Mandy Baker Johnson

Living without Shadows

Month: March 2016 (page 1 of 3)

Celebrate: He’s Alive!

He’s alive! Whoop, whoop, whoop! He’s alive and I’ve seen Him!

Let me calm myself and start at the beginning.

Friday was the worst day ever. I saw Him die and the soldiers man-handling Him off the cross. My friends and I followed and watched at a distance as His body was quickly washed, wrapped and laid in a tomb. It was a race against the setting sun to lay His body to rest; our holy day was about to start which meant we couldn’t do any work.

I planned with my friends to go early Sunday morning to the tomb to prepare His dear body properly for burial. I spent the whole of Saturday grieving and getting the burial spices ready. I couldn’t sleep that night and got up before dawn. The birds were singing and trilling into the darkness; I wiped my wet cheeks with the edge of my head-scarf, the beautiful sound pierced my heart.

I stumbled and fell, almost dropping my jar of spices. There was a rumbling sound. What was going on?

When the ground was still again, I walked forward, heading for the garden where He was buried. I knew soldiers had been put on guard outside, and I’d watched them heave a massive boulder across the mouth of the tomb. Who would move it for me? My heart beat fast and I tried to steady my breathing.

TombI arrived outside the tomb. It was open.

This was freaky. I picked up my dress and ran. I knew where Peter and John were staying. I gave them a shock, banging on their door. ‘Come quick! They’ve moved His body and I don’t know where He is!’

Peter and John didn’t waste time, they rushed past me to the tomb. John looked inside but Peter went right in. They just shook their heads, looking distraught and went home.

I stayed behind, sobbing. I wondered if there were any clues in the tomb that Peter had missed so I poked my head inside.

What I didn’t expect were two angels! They were kind. One said, ‘Why are you crying?’

‘Because they’ve taken my Lord away and I don’t know where He is.’

There was a look on their faces, and I turned around to see a man standing behind me.

Great, the gardener was starting work for the day. Maybe he could give me some answers. But before I could speak, he said: ‘Why are you crying? Who are you looking for?’

‘Oh please tell me where you’ve put Him.’ 

‘Mary!’

It was Jesus! He was alive! I didn’t even recognise Him at first. But oh He’s alive 😀

Jesus really is the Son of God, the only One to conquer death.

Notice

 

Enter

Open to Me the gates of righteousness,
that I may enter through them
and give thanks to the Lord.
This is the gate of the Lord;
the righteous shall enter through it.

I love these words from Psalm 118, which Jesus would have sung with His friends during the Passover supper on Good Friday. What meaning this psalm must have had for Him at that moment.

When Jesus next entered heaven, He would have been betrayed, arrested, tortured, killed, and come back to life, having beaten death forever.

When He went through those gates of righteousness, He flung them wide so that people like me and you could follow Him in.

What a saviour! What an incredible God, who loves us unimaginably and died so that we could enter into abundant life with Him. WOOO HOOO!

Path: Easter

It was a path on which a donkey trod. Palm branches and coats were strewn along it, the Jewish equivalent of a red carpet for a king.

Last SupperLess than a week later, the path led from an upper room where a special meal had been celebrated among friends, though not all were true, there was an enemy in the camp.

In a garden there were tears, sweat and blood, and then the betrayal of a close friend.

Good FridaySix trials – a mockery of justice – and the bloody trail to an execution hill. Nails, a hammer, and a crown of thorns. Rejection of a Father for the sake of many sons and daughters who would benefit from the One Son’s obedience.

A violent death, a borrowed grave, a hushed holy Saturday.

But Sunday is coming.

Saturday

Need

Needs are different to wants. Wants are luxuries. Needs are necessary.

A few years ago I was in the Gulf on a work trip. Travelling between Abu Dhabi and Al Ain, I needed the loo – and I mean needed! My thighs went numb and started an ominous trembling. The situation was desperate.

‘Do you know if we’ll be stopping anywhere soon?’ I asked my boss.

‘Yeah, they’ll be doing their evening prayers in about ten minutes.’

Ten minutes felt like ten hours right then.

Oh the relief when the coach finally stopped and my colleague Stanley escorted me to the rickety wooden shed housing a hole in the ground. Not the best facilities I’ve ever used but probably the most welcome.

I have more fundamental needs in life: to be loved unconditionally for who I am, to be needed.

God has fulfilled both of these needs. He loves me like He loves Himself; I am loved more than I can comprehend. And He has specific things planned for me to do. In Christ, I have all that I need.

Rejected

I’ve been thinking about a father and son, and a garden, and rejection.

You couldn’t get a closer relationship anywhere than Jesus and His Dad. Always together, always united, never a disagreement. They loved each other, enjoyed one another’s company, were completely fulfilled in their relationship.

Their perfect love overflowed. Jesus’ Dad wanted more sons and daughters just like Jesus. Jesus wanted brothers and sisters to love just like His Dad loved Him. Not because they were emotionally needy; the desire came from an overflow of purest love.

The result was us. But the snag was also us. Because there was a snag. We were created perfect, in God’s own image. But we wanted to be God and rule our own lives without bothering about allegiance to our creator. We deserved death but that’s not what Father and Son wanted for us.

They weren’t daft. They knew we would rebel and stick two fingers up at them and turn our backs. But because of their overflowing, crazy love they wanted what was best for us: relationship with them. So knowing precisely how horrible we would be, they went ahead with creating us, having Plan A in mind.

Plan A was Jesus dying the death we deserved by rights. Plan A was Jesus becoming the Way to the Father.

Olive GroveThe night before Jesus died, He went into a garden of olive trees to pray. He knew the agony that awaited Him – physical torture, an agonising death, taking the darkness and sin of the whole world, separation from His Dad. It cost Jesus everything. I can’t imagine such perfect love as blazed in the Father’s heart for Jesus being torn apart when He was forced to reject His Son at the moment Jesus became our sin on the cross.

Father and Son looked together at the cross and saw all the sons and daughters who could only come to the Father through Jesus dying, and agreed with their whole hearts that we were worth the cost.

Because Jesus was rejected by His Dad, I am accepted by His Dad.

Because Jesus was rejected by His Dad, you can be accepted by His Dad. You only need to ask and follow Him with your whole heart.

Steadfast

The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with Moses,
and proclaimed the name of the Lord:
‘The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness….’

Names mean something. Mandy means deserving of love and my middle name Louise means warrior. I like that combination!

God’s name doesn’t just have a nice meaning, it shows who He is.

I love that when God proclaimed His name to Moses, He said that is slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. This is who God is.

These verses have become very special to me because a few years ago, God tenderly took apart my faulty foundations and began rebuilding my life on truth.  I’ve previously blogged about this.

God is steadfast in His love and faithfulness. This is who He is. I need this truth to hang on to, especially on days like today, when the world is giving a great impression of going completely crazy.

Jesus showed the depths of God’s loving, faithful character 2,000 years ago this Easter. When He died, He became our sin. He took its penalty – eternal death – and He also bore all the hurts and pain it causes. We are a messed up race and this was the only way our mess could be dealt with. Thanks to Jesus’ steadfastness in going to the cross, we can have peace with God. Jesus has done all the work, the only thing we have to do to accept His offer of peace and forgiveness and friendship is to repent. That means making a definite decision to not do things our own way and please ourselves any more, but to decide to do them God’s way and to live to please Him. The gain far outweighs the loss.

Thanks

Thanks, God, for:

Tigers (can’t wait for the new earth when I can safely play with a tiger or two), Trains, Television.
Holidays (in Hunstanton with Elizabeth), Harvey (my adorable doggy pal).
Adi (bestest hubby in the whole world), Armour (the spiritual kind that protects me from evil), Ability to type.
Nose (for breathing when running and smelling jasmine, cherry-scented candles, bacon and fresh coffee).
Knitting and Knees!
Salvation (thank You Jesus for coming to rescue me, I love You!)

Celebrate: Books

From the days of reading The Magic Faraway Tree to my teddies and dolls, I’ve loved books. Hard backs, paperbacks, smooth paper, pictures, no pictures. I love ’em all.

I disliked learning to read. Thankfully my mum was firm, insisting that I practise each day before going out to play with my friends. I owe her a lot – thanks to her teaching me to read, whole new worlds have been opened up.

When I had surgery on both wrists for carpal tunnel syndrome, I was unable to hold a book for a few days. It was torture; I’d almost rather read than eat. Eventually, I got around it by pinning the book open on my lap with both elbows. Not very comfy, but it did the job.

One of the hardest things to bear when I was ill was occasionally forgetting how to read (sometimes I’d try to follow words diagonally down the page instead of reading left to right, at other times I couldn’t recognise the words). Then there was being too weak to physically hold the book and turn the page. Adi found a solution for that by downloading the Kindle app to my iPhone and buying me Corrie ten Boom’s The Hiding Place to start me off.

I love my books and having nice bookcases to store them on. Good books are like old friends that you can come back to time and again. Sometimes I’m in the mood for John Grisham, other times I reach for Lee Child. I’m built up by Bill Johnson and Heidi Baker and John Piper.

My favourite book is the Bible. Some bits are hard to understand but I love reading it because it’s alive. There are jewels to be found even in the boring bits of the law in the Old Testament. And the Gospels read like a riveting adventure story. I get to know God by reading the Bible and the Holy Spirit makes it real to me, opening my mind and helping me understand. I’ve been reading the Bible since I was ten, and I’m thrilled when He surprises me by taking me deeper or unlocking the meaning of a verse or passage.

So today, I celebrate books. Especially the one God Himself authored.

Have

What do I have?

A magnificent friend who adores me and can do anything.

Since knowing Him, my life has changed almost beyond recognition. I’m not the woman I was a few years ago.

Then, I didn’t think God was willing to heal today.

Then, I wasn’t sure what He had to offer other people. I wasn’t even sure what He had offered me.

Then, I had little confidence in myself and amoeba-sized faith in God if you squinted very hard through a microscope.

I’m thankful to say that that is changing 🙂

God has healed me from cerebellar ataxia and ME/chronic fatigue. I had one significant breakthrough when friends prayed for me ten months into the illness, and Jesus completed the healing four months after that, just me and Him in my living room. I have confidence that God is willing to heal today.

I know my God offers Himself to other people, just as He has done to me. That gives me confidence in telling them about my wonderful friend.

My faith is now fractionally bigger than amoeba-sized. I’m trying things I’ve never done before. Let me tell you a story.

When I started helping at my church’s food bank three years ago, I was too scared to offer to pray with clients if they were ill or in pain or feeling low. My team leader gently encouraged me and for weeks I longed to offer but was too scared. Then one afternoon with my team leader eye-balling me across the room, I finally plucked up the courage to offer prayer. The client accepted and I prayed. Probably not well, but I did it. From then, offering to pray into difficult situations became more normal for me.

Right up to this afternoon at our church’s community Easter Party in the local pub. I prayed for healing for a lady with a chronic illness. She sensed God’s peace as I prayed. We’ll wait to see the outcome.

It feels good, taking baby steps of faith and going on an adventure with Jesus.

All because I have a magnificent friend who adores me and can do anything.

 

Beloved

God makes promises to those He loves and calls some surprising people ‘beloved’:

He grants sleep to His beloved.

King Solomon was called beloved by God despite sinning by having lots of wives and mistresses.

God delivers His beloved.

The Father sent His beloved Son to earth to save us.

John, once nicknamed ‘son of thunder’ by Jesus because of his quick anger, later became known as the ‘disciple Jesus loved’. John was secure in knowing who he was in Christ, in comprehending the love of God which casts out fear.

By the Spirit’s help, I too am beginning to know who I am in Christ, that I am loved and accepted by God. I wobble frequently. But regardless of what I think or feel, the facts don’t alter. I am loved by God.

You may think you are unlovable, that you’re not worthy of being loved. The promise God makes to you is, ‘You who are not beloved, I will make My beloved.’

 

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