Mandy Baker Johnson

Living without Shadows

Tag: friend

Deny

Two people have been on my mind today, both of whom participated in the first Easter.

Simon Peter was one of Jesus’ closest friends. I like Peter. He frequently opened his mouth before engaging his brain and generally jumped in with both feet. Peter blurted out deep spiritual truths that could only have been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit, at other times he got it badly wrong.

Peter had an inkling that Jesus was about to walk into a whole load of trouble, and was determined to stick by Him.

Yet when the key moment came, Peter bottled it. He denied he knew Jesus. Peter’s heart must have broken when he realised he’d let his Lord down. I can identify a little bit with him, can’t you?

The other person who has been on my mind is Mary of Bethany. She too was a close friend of Jesus. She, with her sister and brother, showed Jesus warm hospitality whenever He came to their village, and He spent time in their home in the week leading up to His arrest and execution.

Mary used her two ears more than her mouth. She listened to Jesus. She pondered what He was really saying and what was the meaning behind His words.

Jesus had been open with all His close friends about His forthcoming crucifixion, yet only Mary seemed to grasp what He was saying.

A few days before His arrest, while Jesus was relaxing with friends over a meal, Mary anointed Him with expensive perfume (the value was around a year’s wages). She recognised who He was, and knew He was about to die. She may not have understood everything He’d said, but she wanted to pour out her extravagant love for Him.

Jesus loves a loyal, loving heart. He insisted that Mary’s beautiful act of worship be remembered wherever the gospel is taught – even more than 2,000 years later in a blog post.

The wonderful thing is that Jesus dealt with both Peter’s and Mary’s sin on the cross. Peter may have denied Him when He most needed a friend, but Jesus still didn’t turn His back on Peter.

I’m glad that Jesus knows we are prone to stumble along behind Him at times, often getting it wrong, occasionally getting something right. I’m so very thankful that my dearest friend Jesus died so that I could call Him friend, and so that He could call me friend. He is the most magnificent person who has ever lived, and I’m thrilled I can call Him mine.

If you’re reading this and don’t know Jesus, He is inviting you into a relationship with Him. Please leave a comment below or contact me via Twitter if you’d like to know how you can do that.

 

 

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.

 

Two Little Dicky Birds….

Earlier this month, my friend Elizabeth and I went on holiday to the wilds of Norfolk.

Without wanting to sound super-spiritual or boring, one of our favourite things is praying together. There is something exciting and exhilarating about enjoying God with a trusted friend…. Anything can happen. And sometimes it does!

After one delightful session of prayer, I [read more]

 

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.

Have

What do I have?

A magnificent friend who adores me and can do anything.

Since knowing Him, my life has changed almost beyond recognition. I’m not the woman I was a few years ago.

Then, I didn’t think God was willing to heal today.

Then, I wasn’t sure what He had to offer other people. I wasn’t even sure what He had offered me.

Then, I had little confidence in myself and amoeba-sized faith in God if you squinted very hard through a microscope.

I’m thankful to say that that is changing 🙂

God has healed me from cerebellar ataxia and ME/chronic fatigue. I had one significant breakthrough when friends prayed for me ten months into the illness, and Jesus completed the healing four months after that, just me and Him in my living room. I have confidence that God is willing to heal today.

I know my God offers Himself to other people, just as He has done to me. That gives me confidence in telling them about my wonderful friend.

My faith is now fractionally bigger than amoeba-sized. I’m trying things I’ve never done before. Let me tell you a story.

When I started helping at my church’s food bank three years ago, I was too scared to offer to pray with clients if they were ill or in pain or feeling low. My team leader gently encouraged me and for weeks I longed to offer but was too scared. Then one afternoon with my team leader eye-balling me across the room, I finally plucked up the courage to offer prayer. The client accepted and I prayed. Probably not well, but I did it. From then, offering to pray into difficult situations became more normal for me.

Right up to this afternoon at our church’s community Easter Party in the local pub. I prayed for healing for a lady with a chronic illness. She sensed God’s peace as I prayed. We’ll wait to see the outcome.

It feels good, taking baby steps of faith and going on an adventure with Jesus.

All because I have a magnificent friend who adores me and can do anything.

 

Surround

Surround: to be surrounded can be both good and bad.

Jesus was surrounded by enemies on the cross. Not only human enemies: people who despised and mocked Him, pleased He was suffering and dying. But also spiritual enemies: the devil and his hordes.

Because Jesus died surrounded by enemies, I can be His friend.

Because Jesus was surrounded by hostility, I can know His peace.

The Bible says my life is hidden with Christ in God. To put it another way, I am surrounded by God Himself. Nothing can separate me from Him and His love.

 

 

Photo used courtesy of Geerati at freedigitialphotos

Faithful

Jack, my rabbit, had oodles of personality. He had full range of the garden and ground floor of the house. He knew he wasn’t allowed upstairs but had a funny habit of thundering up them if he thought I wasn’t watching and then stamping his hind legs at the top, as if to announce: ‘Mischief accomplished!’

Although he knew his name (something my two retired neighbours Mick and Jack thought amusing when chatting to one another across our back garden), he only came if he felt like it when I called him. Other times, he would race round and round the shed in the back garden with me exasperatedly panting after him.

I loved Jack dearly (as my friends at the time could testify) but I didn’t realise what a faithful friend he was until my dad died. For a very independent rabbit who only ever allowed cuddles on his terms, he lay by my side on the sofa for hours at a time licking my arms. It was the only way he knew to comfort me in my grief.

When Jack himself died, I missed him like crazy. Even now on clear, starry nights I look up at Orion’s Belt and remember my little J-J. One of my favourite things was to hold him in my arms while admiring the night-sky, in awe that the same God who spoke galaxies into creation also made cute, furry bunny rabbits.

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