Mandy Baker Johnson

Living without Shadows

Category: ACW (page 1 of 3)

One And The Same?

Paul writes verse 1 of Philippians 2 as if it’s a done deal:

If there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy…

The assumption is that we have these beautiful and lovely things in Jesus. So with that truth as a foundation, Paul urges all believers to be united:

.…complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord, and of one mind.

Hmmm…. does it complete my joy when believers are united? I like it, it’s a nice thing. But in all honesty it doesn’t get me bouncing around. I need to grow in this area. I so want it to be more than a nice thing to which I pay lip service. Because it’s important.

When I’m facing something challenging, it pretty-much becomes my sole focus and my prayers reflect that. What about Jesus? You can’t get any more challenging that being the Son of God facing unjust death by crucifixion and the horror of becoming the sin of the world. Yet what was Jesus’ last recorded prayer hours before He died? That His followers be united and that we would see His glory.

Wow.

Unity. It’s vital. It’s a God-thing.

When a group of people are united, others take notice. There’s a beauty about it.

When believers are united, we display God’s wisdom and glory. It’s attractive.

To follow Jesus is the highest calling. To be a child of God is the highest status.

I wonder… if we realised what we have in Christ and who we truly are, surely we would be much more likely to make allowances for one another and be loving and kind without being critical and judging. There are times when the truth needs to be spoken, but in a loving way that builds up rather than destroys.

If our gaze was completely taken up with Jesus, I’m sure we wouldn’t be so quick to tag people and write them off because they do things a bit differently to us.

We’re all works in progress. None of us have got it together. And that’s okay: our Daddy-God has promised that the work He has started in each of us He will complete.

So look at our amazing gracious wonderful God and be thankful. The more we appreciate His grace in our hearts, the more we will show grace to others.

Thankful hearts are united hearts.

 

 

*Photo by William White on Unsplash

Participation

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy….

To participate is to be involved with or take part in, or to possess a particular quality. So participation in the Spirit is a big deal.

I both engage with and have the Spirit of God. He lives inside me. The Father has lavishly poured the Spirit of Jesus into my life.

…and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (2 Cor 13:14).

This is an active thing on both my part and the Spirit’s. We engage and enjoy fellowship with one another.

I have a relationship with God!

I have what the Old Testament saints could not have: participation in the Spirit. He came on some of them on odd occasions, but He didn’t live with them like He does in me. They had the tabernacle and then the temple where they could experience God’s presence. But – thanks to Jesus’ mighty work on the cross – God now tabernacles or lives in me. I am a temple of His Holy Spirit. Wow.

I love the Holy Spirit. He opens my eyes to what God is doing (in me and in others) and He opens my spiritual ears to ‘hear’ what He is saying. He makes me see the unseen so it becomes real to me.

For years I read in Romans 8 that I am a child of God. And for years they were just words on a page. My mind acknowledged they were true but it made no real difference to my life. But then, at a low point one summer I noticed that it is God’s Spirit who tells my spirit that I am a child of God. In desperation I cried out to Him to tell this truth to my spirit. He did. He made this unseen truth a glorious reality in my heart and I now know with certainty that I am indeed a child of the Most High. Wow, wow, wow!

I have participation with the Spirit. This truth makes my heart skip a beat and my body tingle all over. What an honour. How beautiful and generous is the Father to pour out the Spirit of Jesus into my life. Whoop!

You Just Never Know….

Isn’t it funny how one thing leads to another?

In June 2016, I went to the ACW weekend at Scargill House with a half-formed resolution to write the homework set by the speaker and maybe even read it out. Scary…. Could I do it?

I teetered and wobbled, then inspiration came.

Oh blow it, I thought, I’m going to do this.

In a moment of madness, I [read more]

Undivided Heart

Undivided Heart by Lucy Mills is a thoughtful book based on a verse from Psalm 86 in which the psalmist prays: ‘… give me an undivided heart…’

In the first half of her book, Lucy explores what makes us who we are and what motivates our actions. She looks at the many different things that give us a divided heart: our drives and desires, issues, circumstances, boxes we squeeze ourselves into, social media, and labels we put on ourselves or allow others to give us. All of these things can limit us, create unnecessary burdens, and keep us from enjoying the abundant life God has planned for each one of us.

The second half of the book, Lucy considers what has motivated God’s people in the past (from the Bible) and looks ahead to our glorious future with God, and how abundant life is offered right now. Our incentive is to enjoy some of the benefits of knowing God now, not in a ‘health, wealth, prosperity’ way, but in going deeper in our relationship with God and seeing His kingdom come.

If kingdom is about the royal reign of God… then the ‘requirements’ of living under this reign emphasise how we live together under the kingship of God. … being generous… acting with fairness and justice, forgiveness and mercy.

In the kingdom, treasures are found in unexpected places, the poor are considered rich and the weak are made strong.

Somewhere, right now, two people with two different viewpoints are praying together in the name of Jesus, under the banner of love. Such is the kingdom.

Having an undivided heart results in God being so crucial to us that we are able to face suffering that has no answers here. Lucy looks at Job, and how God did not answer his ‘why?’ but gave him a vital encounter with Himself. God didn’t give Job answers, He gave Job Himself. Lucy also considers how Jesus – the Son of God – came to fully identify with us in our suffering. He became our sin so that we could have God’s righteousness. In our sufferings, God gives Himself.

In her final chapter, Lucy sums up what it means to ask God for a united or undivided heart.

An undivided heart is not soft, pink romantic snuggliness. It’s a fierce, focused, even suffering heart, which looks towards its one redeemer. A heart which longs and thirsts and waits.

Each of the twenty chapters is short. Included within most if not all of the chapters is a Bible verse or passage and a poem. Each chapter concludes with a few helpful questions to aid the reader in gaging where their own heart may be divided and how this can be changed.

I thought Lucy incredibly insightful in this book, which is uncomfortable at times and helpfully illuminating at others. I certainly had one or two light bulb moments in reading it.

I have given it 4* on Amazon. I was provided with a free copy for the purpose of writing an unbiased review for the book’s launch this week.

There was complete silence…

There was complete silence as she entered the pastel-painted room. She was aware of two pairs of eyes following her as she sat in the upright chair angled towards the sofa where they sat, hands entwined. This was a place where hopes were realised and dreams fell into the dust.

‘Hello Mark and Louisa, thanks for coming today. I’ve had the results of all your tests.’

Their eyes were fixed on her, their mute hope tangible. It was hard but necessary to meet their collective gaze.

‘I’m so sorry.’

Pause.

‘I’m afraid you will never have children of your own.’

 

 

Words, Words, Words….

Words, words, words. As wordsmiths, we dabble, we play, we agonise, we yearn over the tools of our trade.

When we speak, our tongues can drip poison and hurt people, or our speech may be seasoned with salt to bless. There’s often little time to think about the effect of what we say. How many times do we wish we could take back the words that have left our lips?

Even bad news [read more]

The Best We Can Be

Why do we write? Is the world a better place because our words are in it?

I want to encourage us to be the best we can be in whatever genre we favour.

King Solomon urged the readers of his day to do with all your might whatever your hands find to do. Very applicable to writers! Go for it. Don’t be timid or half-hearted, full of doubt. If a thing is worth writing, then do it to the best of your ability. Believe in the gift God has given you. But don’t strive about it, enjoy what you do.

We are free [read more]

A Little Help From My Friends…

There is an Arab proverb that says something along the lines of if you want to go fast, go alone but if you want to go far, go with others.

I think it applies to writing as much as anything else in life.

When I started [read more]

Coffee with Jesus?

‘God loves you.’
I taught it every week.
But did I really know it?
Sure, He forgave me;
was He just being kind?

I thought the Father didn’t like me.
That Jesus and I could never have coffee together.
And the Spirit lived in me under protest.

But then.

The day the Father came into the room
His eyes fixed on mine,
as if I were the most precious thing He’d ever seen.
He scooped me up
and tossed me into the air.
Arms and legs flailing,
a toddler’s happy laughter:
‘Do it again Daddy, do it again!’

Have coffee with Jesus?
Oh yes.
Anyone can be friends.
Wandering in the woods together,
chilling on the patio,
enjoying a good book,
living the life He’s called me to.
He was once a man who cooked breakfast for mates –
He hasn’t changed.

And the Spirit?
Even when I hit the pearly gates
He’ll stay with me.
He won’t sigh with relief and go off to find someone more interesting.
Not dump me in eternity,
lonely and alone.
He sees me, He knows me.
He tells me truth and makes the unseen real.

God doesn’t just love me.
He likes me.

The Girl at the End of the Road

I loved The Girl at the End of the Road. I completely forgot I was reading, which is the type of book I like best. It’s a true page-turner and keeps you guessing.

The main character, Vince, has worked hard to forget his roots and make a successful life for himself in London. But the story opens as his career comes crashing down, taking his home and an intimate relationship with it.

We follow Vince’s story as he moves back in with his parents in the village where he grew up. It is fascinating to see his reactions in reconnecting with old school friends, one of whom – Sarah – appears quite eccentric.

The reader goes on a journey with Vince as he painfully rediscovers [read more]

 

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