Mandy Baker Johnson

Living without Shadows

Category: Heaven (page 1 of 2)

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.

For The Little Ones Whose Strength Failed

This song is for all of our little ones whose strength failed before it really began, who even now are dancing around the Throne and singing like never before.

What’s Moses Up To These Days?

At choir practice this week, it dawned on me how much I love singing and harmonising (which sometimes sounds great and other times doesn’t) with friends.  We’re currently practicing How deep the Father’s love by Stuart Townend for our Easter services at Grace Church.  The words of the song lead naturally to thinking about Heaven and all that Jesus purchased for us by dying and rising again.

It reminded me of what I’ve been reading about Moses in the Bible.  At certain times, the Holy Spirit inspired him to write songs for the Israelite nation to sing.  The first time this occurred was after God supernaturally parted the waters of the Red Sea so that the Israelites could travel through safely, but their pursuing enemies who had oppressed them for more than 400 years were drowned.  Moses and the people broke into spontaneous song, praising God for the wonderful way He had worked on their behalf.  It was a time of great rejoicing, and Moses’ sister Miriam led all the women in singing and dancing with tambourines.

Shortly before the Israelites were about to move into the promised land of Canaan, Moses was inspired with a song to teach the people so that they would remember God’s covenant with them.  (God also said that the song would be a witness against the people when they disobeyed Him.)

Just before his death, Moses bestowed a poetic blessing on the nation of Israel. 

From the fact that we have three recorded songs from during Moses’ lifetime, I think we can safely assume that he was gifted in this area and enjoyed singing and song-writing.  So I wonder what he’s up to these days…?  I think that maybe the Bible gives us a little insight into at least one of the things that Moses is doing now.

When the apostle John saw Heaven, he witnessed a number of people with harps in their hands, singing (present tense) the song of Moses and the Lamb.  This song is recorded nowhere else in Scripture, and the fact that it is introduced as the song of Moses and the Lamb seems to indicate that Jesus and Moses wrote it together at some point after Moses arrived in Heaven. 

Taking this into account along with Jesus’ teaching in the Gospels about Heaven, and the apostles’ teachings in their New Testament letters, I wonder if the God-given gifts and talents we enjoy using here will be transferred to Heaven and be used in a greater, more wonderful way that we can currently imagine?  I find it exciting to think that Jesus worked with Moses on that song.  It certainly dispels the boring myth of people sitting around on clouds.  No, we’re going to be thoroughly enjoying ourselves with Jesus for all of eternity!  And I for one can’t wait.

When Jesus Stands Up

Throughout the New Testament, whenever we read of Jesus in Heaven, we read of Him sitting down.  Sitting in the place of authority and greatest honour – at the right hand of the Father.  It’s a place that Jesus alone deserves because of what He accomplished at the cross.  He defeated the devil and all his evil angels, publicly putting them to shame, opening the way for human beings to be rescued from sin and guilt, and bringing us into relationship with Himself.  After rising from the dead, He returned to Heaven, where He sat down at the right hand of the throne of God, indicating that His redemptive work is done.

But there is one occasion in the New Testament where Jesus stands up in Heaven.  A man called Stephen was on trial for being a believer in Jesus.  At the end of his trial, Stephen – by the power of the Holy Spirit – looked into Heaven and saw Jesus standing at the right hand of the Father.  This so angered his accusers that they dragged him out of the city and brutally stoned him to death.  Why did Stephen see Jesus standing rather than sitting?  And is there any significance in that?

In Psalm 116:15 it says: ‘Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints’.  Jesus knows all things, including what will happen in the future.  He is the only one who can accurately predict the future.  Therefore, He knew that Stephen was about to be killed for his beliefs, and I think He was on His feet ready to welcome Stephen into Paradise.  Jesus cares when His loved ones die.  In John 14, He promised to prepare a place in Heaven for everyone who truly believes in Him.  At the right time He will come for us if we love Him, and welcome us Home. 

What a huge comfort this is!  To know that Jesus Himself gets ready to welcome us into Heaven!  This is amazing.  What a wonderful Saviour! 

This truth certainly comforted me last Friday morning when I learned that a little boy whose nickname was Dr Joseph had died.  I have no doubt whatsoever that Jesus was on His feet with wide open arms, ready to welcome him Home.  Dr Joseph had bravely battled with leukaemia for most of his eight years.  He radiated his love for Jesus to those around him.  When other children were admitted for painful treatments, Dr Joseph talked with them and calmed them down.  Because he had endured those same unpleasant procedures, the children were comforted and given hope.  And now Dr Joseph will never suffer or be in pain ever again, because he is with His Friend and Saviour, Jesus.

A family friend has written this glowing tribute to Dr Joseph.

What Happens To Infants Who Die?

I think this interview with John Piper is very helpful on the question:  what happens to infants who die?  It can be a difficult, painful question for those of us who have suffered loss of a little one at any stage from conception onwards.  Pastor John shares some biblical principles that are both comforting and clear.

You can also read a transcript of the interview at Desiring God Ministries here.

Are You Looking Forward To Heaven?

Are you looking forward to Heaven?  Jesus wants us to look forward to it.  He used positive language and colourful word pictures to show us something of how fantastic Heaven will be, so that we will eagerly anticipate being there.   

A Wedding Reception (Revelation 19):  Whether we are one of the key people or simply a guest, we all look forward to a wedding.  But if we happen to be the bride or groom we eagerly count down the days.  I remember Adrian wrote a simple piece of software that did a big countdown in the corner of his computer screen in the months running up to our wedding.  Everything revolves around the big day.  Jesus wants us to feel this way about Heaven.  It is the consummation of the marriage between Him and His Bride, the Church.

Treasure (Matthew 6):  We can store up treasure there.  Whatever we do here for Jesus’ sake, we will gain there.  And nothing, no matter how small, is lost if we offer it up to Him.

Rewards (Matthew 16, Mark 9):  Adrian and I took my Mum to a London show for her 70th birthday.  The performance was brilliant; some actors had greater parts than others but all played their part faithfully.  As they bowed at the end, each one received praise and acclamation from the appreciative audience.  Some received louder claps and even whistling and shouts, but all were rewarded for their superb performance.  It made me think of Christ; one day we (if we know Him) will hear Him say to us:  ‘Well done, good and faithful servant’.  And He has promised generous and amazing rewards that we cannot even begin to imagine, if we are faithful and obedient.

Home (John 14):  Have you ever been away on a business trip or a holiday?  As it draws to an end, you just long to get home – to somewhere familiar, comfortable, where you can completely relax, where the people that you love are.  I frequently felt that way when I did a lot of travelling for the Christian charity I worked for.  In March 2009 I flew to the Arabian Gulf for a week.  It was the furthest distance I had ever been away from Adrian and, while I had a great time on the trip and met with some wonderful people, I missed him.  Whenever possible I exchanged emails with him.  Half-way through the trip, I stayed at a friend’s home who had skype, so I pre-arranged a time with Adrian to chat.  But when the time came, I just could not do it.  I knew that to hear his voice would increase my home sickness to such a painful degree that I would not enjoy the rest of my trip.  As I travelled home at the end of that week, the flight seemed much longer than it had at the beginning of the trip.  Driving home up the M1 seemed so slow.  I could hardly wait to see Adrian.  It was a wonderful moment to suddenly spot him waiting for me and to be able to run to him and feel his strong arms tightly around me.  Heaven will be even better.  It is the place where we truly belong, and the Person we love the best in the world will be waiting at the gates to draw us into His loving embrace.  Are you homesick for Heaven?

With Jesus (2 Corinthians 5, John 17): Do you enjoy amazing times with the Lord where His presence is incredibly real and you wish it could never end?  Well, it will be even more wonderful in Heaven, where it never will come to an end.  We will be able to enjoy Him forever.  Jesus’ prayer in John 17 is that we will be with Him and see His glory.  One day, we will see Him in all His glory and just revel in it!

With Friends and Family (1 Thessalonians 4):  It is right and normal to look forward to reuniting with our friends and family in Heaven.  We enjoy spending time with them here and look forward to being with them.  That should not change just because they have gone before us.  In Heaven, everyone will be our best friend and no one will feel shy or awkward.  The fellowship and friendship there will be truly out of this world.

Jesus warned that this world will not last forever.  So let’s not get caught up with the ‘here and now’; let’s look forward to Heaven.  May the God of hope fill us with joy and peace until it overflows out of us to those around – who may not know our wonderful Saviour and the glorious, homey place He is preparing for those who love Him.

This article was first published in Insight in April 2010.

A Change of Heart at 74

Adrian and I were thrilled to celebrate my Uncle Les’ baptism with him yesterday.  He has an amazing testimony of God’s faithfulness and his family’s prayerful perseverence. 

Les is the oldest of a family of six.  His dad began following Jesus in his middle age (along with his wife) after going blind through diabetes.  His dad fell completely in love with the Lord; he said he’d found the meaning to life.  He constantly talked about Jesus to everyone and anyone who would listen.  One by one, Les’ brothers and sisters and their families began to follow Jesus too.  Les was kind of interested but life was going well and he didn’t see his need of ‘religion’.  But Les’ mum and dad and his siblings never gave up praying that he would one day experience the joy and peace they knew.

A couple of years ago, when Les was 74, he was seriously ill in hospital.  We didn’t expect him to live, and we all increased our praying for him, longing that he would experience God in a very real way.  One night, Les had what he can only describe as a ‘near death’ experience.  He was in a dark tunnel and saw hundreds of dead bodies.  It was lonely and frightening.  Then he heard a voice saying, ‘It’s not his time yet’, and he came back.  From then on he began to recover, but he didn’t forget the terror of being in that dark tunnel.  Les knew he had to get right with God.  He talked with his sister Janet about it and began attending church.  The church minister did a Christianity Explored course with him and Les began to understand that Jesus is God’s Son who came to die and rise again so that Les could have a relationship with God.  At long last Les was able to experience the joy and peace that his brothers and sisters knew.

How we rejoiced to see Les publicly declare his faith in God by being baptised.  He now has no need to be afraid of dying because ‘there is no condemnation for those who belong to Jesus’ (Romans 8:1).

As I watched Les go under the water and come back up – with full eyes and a full heart – I couldn’t help but see in my mind’s eye the parapets of Heaven.  Were his mum and dad, his sister Marion and my dad leaning over, jostling for position as they joyfully laughed and clapped over him following the Lord?  As I imagined their beaming faces I suddenly saw two little red-headed figures in dungarees excitedly running to have a look too; surely Two and Three have also enjoyed Heaven’s party for Les!

Now Les can look forward to reuniting with his loved ones in Heaven one day, and of finally seeing the wonderful Lord Jesus who died for him. 

Listen to I can only Imagine, a song about arriving in Heaven.

Hand over for Healing

As I was praying with a good friend from church on Monday evening this week, we specifically asked the Lord to heal me from the pain of losing Two and Three. Although it’s not quite as raw as it was, it’s still painful at times.

As we prayed together, Una leaned forward and said: ‘I really feel the Lord asking you to give the little ones to Him, and picture yourself handing them over. You’ve never really done that, have you? I feel the Lord saying it’s time now.’

With the odd tear leaking from under my eyelids, I prayed in my heart: ‘Lord, they’re Yours,’ and pictured myself literally handing Two and Three over to Him. And amazingly, for the first time I could imagine them both skipping happily in that meadow, holding on to the Lord’s hands. And yes, they were wearing dungarees! It wasn’t a vision, but picturing them in my head as I handed them over to Him for safe keeping was so helpful and so special.

If you know the Lord, why not hand your little one(s) over to Him for safe keeping? You may be amazed at the results.

I would love to know if you find this helpful at my email address.

Treasure in Heaven

This article on storing up treasure in Heaven by John Piper is well worth a read.  I think it can be applied not just to money and possessions, but to children too.  Certainly, Adrian and I prayerfully gave our children to the Lord long before they were conceived.  And during those few precious days I carried Two and Three, I dedicated them with all my heart to the Lord.  Nothing we give to God is ever lost.

All That is Worth Having

I’ve finally gotten around to doing some more research on Heaven and embyrology.  I’m currently studying Heaven using Puritan preacher Richard Baxter’s book ‘The Saints’ Everlasting Rest’.  He says:  All good is comprised in God, and all the good in the creature is just drops of this ocean.  In the same way, all the glory of the blessed is comprised in their enjoyment of God, and if there are any secondary joys they are just drops from this.  If human beings and angels tried to put the blessedness of that state in a word, what could they say other than that it is the closest enjoyment of God?  Say, ‘They have God,’ and you say ‘they have all that is worth having.’  Amen to that!

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