Mandy Baker Johnson

Living without Shadows

Tag: Jesus (page 1 of 9)

Ordinary Miracles

Challenging, exhilarating, faith-raising, adventure-stirring, full of ouch moments.

Ordinary Miracles: Mess, Meals and Meeting Jesus in Unexpected Places by Chris Lane is about making friends and being church on an inner-city estate. The author is open, honest and real, telling it like it is. Sometimes you are blown away by what God does, other times there are no happy endings. It’s messy and complicated but heart-warming.

I was struck by God being at work in every place at all times. So often I pray asking him to be at work in this and that. This book opened my eyes to the fact that He is already at work and it’s we who need to tune in to what He is doing in any given situation. I find this really exciting: being able to show people where God is already at work in their lives (I’ve already been able to put this into practice with a lovely woman I met in the red light district). Chris writes:

I now get offended when I hear a place or a person being described as ‘godless’, because I think it is an offence to our God who is always reaching out, always seeking the lost, always bringing His light into the darkest places. He asks that we follow Him to those people and places.

I think this makes life more challenging (in a good way) because we can’t just write off people of whom we disapprove. If our God is already reaching out to them, we need to be big-hearted enough to follow Him. Challenging!

This book also raises my faith for miracles to happen. Chris is open and honest about how hard it is to step out of your comfort zone to offer to pray with strangers in the pub or in the street. Yet when he made the effort, things happened. People were healed physically and emotionally, and situations changed. God’s presence fell on the least likely people and they were astounded to discover He loved them.

Your church may run a food bank,
but who sits around your dinner table?

Finally, I was hugely challenged by the need to share life with people different to me. It’s not enough to do a few acts of charity, and retreat. Jesus didn’t work that way. He shared life with people. As Chris points out in the book, a lot of the Gospels is about Jesus eating and spending time with ‘sinners’. He didn’t have projects, He had friends. Chris’ church is based around a dinner table and everyone is welcome. Not just a nice ideal, but a messy reality. This particular passage has stayed with me:

When all our connections with those different to us are based on the modern idea of charity, we are able to hold people at arm’s length, while easing our consciences that we are making a difference in the world. Jesus goes much further than this, and challenges us to do the same. Your church may run a food bank, but who sits around your dinner table?

Ouch. That last sentence makes me deeply uncomfortable…. And it’s right that it does. But what are Adi and I going to do about it…?

Ordinary miracles should come with a health warning. If read thoughtfully, life may never be the same again….

Instant Apostle provided me with a free Kindle copy for the purpose of writing an unbiased review.

 

 

Words, Words, Words….

Words, words, words. As wordsmiths, we dabble, we play, we agonise, we yearn over the tools of our trade.

When we speak, our tongues can drip poison and hurt people, or our speech may be seasoned with salt to bless. There’s often little time to think about the effect of what we say. How many times do we wish we could take back the words that have left our lips?

Even bad news [read more]

Lessons From Truffles

I sat on the stairs on Tuesday feeling grumpy. It had been a long, busy and frustrating day at work, and my back was aching.

Lord, I know I haven’t spent time with You today but I don’t feel up to it right now. I just want to collapse and read. We’ll spend time tomorrow, I promise.

But I couldn’t just collapse and read as I longed to do because of a small furry visitor called Truffles. This was his usual play time, a chance to get out of his hutch and enjoy a little freedom. He’d be expecting to play and I couldn’t let him down.

I opened the hutch door and began rolling his current favourite toy around to entice him out: a wooden ball containing a bell. There’s normally an immediate response but not on Tuesday night.

Truffles sat in his hutch ignoring me.

Truffles 3

So I sat on the stairs trying to read and keeping an eye out in case he changed his mind. I was hopeful; playing with Truffles is a fun part of the day.

Why is he sitting in his hutch? Silly bunny…. it’s a lot better for him out here. I’m sat here waiting for him and we always have fun. So why is he stuck in his hutch?

Then it hit me.

I was like Truffles. The door was open with a better invitation and here I was sat in my circumstances refusing to meet with the Lord because I didn’t ‘feel up to it’.

Oh.

Then I heard the gentle invitation to ‘come’.

With a sheepish smile, I got up and went to get my Bible. Jesus and I enjoyed some time together; my achey back eased and the frustrations disappeared as I saw them for what they were: small and unimportant in the grand scheme of things.

Feeling tonnes better – refreshed and restored – I went back downstairs. And Truffles and I played together.

 

The Best We Can Be

Why do we write? Is the world a better place because our words are in it?

I want to encourage us to be the best we can be in whatever genre we favour.

King Solomon urged the readers of his day to do with all your might whatever your hands find to do. Very applicable to writers! Go for it. Don’t be timid or half-hearted, full of doubt. If a thing is worth writing, then do it to the best of your ability. Believe in the gift God has given you. But don’t strive about it, enjoy what you do.

We are free [read more]

Not Just For Christmas

I was knocked out by some familiar words this afternoon:

Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth PEACE to men on
whom His FAVOUR rests.
Luke 2:14

Every Christmas I’ve skimmed over this short song the angels sang thinking, ‘That’s nice.’

But this is incredible news.

God is so crazy about us that the only way He could show us what He’s like and invite us into a relationship with Him was to come to earth Himself. In Jesus, God became man (human mum, God dad), and spent His whole life showing us what God is like. Upshot of that is: we know God is nice and He likes us. He loves us passionately.

When Jesus was born, God offered peace to us.

Peace. Wow. Only recently have I discovered the seven-fold blessing of God’s peace:

*peace*
*completeness*
*wholeness*
*harmony*
*welfare*
*prosperity*
*tranquillity*

This is God’s heart for us. Roy Godwin, in his book The Way of Blessing, asks what it would look like if this peace was evident in our home, family, street, church? It took me all of a second to realise the difference it would make – and ever since, I’ve been speaking out this blessing over the people I love and live near.

When Jesus was born, God was saying His favour rests on us. We are a blessed people. We all love a hero, whether it’s Jack ReacherJames Bond or Katniss Everdeen. Jesus is the ultimate hero. He is God, come to earth so that we can know what God is like. More than that, He became the Way for us to come into relationship with God ourselves by dying and then rising again. He took all the wrong stuff that we think, say and do, and served the death sentence that was ours, so that when we accept what He’s done, the Father will look at us and see the perfection and beauty of Jesus.

This is awesome news that makes me want to yell WOOO HOOOOO! It’s not just for Christmas, it’s for now 🙂

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.

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