.

Jesus said that if anyone was thirsty, they should ask, and He would give them the Holy Spirit so that they’d never thirst again. In fact, rivers of living water would flow from them.

God offers to give us drink from the river of His delights because He is the fountain of life.

The only requirement is to be thirsty. All you have to do is ask.

Celebrate: Jesus

I celebrate You, Jesus,
I exult in You because You’re worthy of praise.

You saw me in my mess,
and lifted me out of a pit.
You set my feet on solid ground,
and steadied me as I walked along.
You put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to my God – yeeee haaaaah! You’re ace!
Many will see what You have done for me, and will put their trust in You.

You’ve broken my chains of fear and rejection,
You’ve set this prisoner free.
My broken heart is healed and made new.
You give me a crown instead of ashes,
You pour Your oil of gladness into my heart,
I spin and dance for You in my robes of righteousness,
I didn’t deserve this, but You gave it anyway.

You call me an oak of righteousness,
a beloved daughter in whom You display Your splendour.

I celebrate You Jesus,
I exult in You.
I love You because You pursue me with relentless love.

WOOO HOOO JESUS!!!

Heal

For years I didn’t believe God healed today. Now I do.

For years, I didn’t see miracles so I didn’t think God did them any more. But stories like the one I’m about to tell changed my mind.

About a year ago, a man visited our church one Sunday. During the worship time, an invitation was given for anyone needing healing to go forward for ministry. This man had a damaged knee. It was painful and he’d been struggling for months. He was due to have major surgery that week. He decided to go forward for prayer. Adi went to him, laid hands on his knee and prayed for healing. The man said it felt better and they both went back to their seats.

The following week, our pastor had an email from the man. He had gone to see his orthopaedic surgeon as planned but when they did pre-operative scans, they could find no damage at all. In fact, the surgeon was astonished to see that the knee was in such good condition, it looked as if it belonged to someone twenty years younger.

One of the names God uses for Himself is: God your Healer (Jehovah Rophi). He hasn’t changed. He is still able and willing to heal, far more than we are willing to ask.

See

Can you believe we’re on day seventeen through Lent? Today’s word prompt is SEE.

This reminded me of a prophet in the Bible called Elisha. Syria was at war with Israel and Elisha was proving to be a nuisance because God told him the Syrian army’s secret plans which Elisha passed on to the king of Israel. The king of Syria got pretty hacked off with this and decided to try and capture Elisha. He found out which city Elisha was living in and surrounded it in the night.

When Elisha woke up in the morning, his servant freaked out. All he could see was the Syrian army – hundreds of horses and chariots – surrounding the city.

‘Oh no, this is a disaster! What are we going to do?’

Elisha was calm. ‘It’s okay, don’t be scared. Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’

The servant may well have thought he was potty until Elisha prayed: ‘God open his eyes so that he can see.’

Elisha’s servant then saw a huge fiery army of horses and chariots all around Elisha.

Elisha prayed again and the God of Heaven’s Armies spectacularly defeated the Syrian army.

It would be nice (in some ways) to see the spiritual world as reality. But not seeing it doesn’t make it any less real. God is there and He is for us, and He has promised that Jesus in us is greater than the one who is in the world.

Joy

Martin and Gracia Burnham were kidnapped by terrorists and held in the Philippine jungle for more than a year. Hours before their captivity ended, they chatted about Psalm 100, knowing that they may not leave the jungle alive but wanting to serve the Lord with gladness and come into His presence with singing.

Joy: the ability to praise God in a dark place.

Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. It’s different to happiness because that’s dependent on circumstances. Joy is supernatural, given by God.

I first discovered joy during my illness six years ago. Like Martin and Gracia, I wondered how to serve God when simply breathing took the majority of my energy and concentration. The Holy Spirit brought these verses to my attention:

‘Count in all joy’ when you go through trials. Why? Because there is a reward if you do.

I was so comforted, knowing I could still serve God when I couldn’t do anything. Each afternoon, I breathily and tunelessly sang praises to God for a few seconds. That was my sole activity for the day. Yet I knew that God heard me and valued my sacrifice of praise.

The seed of joy that God planted in my heart has grown as I’ve cultivated it by practicing joy.

That’s not to say I always feel like praising God. I have days when I’m more miserable than joyful, when patients get on my nerves, things go wrong, or I’m hormonal and tired. Sometimes I text my friend Ali to let her know I’m struggling. She always texts back that she’s praying and reminds me to get back to praising God. I do the same for her. We both find that we usually feel tonnes better if we take a few minutes to praise God in tongues if we can’t find the words in English.

Jesus knew all about joy in dark places too. He urged people who are persecuted for their faith to ‘rejoice’ and ‘leap for joy’. What? Sounds heartless. But Jesus saw things from an eternal perspective and He thinks it’s worth it for the reward. God the Son promised a great reward for those who are persecuted because they love Him.

Jesus Himself went through the crucifixion because of the joy He was looking forward to afterwards: the joy of having you and me as His friends.

Linking up with Little Things Thursday.

 

Shelter

Shelter conjures up so many images:

A refuge for vulnerable people.

Somewhere unwanted animals can be cared for: cat and dog home, donkey sanctuary….

An umbrella turning inside-out in stormy weather.

Someone shivering in the cold and rain in a bus shelter.

Jesus is my shelter. The Bible says He is my place of refuge and a strong tower I can run to for safety. Like a bird gathering its chicks under its wings against predators, I find safety in the shelter of Jesus’ wings.

This isn’t just poetic language and nice pictures. Jesus is my shelter during life’s storms. He keeps me safe from the enemy. One day, Jesus will be my shelter from God’s judgment and He guarantees me a permanent home with Him. Imagine living with Jesus for ever. Whoop whoop! He’s the best!

Covenant

Almost seventeen years ago, Adi and I entered a covenant of marriage. We made each other promises in our wedding vows that we would stick together through tough patches and good times. We’ve certainly had some moments together….

Redundancy followed by six years of Adi self-contracting meant times of being quite well off followed by very lean months when food got more and more boring.

Being told we were physically unable to have a baby of our own, going through a failed IVF cycle and losing our tiny twins. That was tough.

My being ill for more than a year with cerebellar ataxia and ME/chronic fatigue.

Then there are the little things that annoy. For instance, I like the air con blowing warm air on my feet in winter in the car. Adi prefers it blowing on his face.

Yes, there have been times when thoughts of divorce have crossed our minds. We’d hardly be human if they hadn’t. But we don’t entertain those thoughts. We made promises and are committed to keeping them. That brings each of us a deep sense of security. We know that neither one of us is going to walk out of this marriage lightly. We work at spending time together, listening to one another, talking things through and just enjoying each other’s company. It doesn’t just happen and it would be easy to drift apart – Adi to his computer, me to my books.

Marriage is meant to be a picture of our relationship with God. He has made a covenant with us that if we trust in Jesus’ death and resurrection, He will be our God and we will be His people. This means He is utterly committed to us. We have to work at our relationship with God, making sure we spend quality time regularly with Him, and growing in our love for Him. But He is crazy about us and delights in being with and knowing us. God will never walk away from a relationship with us. This covenant is binding and will last for ever.

 

Vision

The crazy generosity of God astonishes me. Talk about reckless love!

Jesus willingly died so that I could be adopted by the Father, who is so dedicated to bringing me abundant life and making me like Jesus that He fills me with His Spirit. The God who created the universe lives inside me! How crazy is that? What kind of god does this? One who loves me like He loves Himself. Wow.

Centuries ago, a guy called Joel prophesied about this. He said that one day God would pour out His Spirit on all people. Our sons and daughters will prophesy (hear God speaking to them), young men will see visions, old men will dream dreams…. and everyone who asks God will be saved.

What an incredible gift God offers: to put His Spirit inside us so that as we learn to recognise His voice and get sensitive to His ways, we can start to think and act like Jesus did. The Bible says that God’s children have the mind of Christ. Wow.

We can hear God speak in so many different ways: through the Bible (and He will never contradict what He’s written in the Bible), in dreams and visions, in pictures we see in our mind’s eye, in impressions, to name a few.

God speaking to us is powerful. I know of people who have become followers of Jesus because they met Him in a vision or a dream.

I love that God is so creative in how He speaks to us. This is a God who takes the initiative, who makes the first move in introducing Himself. All because of His crazy, reckless love for us.

Celebrate: Freedom

My piggies’ favourite thing in the world was to play in long grass on a sunny day. The second they heard me moving their run to a fresh patch in the back garden, all eight of them set up loud squeaks and squeals of excitement. They could barely keep still in my arms as I lifted them carefully from hutch to run. As soon as they landed on the grass, they raced around before settling in for a day of contended grazing.

Another favourite activity was having the run of our long living room. Once they had gotten over being in such a spacious place, I delighted in watching as they celebrated their freedom: racing around in circles and bunny hopping across the carpet.

They had simple faith in me to meet their needs. So long as the fresh broccoli and carrot came their way every morning along with dry food and water, they were content. But having their freedom was cause for celebration and, boy, did they know how to do it.

Jesus bought my freedom 2,000 years ago. When I get trapped inside a hutch of my own making, He is always willing to open the door and set me free. Over and over again.

Today I’m celebrating freedom in Christ.

Live

What do you live for? What’s your motivation?

It might be family or your career or cats.

Jesus came to raise our expectations. He invites us to abundant life.

When I was ill with ME/chronic fatigue and some days all I could do was breathe, I knew abundant life inside. Jesus gave me an impossible joy that had nothing to do with circumstances and didn’t take energy. He gave it. While I would never want to go back to being ill, I wouldn’t have missed knowing the nearness of God for anything.

Abundant life is all about knowing Jesus. He invites us to follow Him and to put Him first in our lives. I’ve found asking myself this question helpful: ‘If Jesus were living my life right now, what would He do?’

Jesus said that if we seek first His Kingdom, the Father will provide everything we need. We don’t need to worry about what will happen because we have a Daddy in heaven who has endless resources, is richer than we can begin to imagine, and has promised to take care of all of our needs. In the last couple of years, I’ve been daring to believe this is true. It is. It may not always look like what I expect, but He does provide.

Seek first His Kingdom. What does that look like?

When Jesus sent out His followers on a preaching trip, He urged them: ‘Proclaim as you go saying the Kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received with paying, give without pay.’

His commission hasn’t changed. God still wants us doing these things. How else can people see Him? In some parts of the world, seeing the dead raised is normal. I can testify to God’s healing power in my own life. I’ve also had demons cast out of me.

If God is who He says He is, why wouldn’t He do these things?

He loves us, He reveals Himself to us, He is the one who pursues us. It’s not the other way around. We know love because He shows us what it looks like. We live because He is the source of life.

Hand2,000 years ago, Jesus’ friend Peter saw Jesus walking on water and said to Him, ‘Lord if that’s really You, call me to join You.’

With a smile (I’m sure), Jesus said, ‘Peter, come.’

Peter scrambled out of the boat and walked on water. Just like Jesus.

But then he saw the waves and freaked out. What am I doing?! Aaaaggghhh! Peter began to sink and yelled for help. Immediately Jesus grabbed his hand and pulled him up, back onto the top of the water.

Jesus offers us abundant life and He invites us to get out of the boat and go on Kingdom adventures with Him. Are you up for it?

 

 

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