Mandy Baker Johnson

Living without Shadows

Tag: father (page 2 of 3)

Breath

We sometimes say that there’s nothing like a breath of fresh air, usually if we’re in a room that is stuffy and hot, or if we’ve been really busy. To have a breath of air can feel so refreshing.

Spiritually-speaking, the Holy Spirit is rather like a breath of fresh air. He brings the presence of God, and that is refreshing. The Bible says that those who wait on the Lord renew their strength. How many times I’ve dragged myself to home group or a prayer meeting, feeling tired and achey and wishing I could spend the evening in the bath. It’s amazing how much better I feel – refreshed, rested, exhilarated – afterwards.

Even spending a few minutes praising God in my kitchen during the day makes such a difference. Sometimes I bounce into the kitchen, excited and looking forward to meeting with my Father. But on other days, it’s an act of the will. I never regret it and often emotion follows as my will urges my soul to focus on God.

The words of this song express it so well:

Let Your breath come from heaven,
Fill our hearts with your life….

Will

This is the last will and testament of me, Jesus Christ of Nazareth, Son of Man and Son of God.

I give to all who will believe in my name the right to become children of God.

To all whom my Father has adopted, we give the Holy Spirit. We want them to know they are beloved children of God, and the Spirit will tell their spirits that this is who they are.

Every child of God becomes an heir of God and a co-heir with me, the firstborn.

I give to each child every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. Everything I have enjoyed, I bequeath to them. They are citizens of heaven and my Father’s home is their home. I joyfully share with each one the unending blessing that is mine.

Each child of God is seated in heavenly places with me. The Father will lavish His grace on them for all eternity: showing them how abundantly rich His kindness is to them.

I, Jesus, have died to give them life because I love them with outrageous and extravagant love. Their worth is far above the price of rubies. I have cleansed them from sin with my own blood. I’ve taken all their dirty rags of striving and rebellion, and clothed them in my glorious robes of righteousness.

Sign

I attended a women’s conference Outrageously Loved on Saturday. I’d gone expectant to meet with God and for Him to meet with me. And wow, I was not disappointed!

At the front of the room was a banqueting table, laden with all kinds of goodies: chocolates, crisps, tortilla chips, strawberries, grapes, a pineapple, marshmallows, Maltesers, etc, etc. The banner across the table read: He brought me to His banqueting table and His banner over me was love.

While praying and preparing for the conference, the ladies organising it were seeking God for what He wanted for the day. He showed them a picture of a banqueting table with crystal glasses and delicate china as well as lots of goodies and treats.

The first thing the organising ladies did was to offer an invitation to us from the Father, to come up and partake of the banqueting table He had prepared: of the delicious nibbles right before us. It was a picture of how the Father was inviting each of us to meet with Him, to come to his spiritual banqueting table to know Him more intimately.

As part of our worship and as an act of faith, we went forward to help ourselves.

I was thrilled and went forward happily. But my breath was taken away when I saw what was there, and was a sign to me that the Father really was in this and He had planned it with me in mind.

Popcorn.

Popcorn is my latest favourite snack.

My Daddy in heaven had seen that, and gave me popcorn on Saturday as a sign of His outrageous love for me.

The Father’s love is so crazy, unlimited, and extravagant that He doesn’t just want me to believe with my mind that He loves me ‘because the Bible tells me so’. Oh no. He wants me to know with every fibre of my being that He is utterly besotted with me!

WHOOP WHOOP WHOOP!!!!

 

 

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

Sheer Delight

Interacting with animals is one of life’s good gifts. (Warning: this is a post that only animal lovers will truly appreciate!)

My guinea pig Pickles used to love racing me up the stairs. I showed him how to do it, then initiated us racing side by side. Always me initiating.

Then one day, I felt pressure on my mid-calf. I turned and looked down. There was Pickles on his hind legs, nudging me with his front paws. When he saw he had my attention, he got into the start position at the bottom of the stairs. It was a proud and emotional moment as I took my place on all fours by his side, and then we galloped up together. I forget who won, it doesn’t matter, my little furry boy had come to me to play, and my heart was full.

These days, I look forward to having Truffles the rabbit to stay. He loves cuddles, especially having his head and face gently stroked and his nose kissed. When I stop, he butts me with his head, wanting more. It’s a delight when he responds by licking my nose, and then he sits back expectantly waiting for me to resume kissing and fussing over him.

Animals don’t have to respond. They could just put up with me fussing over them before trundling back to whatever truffles-and-methey were doing prior to me coming along. Sometimes they do just that. But when they respond with pleasure, or even initiate contact, that brings me joy.

I think it’s similar to the way we interact with God. He pursues all of us everyday with His goodness and mercy. But when we respond to Him, that delights His heart.

To be honest, I don’t always feel like praising God or spending time with Him. Sometimes work is busy, life feels pressured and stressed, and I’m tired. But I know that when I do come to Him, it delights and blesses His heart.

For me, this looks like walking or bouncing or dancing (depending how I feel) up and down the kitchen, singing and praying in tongues. I read the Bible with pleasure, as if He had written it just for me. That makes even the hard bits that I don’t understand precious, because my Friend wrote them.

Other times we go for a meander together through the woods or in the countryside. I even go running with Him.

The pleasure I have in playing with a rabbit or guinea pig is nothing in comparison to the sheer delight the Father has in me whenever I come into His presence.

What’s That Smell?

When [my daughter] was a baby I used to carry her with her head on my chest and I would breathe in her baby smell and I remember offering her to another family member to sniff because she smelled so beautiful. From the moment I took my first breath as a mummy, it’s my favourite fragrance in the world, matched only by that of her little sister. 

My friend Helen Murray wrote those words and they got me thinking….

To the Father, I smell like Jesus.

What does it mean to smell like Jesus? We’re not talking aftershave here.

Jesus: Scents of Justice and Mercy

Before Jesus came, God’s people had to offer animal sacrifices as a temporary payment for their wrong-doing. The payment for wrong-doing is death but God accepted offerings of sheep, goats and cows so that the people wouldn’t have to die and be separated from Him. Such offerings smelled of God’s justice and mercy and are described as being a pleasant scent to Him.

CrossAll those temporary sacrifices pointed to the one perfect sacrifice: Jesus. When He willingly gave Himself up for me, the Father saw it as a fragrant offering and accepted His sacrifice. Jesus paid for my wrong-doing fully. There’s nothing left to pay. And that smells good to the Father.

Smell Like Jesus: Live Like Jesus

The Bible urges me to imitate God.

Why?

Because I’m His beloved child.

How?

By walking in love. Love looks like what Jesus did, giving up His life. Jesus said that the greatest love is to lay down your life for your friends.

Smell Like Jesus: Love Like Jesus

For most of us, love won’t look like dying for someone. Although it might….

It means thinking and acting more like a community than an individual. This is something my church is focused on at the moment, building authentic community.

For example, between Christmas and New Year our old washing machine died. Aaaaggghhh! What to do? Friends from church had recently moved into the area and happily gave me a key to their house so I could pop round and use their washing machine for the next eight weeks. There was some sacrifice on their part and lots of gratitude on mine.

Washing MachineSacrifice can mean having a little less ‘me’ time so I can focus on others.

Someone said recently that the opposite of love isn’t hate but selfishness. That makes a lot of sense.

When we love like Jesus, it smells nice to the Father.

Smell Like Jesus: Give Like Jesus

Jesus is my treasure. He has generously given me forgiveness, peace, freedom, love, joy. But best of all, He has given me Himself. I know Him and He knows me. I love Him because He loved me first and showed me what love really is. Jesus likes me. Wow! (Whoop! Whoop!)

The more I grasp this, the less I want to hold onto my money and the more I want to give because of this amazing God who loves me.

Yes, it’s important to be sensible and plan for the future.

But when we give joyfully and sacrificially out of an overflow of thankfulness to this wonderful God who loves us, it smells beautiful to Him.

Smell Like Jesus: Be Like Jesus

God says that His children are a fragrant aroma to people around us. Wherever we go, people get a whiff of Jesus.

The next time you squirt on your perfume or aftershave, remember that you already smell heavenly. You smell like Jesus.

 

Wibbly-Wobbly Writer

When I first thought God might be calling me to be a writer, I was excited: a childhood dream come true!

But it didn’t take long for doubt to set in, and those of you who know me can testify to my teetering back and forth.

Who do I think I am trying to do this? Is this really what God wants? Do I even have a gift?

It’s draining.

I even do the ‘right’ thing and take my doubts to God: ‘Are You sure You want me to write?’

It’s kind of inevitable that I tie myself in knots and end up chained by fear. Fear of failure, fear of what people think.

Too often my confidence is affected by how many Facebook likes I get for a blog post or whether it’s retweeted on Twitter. A comment on my actual blog makes my heart sing and dance.

But this is a dangerous position to be in. I’m settling for praise from people, which is nice, but not what I should be aiming for. My aim should be the heavenly ‘Well done, good and faithful servant!’ from Jesus. It’s His opinion that really matters.

While it’s helpful to know if I’m reaching anyone through my writing, ultimately I need to focus on writing for an audience of One.

Love

I love that the Father had adventures planned for me before I was born: things to do, places to be, people He wants me to mother. How exciting is that?! The Father must be pretty passionate about me because He puts these desires in my heart, and is guiding me step-by-step into all He has for me.

So, how ever much I have wibbly-wobbly doubts, my part is to respond to the revelation I have right now.

For me today, this means taking writing seriously and giving it time, energy and prayer. If I’ve misheard, my Father will graciously redirect me.

The Father doesn’t clobber me over the head for getting it wrong. Nor does He operate through fear. He is love and perfect love casts out fear. So when I detect that knot of fear in the pit of my stomach, you can bet it doesn’t come from God.

What if I don’t pursue this dream because I’m scared of getting it wrong or failing? On that day when God is giving out rewards to His faithful ones, is it possible I could miss out because of being scared to go for it?

 

 

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.

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

Rejected

I’ve been thinking about a father and son, and a garden, and rejection.

You couldn’t get a closer relationship anywhere than Jesus and His Dad. Always together, always united, never a disagreement. They loved each other, enjoyed one another’s company, were completely fulfilled in their relationship.

Their perfect love overflowed. Jesus’ Dad wanted more sons and daughters just like Jesus. Jesus wanted brothers and sisters to love just like His Dad loved Him. Not because they were emotionally needy; the desire came from an overflow of purest love.

The result was us. But the snag was also us. Because there was a snag. We were created perfect, in God’s own image. But we wanted to be God and rule our own lives without bothering about allegiance to our creator. We deserved death but that’s not what Father and Son wanted for us.

They weren’t daft. They knew we would rebel and stick two fingers up at them and turn our backs. But because of their overflowing, crazy love they wanted what was best for us: relationship with them. So knowing precisely how horrible we would be, they went ahead with creating us, having Plan A in mind.

Plan A was Jesus dying the death we deserved by rights. Plan A was Jesus becoming the Way to the Father.

Olive GroveThe night before Jesus died, He went into a garden of olive trees to pray. He knew the agony that awaited Him – physical torture, an agonising death, taking the darkness and sin of the whole world, separation from His Dad. It cost Jesus everything. I can’t imagine such perfect love as blazed in the Father’s heart for Jesus being torn apart when He was forced to reject His Son at the moment Jesus became our sin on the cross.

Father and Son looked together at the cross and saw all the sons and daughters who could only come to the Father through Jesus dying, and agreed with their whole hearts that we were worth the cost.

Because Jesus was rejected by His Dad, I am accepted by His Dad.

Because Jesus was rejected by His Dad, you can be accepted by His Dad. You only need to ask and follow Him with your whole heart.

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