Mandy Baker Johnson

Living without Shadows

Tag: death

Spirit

On Sunday 18th October 2009 my life changed forever.

A few months earlier, Adi and I had started going to Grace Church.  One of the things I loved about Grace was that people spoke very personally to God and sang lovingly and adoringly about Him. Although we were all Christians, Adi and I could see they had something we didn’t.  They taught about the Holy Spirit and used spiritual gifts in every meeting. They functioned naturally in the supernatural.

It was intriguing. I couldn’t deny that God was among them in a way I’d never seen before. Spiritual pictures and prophetic words spoke to the most secret parts of my heart. When someone prayed or sang out in a tongue, the meeting didn’t move on until the interpretation was given.

Adi and I had never had much teaching on the Spirit and, to be honest, we thought of Him as simply a ticket to heaven. We felt a little like the disciples in Acts 19 who’d never heard of the Holy Spirit.

I had lots of questions, and a good friend advised me to read through Luke and Acts and make a note of every time the Holy Spirit is mentioned. I couldn’t believe how many times that was. He was crucial to the plot. I was gobsmacked.

I was also reading Jack Deere’s Surprised by the Power of the Spirit. Dr Deere came from a similar theological background to me and there was much I could identify with. Through the book, he took me on his own journey from cessationism (believing the spiritual gifts died out with the apostles) to baptism and moving in the Holy Spirit.

SpiritSo on that momentous Sunday morning in October, I was ready and expectant to receive baptism in the Spirit. I invited Him to come while a friend laid hands on me and prayed. Joy bubbled up inside me and I began to pray in tongues. Looking at me, there was little physical evidence that I had received the Spirit. My right hand shook a bit and a few tears trickled out. But I knew He had come.

The next morning I tentatively tried praying in tongues again. Could I still do it? Was it just gobbledegook? To my relief, I could still do it. But I didn’t value this gift for months.

Since receiving the Spirit, it’s like everything is more colourful, deeper, more precious than before. It doesn’t make me a higher class of Christian or better than anyone else. But I’m more aware of God’s presence than I ever used to be. More and more I rely on the Spirit to help me. He is the best Teacher! He opens up the Bible to me, giving me understanding and making it real.

I adore how the Spirit tells my spirit that I am a child of God. I love the prayer language of tongues, what a wonderful gift this is. When I run out of words or my heart is too full for my English to keep up, I can pour out all my desires and longings and praise to God in tongues.

I’m so thankful to God the Father for His incredible gift. Some 2,000 years ago Jesus died so that I could be forgiven and brought back into relationship with God. He has given me a new heart and abundant life. The Father has placed the Spirit of Jesus in me so that I can have full assurance I am His child, and as a first instalment guaranteeing everything He has promised. The Spirit has given me spiritual gifts and makes me a supernatural being on top of all that.

All made possible because of Jesus. Thank You Lord.

 

Darkness

Light is most clearly seen when darkness is at its darkest.

The darkest day in history was one Friday a couple of thousand years ago in the Middle East. A young man in his early thirties was unjustly executed. Talk about the biggest miscarriage of justice. His mangled body was laid to rest in a friend’s tomb.

Saturday was silent, dark and hopeless.

But on the Sunday, light exploded into that tomb as Jesus came back to life. He rose from the dead in glorious might and power.

Jesus went down into the darkness of death and beat it. He emerged as the ultimate victor holding the keys to death and the grave. Jesus defeated the one who has the power of death – the devil – so that He, Jesus, could deliver everyone who is afraid of death. He doesn’t want anyone to be enslaved by fear; He came to set us free.

Jesus is life. His life is light. This light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot – ever – overcome it.

 

 

 

Love

Seven years ago, I had a chronic illness that was worsening despite the best efforts of the medical profession. I wondered if I was in the valley of the shadow of death. It felt like my body was beginning to shut down and there was little hope, physically speaking.

But then I had a significant breakthrough healing, followed a few months later by Jesus meeting with me and completing what He’d started. It was just me and Him in my living room, when He restored my health.

I’d made the decision to follow Jesus as a child but I didn’t really begin to comprehend His love for me until He healed me. I was stuck in a hopeless and, at times, very dark situation that I couldn’t get out of. My best efforts on my ‘good’ days got me nowhere and mostly made me worse. No one was able to help.

But Jesus came to my rescue.

I will always be so thankful to Him. He gave me back my life – and this time with a new sparkle in my eyes because I know He loves me. I no longer just believe it with my mind. It has become a reality in my heart, something I experience.

For me, the illness and healing are a physical picture of what Jesus had already done for me spiritually.

My soul wasn’t dying, it was dead. I was alienated from God. I was a good child, but just like a corpse can’t help itself, I couldn’t help myself. I was in a hopeless situation.

But the Father loves me. In fact, He loves me the same way He loves Jesus. I was dead, but He brought me to life. He dealt with the baggage that I’ve collected since conception: bad thoughts, wrong reactions, rebellion, white lies, etc, etc. 2,000 years ago Jesus took all my baggage on Himself when He died on the cross, paying the full price for my wrongdoing and in exchange giving me His goodness instead.

This is real love—not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.
1 John 4:10

What is love?

Love looks like a King dying for His rebellious subjects so that they don’t have to pay for their wrong thoughts and actions, and to make them royal sons and daughters.

I love this song, written and performed by a friend, Chris Barton: This is Love

Decide

Oh son, I love you so much!
You delight my heart and bring me joy.

Being with you dad, is just the best thing ever.
You’re awesome!

Let’s create more, just like you son.

Fantastic idea dad!
You’ve given me so much, can I share with them?

Not even conceived, yet I see each one…
and how I love them.
But son, I don’t want little robots.
I’m giving them the choice,
they can decide to love me or not.
I’ll make it easy:
I’ll create a fabulous world for them to live in
with trees, mountains and flowers,
and a sky full of stars.
Every evening I’ll paint the sky with orange, pink and gold.
Each morning will be greeted with blazes of silver and choral trilling.

I see dad….
The choice to decide is dangerous.
They’ll want to please themselves and rebel against you, won’t they?

Yes son, they will and they will be separated from me.
But I want to show them my love.
They are precious –
I want them to understand what love looks like, what it is.

How can we show them?

Dad, they will deserve death for rebelling against you.
I will die in their place and become the Way to you.
The greatest love is to die for a friend –
I will die for my enemies.

Son, I will accept your sacrifice on their behalf.
You take their place, and
I will lavish the love I have for you on them.
I will make them co-heirs with you of all that I have.
They cannot even imagine the wonders and pleasures in store for them!
I will pursue them with my goodness and love at every turn.

We have made our decision.
Now it is time for them to choose.
Today is the day of acceptance, now is the time of salvation.

An imaginary conversation between God the Father and God the Son before the dawn of time.

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

 

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

Covenant

Almost seventeen years ago, Adi and I entered a covenant of marriage. We made each other promises in our wedding vows that we would stick together through tough patches and good times. We’ve certainly had some moments together….

Redundancy followed by six years of Adi self-contracting meant times of being quite well off followed by very lean months when food got more and more boring.

Being told we were physically unable to have a baby of our own, going through a failed IVF cycle and losing our tiny twins. That was tough.

My being ill for more than a year with cerebellar ataxia and ME/chronic fatigue.

Then there are the little things that annoy. For instance, I like the air con blowing warm air on my feet in winter in the car. Adi prefers it blowing on his face.

Yes, there have been times when thoughts of divorce have crossed our minds. We’d hardly be human if they hadn’t. But we don’t entertain those thoughts. We made promises and are committed to keeping them. That brings each of us a deep sense of security. We know that neither one of us is going to walk out of this marriage lightly. We work at spending time together, listening to one another, talking things through and just enjoying each other’s company. It doesn’t just happen and it would be easy to drift apart – Adi to his computer, me to my books.

Marriage is meant to be a picture of our relationship with God. He has made a covenant with us that if we trust in Jesus’ death and resurrection, He will be our God and we will be His people. This means He is utterly committed to us. We have to work at our relationship with God, making sure we spend quality time regularly with Him, and growing in our love for Him. But He is crazy about us and delights in being with and knowing us. God will never walk away from a relationship with us. This covenant is binding and will last for ever.

 

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