Mandy Baker Johnson

Living without Shadows

Tag: Jesus (page 1 of 9)

Affection and Sympathy

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy

In Christ there is affection and sympathy. What does that mean?

Affection is showing love: a hug, a smile, a hand on the shoulder, holding hands. Every school day afternoon I see from my window a mum striding briskly ahead of her small son. I long for the day when they will walk side-by-side with that little boy enjoying his mum’s attention, secure in her love as she shows him affection.

Affection is warming and affirming. It makes you feel secure. You know you are loved.

This verse says God is affectionate to me. How?

  1. Every time He brings truth alive in my heart, giving me assurance and making me feel loved.
  2. When I have a supernatural encounter with Him and I enjoy His presence.
  3. By a hug or prayer or prophetic word or blessing from a friend.
  4. When He whispers to my heart to come outside because He has something to show me, He directs me to look up and see golden clouds at sunset, and says: ‘I thought you’d enjoy it.’
  5. Each time He reaches down into the depths of me, healing and restoring what had broken into a thousand tiny pieces.

God also has sympathy for me. Jesus knows precisely how I feel because He was human too. He understands my weakness and my needs because He has been there.

Am I childless? So was Jesus.

Am I tired at times of sin and temptation? So was Jesus.

Have I been hurt in unspeakable ways? So was Jesus.

Do I get tired and achey? So did Jesus.

Because He sympathises with me, I draw near to His throne of grace with confidence, knowing that He will meet me right in my need. It’s real. When I’m dealing with situations and feelings too big for me, I know that Jesus is enough to handle them. He sympathises in a way that no one else ever can. He is real and authentic and strong.

Look at all I have in Him: encouragement, comfort, love, fellowship and participation, affection and sympathy. There’s no one like Him.

 

 

 

Participation

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy….

To participate is to be involved with or take part in, or to possess a particular quality. So participation in the Spirit is a big deal.

I both engage with and have the Spirit of God. He lives inside me. The Father has lavishly poured the Spirit of Jesus into my life.

…and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (2 Cor 13:14).

This is an active thing on both my part and the Spirit’s. We engage and enjoy fellowship with one another.

I have a relationship with God!

I have what the Old Testament saints could not have: participation in the Spirit. He came on some of them on odd occasions, but He didn’t live with them like He does in me. They had the tabernacle and then the temple where they could experience God’s presence. But – thanks to Jesus’ mighty work on the cross – God now tabernacles or lives in me. I am a temple of His Holy Spirit. Wow.

I love the Holy Spirit. He opens my eyes to what God is doing (in me and in others) and He opens my spiritual ears to ‘hear’ what He is saying. He makes me see the unseen so it becomes real to me.

For years I read in Romans 8 that I am a child of God. And for years they were just words on a page. My mind acknowledged they were true but it made no real difference to my life. But then, at a low point one summer I noticed that it is God’s Spirit who tells my spirit that I am a child of God. In desperation I cried out to Him to tell this truth to my spirit. He did. He made this unseen truth a glorious reality in my heart and I now know with certainty that I am indeed a child of the Most High. Wow, wow, wow!

I have participation with the Spirit. This truth makes my heart skip a beat and my body tingle all over. What an honour. How beautiful and generous is the Father to pour out the Spirit of Jesus into my life. Whoop!

I Have Encouragement

Back in August, I read an online article by John Piper that challenged me with the words Philippians 2 would change my life. It’s a chapter I’ve tended to avoid in the past…. So far out of my realm of experience and with the potential to be deeply uncomfortable, I’d always read it without reading it (if you see what I mean).

But, I was challenged in a positive way. I want to change, to be more like Jesus, because He’s fantastic and to be even a tiny bit like Him is amazing.

Over the next few weeks, I’m planning to share on here some of what I learned. It’s taken from my journal so may be a little rough around the edges. But I was blessed by my study and I hope you will be too. I fell a little more in love with Jesus, who is truly extraordinary.

In verse 1, Paul writes: ‘So if there is any encouragement in Christ…’.

Paul seems to be me to be writing from an assumption that there is encouragement in Christ. Present tense: is. Now, for this time.

If encouragement comes from God, surely discouragement comes from the enemy. So I don’t want anything to do with discouragement. I will remember that in Jesus, I have encouragement. Have, have, have.

En-courage = to put courage into.

It puts courage into me when people say truthful things to build me up. They tell me I can do this, that I’m good enough, not to be afraid. Courage helps me step outside of my comfort zone and try new things. (My latest ‘stepping out’ is to dance with a rainbow-coloured ribbon during worship – a huge step for me but I’m doing it because someone has put courage in me.)

God does this. He tells me I am hidden in Jesus – literally hidden in His perfection. I am loved and accepted by the Father who sings loudly and exuberantly over me and dances around me because I am His.

Encouragement in Jesus? Oh yes!

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

Older posts

© 2017 Mandy Baker Johnson

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑