Mandy Baker Johnson

Living without Shadows

Tag: Holy Spirit (page 1 of 2)

Coffee with Jesus?

‘God loves you.’
I taught it every week.
But did I really know it?
Sure, He forgave me;
was He just being kind?

I thought the Father didn’t like me.
That Jesus and I could never have coffee together.
And the Spirit lived in me under protest.

But then.

The day the Father came into the room
His eyes fixed on mine,
as if I were the most precious thing He’d ever seen.
He scooped me up
and tossed me into the air.
Arms and legs flailing,
a toddler’s happy laughter:
‘Do it again Daddy, do it again!’

Have coffee with Jesus?
Oh yes.
Anyone can be friends.
Wandering in the woods together,
chilling on the patio,
enjoying a good book,
living the life He’s called me to.
He was once a man who cooked breakfast for mates –
He hasn’t changed.

And the Spirit?
Even when I hit the pearly gates
He’ll stay with me.
He won’t sigh with relief and go off to find someone more interesting.
Not dump me in eternity,
lonely and alone.
He sees me, He knows me.
He tells me truth and makes the unseen real.

God doesn’t just love me.
He likes me.

Hope

May the God of hope fill you will all joy and peace in believing,
so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
Romans 15:13

Hope is vital. Adi and I watched George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces when he and Will Hardie followed a WWII POW’s plans to build a caravan. It was incredible. Writing those plans and dreaming of being free again gave that prisoner hope in a very dark situation.

So it’s not surprising that God, in whose image we are made, is a God of hope.

I’m glad that it is He who fills us with all joy and peace in believing. Filling with all – that speaks of generosity, filled up with good things. I like Jesus’ description of a good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over. This is God’s nature: to give in abundance.

He gives all joy and peace in believing.

When God had broken in and miraculously healed me from cerebellar ataxia and ME in 2010/11, I pursued Him for complete healing from migraines (these have lessened in frequency and intensity but not quite gone completely). Initially, every time I asked someone to pray for healing, they asked for me to be filled with joy. I remember one motherly lady saying: ‘You’ve not known much joy, have you?’

I had a normal happy childhood, but that lady was right. I was so fearful in general and busy trying to be in control that there was no place for joy or peace in my life.

As God chucked out the clutter of fear and control and whatnot from my life, He filled those spaces with His joy and peace. The most memorable time was when He’d delivered me of a spirit of fear, that night He filled me with joyful, belly-aching, rolling around on the carpet, snorting laughter.

Joy and peace are daily companions now, I’m thankful to say. That’s not to say life is hunky-dory and all sorted. I still need to discern fear (it can be subtle), or trying to be in control or whatever and deal with it before God. But He is my hope and He restores joy and peace. In fact, He increases it.

I think the more we walk in the Spirit, the more capacity we have for God. The more I allow Him to sweep out the dusty corners of my heart, the more room there is for Him. That’s how it feels to me anyway 🙂

It’s all by the power of His Spirit. Oh that’s such a relief. I couldn’t drum up joy and peace if my life depended on it. But He gives it freely and extravagantly by His great power. Woo hoo!

The God of hope wants us to abound in hope, having been filled with all joy and peace by the power of His Spirit. Hope is a prayer away, and He is generous to those who ask.

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.

 

Voice

When I told Adi that I had a blog post to write on the word prompt ‘voice’ he laughed.

‘Well that shouldn’t be a problem for you, should it? The problem is getting you to shut up.’

Cheek!

But he made me think. I talk freely and easily, arms waving.

Yet sometimes when I sit down to write, I find myself writing what I think I should be saying rather than what is in my heart. If I pause to listen, I then hear the Holy Spirit’s quiet prompt to ‘just write’. Not to be so focused on the perfect opening sentence but to simply jump straight in there with what is on my heart.

When I take those few seconds to listen to Him – usually with a slightly sheepish grin on my face because this is a regular occurrence and you’d think I’ve have learned by now – and follow His wisdom, then writing flows. And sometimes I’m amazed at what has cascaded down from my mind to my fingers and out onto the screen.

But when I’m in a rush or tired (like being in the middle of this Lent word-a-day challenge), I think I haven’t got time to listen to Him and my focus shifts from Him to me. That’s never a good thing. At the end of such posts, there’s usually a feeling of frustration of not expressing whatever it is I set out to say, and even emptiness. Because I’d turned it into a striving, doing-it-in-my-own-strength, I-know-better-Lord thing.

Sometimes when I’m in striving mode, the blog post I end up with bears no resemblance whatsoever to the one I started out to write.

Of course, that can happen when the Holy Spirit is in the driving seat (so to speak) too, but when that happens it leaves me feeling satisfied and awed. Because He is using the writing gift He’s given me to bless others through me. And that’s really what we’re here for, isn’t it?

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.

Afraid….

I was a scared, wimpy sort of child. Almost as far back as I can remember, I was afraid.

In the days when petrol stations closed on bank holidays (yes, I’m that old!), a four-year-old little girl in pig tails was afraid of the ancient church minibus running out of petrol when my dad took the youth group hostelling.

If my infant school teacher was away and my class was overseen by the fearsome Miss Plummer from class five who slapped the legs of naughty children, I was fearful.

During the six week holidays before going up to secondary school, I prayed frantically for the Second Coming to happen so that I wouldn’t have to go to the new school.

As I got older, my fear increased. I tried to keep it hidden; people often think ‘quiet’ is ‘good’, when sometimes ‘quiet’ means ‘afraid’.

I was scared of spiders, not being near a loo in a strange place, of being attacked, of being rejected, meeting new people, dancing in public, etc, etc. I actually had secular counselling in my early twenties for a spider phobia that was getting out of hand.

But then in 2013, God happened 🙂

We had an extraordinary move of the Spirit at church. As a direct result, I underwent prayer counselling and deliverance ministry. One of the many things from which God set me free was fear. One morning, a couple of trusted friends and I prayed for the spirit of fear to leave me, and it did. That evening in a prayer meeting, God gave me joyful laughter which filled up all the empty spaces left by fear (talking belly laughs and snorts, rolling around helplessly on the floor).

Since then, there has been no more fear of spiders. Before, I couldn’t even look at a drawing of a small spider and if I saw one through the television I’d have to close my eyes or – preferably – leave the room. I’d shake and sweat. Since God delivered me from fear, I can touch pictures of spiders and deal with eight-legged visitors around the house myself. No more shaking or sweating.

ToiletI’m learning that God can be trusted with my needs, which means – in part – no longer worrying constantly about whether there is a loo nearby.

I’m free now to raise my arms and dance in worship in church. Who cares if I have no rhythm? God loves exuberant worship spilling out of a thankful heart.

God has accepted me and calls me daughter. I know I go on about that a lot on my blog but it’s because knowing who I am has made such a difference. Being accepted by God takes away the fear of being rejected by people. It’s a process and one I’m still working out with Him.

There’s no God like Him. I’ve got the biggest smile on my face and happy tears in my eyes typing this, because I am loved. God has given me joy in place of fear. How can I not love Him?

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
2 Timothy 1:7

Spirit

God sent Jesus to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law,
so that He could adopt us as His very own children.
And because we are His children,
God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts,
prompting us to call out, ‘Daddy Father.’
Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child.
And since you are His child, God has made you His heir.

These verses from Galatians are precious. They tell me how loved I am, how cherished by God.

Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all 100% committed to me.

I was a slave under God’s law but Jesus fulfilled the law for me. God the Son bought my freedom on the cross.

Why?

So that the Father could adopt me as His daughter. Imagine… the King of Kings wanted me in His family. Wow…. Just wow!

Father and Son were keen that I should know this in my heart, not just believe it in my head. So God sent the Spirit of Jesus to live inside me, and the Spirit tells me that this is true. God’s Spirit in me makes my heart leap for joy that God is my Daddy. Such knowledge sets my heart ablaze and powerfully changes the way I think.

I’m not a slave. He welcomes me into His palace and I get to sit on the best chairs. I belong.

As if that weren’t enough, I am a co-heir with Jesus. Everything He enjoys, I get to enjoy.

I love the Spirit. He gives me assurance. He brings me God’s presence. He gives me spiritual gifts. This glorious third Person of the Trinity loves me!

Vision

The crazy generosity of God astonishes me. Talk about reckless love!

Jesus willingly died so that I could be adopted by the Father, who is so dedicated to bringing me abundant life and making me like Jesus that He fills me with His Spirit. The God who created the universe lives inside me! How crazy is that? What kind of god does this? One who loves me like He loves Himself. Wow.

Centuries ago, a guy called Joel prophesied about this. He said that one day God would pour out His Spirit on all people. Our sons and daughters will prophesy (hear God speaking to them), young men will see visions, old men will dream dreams…. and everyone who asks God will be saved.

What an incredible gift God offers: to put His Spirit inside us so that as we learn to recognise His voice and get sensitive to His ways, we can start to think and act like Jesus did. The Bible says that God’s children have the mind of Christ. Wow.

We can hear God speak in so many different ways: through the Bible (and He will never contradict what He’s written in the Bible), in dreams and visions, in pictures we see in our mind’s eye, in impressions, to name a few.

God speaking to us is powerful. I know of people who have become followers of Jesus because they met Him in a vision or a dream.

I love that God is so creative in how He speaks to us. This is a God who takes the initiative, who makes the first move in introducing Himself. All because of His crazy, reckless love for us.

Love

It’s day ten of Lent and the word prompt is LOVE.

It reminded me of the verse that talks about keeping ourselves in the love of God, probably because I’m trying to memorise it at the moment. But it got me thinking. How do I keep myself in the love of God?

It’s rather like abiding in Christ. Sounds great. But how does it happen and what does it look like?

What is love?

When I was struggling with this a while ago, I asked Adi, ‘How do you know that I love you?’

‘Well, you tell me,’ he said, ‘You’re interested in how my day has gone. You go out of your way to do nice things for me. You’re supportive when things go wrong and I’m feeling rubbish.’

Love is words and actions.

Understanding what love looks like between Adi and me helped me begin to grasp what God’s love looks like.

At the heart of it, God’s love looks like Jesus dying for His enemies so that He could invite them to be His friends. Not that God is sad and needs us. But the Father’s heart blazes with love for the Son, whose love overflows for the Spirit, who utterly adores the Father. It was out of an overflow of red-hot, blazing love that caused God to go so such extraordinary lengths to invite me into His family.

I was nothing and He gave me worth. The Most High calls me friend.

He has given me a new heart and is growing in me love and compassion. The outworking of that is that I’ve begun to see people as He sees them. A homeless man is someone’s son. A prostitute is someone’s daughter. We are human and we have worth. Love raises up.

God gives me security.

So how do I keep myself in God’s love?

I like the way this version puts it:

But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith,
pray in the Holy Spirit,
and await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life.
In this way, you will keep yourselves safe in God’s love.

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