Mandy Baker Johnson

Living without Shadows

Tag: good news

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.

 

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

My Hero

I will be eternally grateful for stepping into Arnold Road Boys’ Club that night in 1984. Don Baker – one of the leaders – was just a regular guy. When I first met him, he was working at a local pit in Nottinghamshire. After that, he became a school caretaker. As far as I’m aware, he didn’t have an outstanding education, a theology degree or any formal evangelism training. But he had a story of how Jesus had changed his life – and a real enthusiasm for sharing it.

Don was the first person to tell me the good news of Jesus Christ – me and many others!

The thing with Don was, he didn’t just tell us about his faith, he lived it out. He became a family friend and I know that he prayed for me regularly for many years. It was probably getting on for ten years after first meeting Don before I finally submitted my life to Christ. Throughout all that time though, Don kept in touch, kept inviting me to church, and kept praying for me (he and his wonderful wife, Janet). Eventually, his endeavours paid off.Dad Youth Hostelling

The true impact of his investment may never be truly known this side of eternity. There is a ripple effect, a greater legacy to Don’s commitment of time, prayers, faith and persistence. As a result of Don sharing his story of God’s grace with me, my parents became Christians and my own children are growing up in a Christian home – and I hope will themselves one day live for Christ. In addition, there are many in my workplace that I have shared my faith with, who may not have heard the gospel message had I not been there.

The ripple effect from Don’s faithfulness can be multiplied many times over in many lives.

All this is a result of one man who simply had a story of how Jesus had met him and changed his life, and was willing to share it with those around him.

Don presents a challenge to all of us who claim to be Christians. We have a story to tell. Are we willing to share it? Then we, too, will leave a legacy of amazing proportions that will have a ripple effect stretching into eternity.

Andy HamillAndy Hamill

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