Mandy Baker Johnson

Living without Shadows

Tag: beauty

Given

It’s that time of year again and I am taking part in Rethink Church’s Lent word-a-day challenge. Sometimes it will be a photo on Scamper’s Adventures blog and other days, like now, I will write a short blog post.

Today’s word is GIVEN.

I am broken,
but You give wholeness.
My life is ashes,
for which You give beauty.
My heart is heavy and I am in mourning,
You give me a garment of praise and oil of joy.
You give me comfort.
You give me peace.

When I am afraid and overwhelmed,
You are my strong tower where I hide.

Father, You have given me everything I need.
You have given Your Very Best.
Your own Son,
betrayed, abused, tortured, shamed, killed.
For me.

Because of Jesus given at the cross,
I can be forgiven,
I can be free,
I can live abundant life,
I know You.
You are my Father, Friend, Saviour, Lord, Comforter, Prince of Peace, Strong Tower, Place of Refuge.

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

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]

Grace

I heard a lovely quote the other day: ‘Jesus is the Good News.’

The gospel (good news) is a person: Jesus.

Jesus is the One I love and adore. He is my magnificent obsession. He is the only person with whom I can be utterly besotted without feeling empty, as though I’ve been robbed. He gives and gives and gives. He is wonderful. He is love. I’m thrilled that He’s my friend. I’m thankful – so thankful – that He’s my rescuer and saviour. He is the best master. He’s always fair and absolutely trustworthy.

Jesus is full of grace and beauty. He is the most beautiful person I know. His goodness and love shine from the inside out with purity and radiance. When I eventually get to see Him face-to-face, He will be beauty personified.

God is rich in kindness to me: this is called grace.

I know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Though He was rich, yet for my sake He became poor,
so that by His poverty He could make me rich.
2 Corinthians 8:9

 

 

Rest

Rest Spidergram

Today’s word is rest. This spidergram shows what gives me rest.

I am the True Vine (Part 1)

When I was small, my dad and uncle used to rent an allotment. They had a grapevine in one of the greenhouses. I didn’t like going in there because the glass was dingy, it was cobwebby and smelled of tomato plants. Overhead grew the grapevine. They got excited when the purple grapes were ripe enough to pick and eat. Dad would bring home a bucketful at a time (he was a classy gardener!) for us to enjoy.

One of the ‘I am’ sayings for which Jesus is well known is:  ‘I am the true vine’. For years, I classed this passage as boring and couldn’t see its relevance, so I ignored it. Until recently. After God got hold of me in the summer of 2013 and turned my life upside-down and inside out, I began learning Bible verses. It gradually dawned on me that I was learning quite a few from John 15. And actually, they were very relevant, and I was thirsty to understand more. So last October when Adi and I were on holiday in London, I spent some time meditating on what Jesus meant when He said He was the true vine.

By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be My disciples.

I started in the middle of the passage because this verse grabbed my attention.

God had already shown me that He has adopted me as His daughter. Now He was showing me His heart: what delights Him is when I bear fruit and show the world that I am a follower of His beloved Son. It’s all about God and what He does in me to make me like Jesus. All I have to do is be willing and yield to Him.

I bear fruit by believing Him – believing God is who He says He is and can do what He says He can do. Believing that what He says about me is true. My thought life or self-talk makes a massive difference. If I choose to think truth and believe it, I am more confident and enjoy peace (another fruit!). The impossible suddenly becomes possible. Like when there were demonic presences in our bedroom that bullied me – when I believed that God was my shield, I would go upstairs to bed confident that I was safe and that nothing would attack me. And I had a good night. But when I gave in to fear and doubted that God was my shield, I would have a terrible night. (Thankfully, all of those demonic presences are now gone, thanks to the power and presence of Jesus – nothing can stand in His way.)

AshamedAnother exciting way that I see God working in me is that I now have a heart of compassion. Not that long ago, I was very judgmental, critical and harsh about others. I had a superior attitude towards them. Homeless people weren’t even on my radar. I blamed the unemployed for not having a job. But then God held up a mirror and showed me myself. It wasn’t a pretty picture. I was horrified by my attitude and hard heart. As I repented, He gave me good things in place of the bad stuff. One of those things was a heart of compassion. He gave me the desire to help out at my church’s food bank; initially I worried that I would do my usual thing of getting emotional about it for a couple of weeks, then slide into cynicism. That didn’t happen – more than a year on, I still have compassion for the people I meet through the food bank. I realise that poverty isn’t black and white. Many of the people who come in have a tonne of issues to cope with. I love getting to chat with and listen to individuals, show them a little of God’s Father heart and pray with them.

Something else I never thought I’d do is have a heart full of love for women working in the sex industry. Being able to practically show God’s unconditional love for these women by giving them food, warm clothes and a hug, as well as praying with them, is one of the highlights of my month. I could never have done this if God hadn’t gotten hold of me first and showed me what I was, and then showed me who I am in Christ. He is one amazing God!

This is God’s heart for individuals:

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor:
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
…to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour;
and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn;
…to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit:
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, that He may display His beauty.

If you are a follower of Jesus, then He says you are an oak of righteousness. He Himself has planted you and nothing can ever uproot you. You are secure in Him. And in you and me, the Father wants to display all the beauty and attractiveness of the most wonderful God-Man ever to walk this earth, Jesus Christ of Nazareth. This is our calling! All we have to do is come to Him with empty hands and say: Here I am, Lord!’

 

Photo credit: Stoonn

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