Mandy Baker Johnson

Living without Shadows

Tag: Jesus (page 1 of 8)

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.

Awake

When Jesus woke up on Maundy Thursday, I wonder what was His first thought?

He knew that day was going to bring His last meal with His closest friends, betrayal by one trusted friend, arrest, desertion, rejection and pain. I can’t begin to imagine. On days when something big is hanging over me, I’m in and out of the loo, feeling tense and jittery and wishing I was somewhere else in a different time. Jesus was waking up to the worst day in the history of the universe.

We get a glimpse of how He feels in the Garden of Gethsemane. Three times He begged the Father, ‘If there’s any other way, please take this cup of suffering away from Me. But not My will, Yours be done.’

If there was any other way of dealing with sin and bringing people back into relationship with God, the Father would have spared Jesus. But while other religions may acknowledge our problem of sin, none of them are able to deal with it. The only way was for God the Son to die in our place, representing us, and take the full penalty of what we deserve.

The Father is kind and loving and wise; He would never have asked His Son to die in our place if Jesus was one of many ways to God. He isn’t mean and cruel! No, the only way to deal with sin was through the shedding of blood.

And so Jesus got up and walked into His arrest and a night full of trials and torture before ending up nailed to a Roman cross for an excruciating six hours. Not just the physical agony, but the terrible, terrible spiritual cost of facing the darkness alone and taking an eternity of Hell on Himself so that I wouldn’t have to.

Why did He do it? Because this is how God loves. My place in God’s family is the most costly thing in the universe, and Jesus willingly paid for it. He went to the cross for the joy of having me as His friend.

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were an offering far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
Isaac Watts – Hymns and Spiritual Songs 1707

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.

 

Above

As soon as I saw the Lent word prompt for today I thought of the verse in Colossians that urges us to ‘set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.’

The reason Paul (the writer of Colossians) gives is that my life in eternity is way more important than what is going on here on earth right now. He reminds me that in a sense, I have died and my life is hidden in Christ – hidden in His beautiful perfection. I now live for Him, and one day He’s going to come back and everything will be glorious.

I need this reminder. After the day I’ve had today, I was feeling tired and grumpy, and hadn’t focused much on God at all. It’s easy to think that this is all there is and get bogged down.

But it feels like enjoying a deep breath of fresh air when I lift my eyes to God and focus again on ‘things that are above’. This is where my certain hope lies: the reality that one day I’ll be moving into my Father’s house to call it home forever. That is where I belong. Here, I’m just passing through. In a hundred years’ time, my job and what happened today won’t matter at all. But my life in Christ is everything and that will still be going strong in ten thousand years’ time.

Follow

When staying in a hotel, I enjoy following the delicious smell of frying bacon and freshly brewed coffee wafting from the breakfast room.

Road signs can sometimes be a nightmare to follow. I remember Adi and I getting completely lost after a long day of running kids’ work in a church three hours drive away. We took a different route on the way home because of a long traffic jam. Big mistake. We ended up following temporary road signs that petered out in the middle of nowhere in the dark, late at night. Not great.

Still on the topic of road signs, I once spent an hour and a half trying to find my way out of rural Lincolnshire. There were wooden sign posts at every turning and I’d peer up at them trying in vain to see if any of the names on the sign posts corresponded with names of villages on my map. Nope. I began to fear I’d be driving around flat country lanes in the dark for ever before I finally – by some miracle – found civilisation again 😉

Years ago I followed my dentist from one practice to another. I trusted him and he knew never to believe me when I said, ‘Yeah, my teeth are fine’.

We follow celebrities, fashion, television soaps, all sorts of things and people.

This year I’m making a conscious effort to follow Jesus when He’s leading me out of my comfort zone and into adventure.

Believe

More and more, I’m coming to the conclusion that believing God is the most important thing we can do. It’s more than believing on Him – for salvation. Or believing in Him which may not have any impact on your life.

Believing God. Beth Moore, in her book Believing God, has five statements that I’ve found useful to speak aloud regularly. It helps me to think aright about God and myself, and faith rises up in me as I speak them out.

I believe that God is who He says He is.
I believe that God can do everything He says He can do.
I believe I am who God says I am.
I believe I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
I believe His Word is alive and active in me.

Without faith, it’s impossible to please God. Which means that faith pleases Him. Jesus loved it when He found someone with extraordinary faith in Him in the gospels, and He commended those people. I want to be someone who has extraordinary faith in my God.

Jesus said that for everyone who believes in His name, He gives the right to become a child of God. That’s utterly astounding. It means putting our trust in His faithful character and staking everything on Him being who He says He is.

I’m not sure whether I’m really expressing what’s in my heart. But believing God – truly holding fast to Him because He is steadfast love and faithful and righteous – is the greatest honour we can do for Him. And I think the more I believe God, the more I will grow towards extraordinary faith in Him. Because it will impact my life more and more. How could it not?

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.

 

 

 

Grace

I heard a lovely quote the other day: ‘Jesus is the Good News.’

The gospel (good news) is a person: Jesus.

Jesus is the One I love and adore. He is my magnificent obsession. He is the only person with whom I can be utterly besotted without feeling empty, as though I’ve been robbed. He gives and gives and gives. He is wonderful. He is love. I’m thrilled that He’s my friend. I’m thankful – so thankful – that He’s my rescuer and saviour. He is the best master. He’s always fair and absolutely trustworthy.

Jesus is full of grace and beauty. He is the most beautiful person I know. His goodness and love shine from the inside out with purity and radiance. When I eventually get to see Him face-to-face, He will be beauty personified.

God is rich in kindness to me: this is called grace.

I know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Though He was rich, yet for my sake He became poor,
so that by His poverty He could make me rich.
2 Corinthians 8:9

 

 

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

Rest

Rest Spidergram

Today’s word is rest. This spidergram shows what gives me rest.

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