Mandy Baker Johnson

Living without Shadows

Category: One Word 365

Water-Walker

I want to walk on water in 2017.

No, I haven’t gone mad. This desire is based on the occasion when Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples, climbed out of a boat in the middle of a storm and walked on water with Jesus.

There were twelve disciples altogether in the boat that night. But only one had the exhilarating and terrifying experience of walking on water. The other eleven missed out on the walk of their lives. I bet that walk was one Peter remembered for the rest of his life; the others didn’t have that.

I want to be like Peter.

He didn’t take risk for risk’s sake. He made sure this was what God wanted him to do: ‘Lord, if it is You, command me to come to you on the water.’ And Jesus immediately invited him to come.

Even then, it must have taken a lot of courage to climb out of that boat. Crazy enough if the water was calm, but these were big waves and a strong wind. But Peter heard Jesus’ call to adventure and stepped out of his comfort zone.

All went well at first. But then he suddenly realised what he was doing. Aaagghhh! I’m walking on water. And the waves are big. Woah, just look at that wind! Oh fiddlesticks, I’m sinking.

When Peter took his eyes off Jesus and looked at his circumstances, it began to go wrong. But as soon as he called out to the Lord for help, Jesus grasped him with His strong arms and lifted him back up so he could be a water-walker once again. Jesus didn’t berate Peter for failing, He lovingly showed him where he’d gone wrong.

toddlerWhat will walking on water look like for me? I’m not entirely sure right now though I have one or two ideas…. It will involve God’s call, stepping out of my comfort zone in obedience, of being in a position where I’m 100% reliant on God to do whatever it is He’s asking me to do. I’m certain it will involve failing too (maybe water-toddler is a better expression than water-walker, I’m bound to end up on my bum at some point!).

Every time I choose to walk on water, I will be more likely to climb out of the boat again. Every time I decide it’s safer in the boat, I lose out and become more likely to stay within my comfort zone next time. Walking on water means a deeper, more intimate relationship with Jesus – something I can only gain by getting out of the boat.

I want to climb out of the boat. I want to go on adventures with Jesus. I’m going to walk on water in 2017.

Glory

What if Jesus were to take you for a walk along the beach and make you an offer?  ‘Give Me your heart, and you will gain Me.’

What would you do?

Last summer, that happened to me. I was in Hunstanton with my dear friend Elizabeth and we’d been enjoying soaking in God’s presence. Then He invited me for a walk along the beach. I’d never heard God speak so clearly to my heart before. First the Father, then Jesus, then the Holy Spirit put their case.

‘Give Us your heart, and you will gain Us.’

There was no manipulation, no blackmail, simply the most amazing and important offer I will ever get.

At the end of that incredible hour-long walk, I responded: ‘Yes.’ How could I say otherwise? I wasn’t sure what giving my whole heart to God would look or feel like, giving up my rights, doing what pleases Him simply because I love Him, but I want to gain Him – to know Him better, deeper, more intimately, for Him to trust me with His heart – than anything else.

I’ve had an increased longing to see God’s glory since that memorable walk. Three years ago the Spirit broke in on our church meetings with unusual power, bringing joy and freedom. I would love for that to happen again and then some.

There is a weightiness to God’s glory and presence. In the days of the Old Testament, there were occasions when the priests couldn’t even get in the place of worship because God’s glory filled it, making it impossible for them to stand or do their duties.

It’s awesome to think that that same God now lives in me and has made me a carrier of His presence. Wherever I go, I’m a representative of the Kingdom of God.

When Jesus started His ministry, He introduced the Kingdom of God – and God’s glory was seen clearly. The coming of the Kingdom meant supernatural things happening in everyday life – sick people were healed, dead people were brought back to life, violent storms immediately stopped. Just before Jesus brought His friend Lazarus back to life He said, ‘Didn’t I tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?’

20150721_050820Jesus really wants us to see His glory; He prayed about this to His Father a few hours before He was arrested and executed.

In those early days after Jesus had come back to life, the Spirit-filled disciples took to heart His instructions to proclaim the good news and ‘heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers/skin diseases, cast out demons’. You’d think that people would have been happy and excited to see that happening. And some were, especially the ones who experienced these life-changing miracles. But not everyone was pleased and the disciples ran into trouble. Yet their reaction was to ask God for more, and His reply was to literally shake their meeting place and fill them to overflowing.

And so my word for 2016 is GLORY (if you haven’t already guessed!). My prayer for this year is for God to be my magnificent obsession and for nothing to keep me from pursuing Him until I, too, overflow with the power of the Spirit and we see God’s glory.

 

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.

Faith

I’ve sometimes thought it would be good to choose a meaningful word for the year. It seems better than making New Year’s resolutions because they usually get broken within days, if not hours, of making them. But a word should inspire and spur me on. Hopefully.

So, my word for 2014 is: FAITH.

All of my life, I’ve been shackled by fear – fear of what people think of me, fear of being rejected, fear of being attacked, fear of losing the people closest to me, fear of spiders…. to name but a few. I hadn’t realised until last summer how fearful I was, nor of how much I’d lied to myself in order to try and hide it. I didn’t know how to deal with fear, so I pushed it down deep inside, and put on an act. I did this so well that I even had myself fooled…. some of the time anyway.

Thank God He had no intention of leaving me that way. During prayer counselling last year, my fear came up time and again. As we began praying into it, small changes became evident.

Suddenly, I was comfortable going for walks in the woods and local park without constantly being afraid of someone attacking me. It sounds crazy to a rational mind, but fear often isn’t rational, and I hadn’t walked in the woods nearby since I was a teenager accompanied by the family dog, Ben. It was liberating. I felt like I could breathe. It was great.

Woods

Another change (small to anyone else, huge to me) was that I lost my fear of spiders. Ever since a hideous spider-infested holiday when I was thirteen, I’ve had a spider phobia. It got so bad in my early twenties that my family doctor arranged counselling after I almost crashed my car in panic because of a money spider dangling from the rear-view mirror. That improved things, but didn’t take away the fear. If Adrian wasn’t around to deal with an eight-legged monster in the house (anything bigger than a few millimetres was huge in my eyes), I’d put my faithful Henry vacuum on the highest suction setting, stand as far away as possible, stop breathing, and point the nozzle with sweating palms while gasping out a panicky prayer for help. But suddenly, they were just annoying insects with which I could deal without thinking about it – even the larger ones that appear in the autumn.

While thanking God for these small yet significant changes He has made in my life, I am aware that there’s a long way to go until I’m completely free of unhealthy fear. I’ve also realised that there are layers. When one layer is dealt with, there’s a lull and then God’s Spirit starts nudging me about facing the next, deeper layer.

Through all of this, I’ve been understanding in a more experiential and real way that God is my Father. Yes, Jesus’ Dad has adopted me. He chose me before He created the world. For no other reason than that He loved me and wanted me to be part of His family so that He could show me how generous and loving and glorious and wonderful He is. (And this can be real for you as well as for me!) Jesus the Son has made it possible for His Dad to adopt me by living a perfect life, dying and coming back to life. Through His death and resurrection, I can know peace with God and the peace of God, as well as hope, joy, love, security.

Beginning to understand how precious I am to God and having His Holy Spirit constantly reminding me and showing me that I am God’s adopted daughter, has lessened the hold that fear had on me. Why should I be afraid of anyone rejecting me when I know that God has completely accepted me and enjoys my company? Why should I be fearful of what people think of me when I know that God sees me as His treasure, His royal daughter?

Like I said, I still have a long way to go before I’m completely free. But God is committed to setting me free and I have faith in Him that He will finish what He has begun. Faith is the antidote to fear. Faith in this wonderful, loving God who is revealing more of Himself to me, giving me a security I never knew existed. It would be an insult not to have faith in Him, and my heart’s desire is for my faith in Him to grow until I overflow, not with fear but, with thankfulness.

PS   I’ll let you into a secret: I was paralysed with fear at the thought of writing this post. I knew I had to write it and got as far as switching on my laptop, but then procrastinated by checking Facebook, Twitter, email, making a cup of tea…. You get the idea. But since faith is my word for 2014, I determined to face fear head-on and go for it!

Happy New Year!

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