Mandy Baker Johnson

Living without Shadows

Tag: Jesus (page 1 of 7)

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.

Go

‘Go’ is a small word with potentially explosive results. It’s like the ripple effect of tossing a pebble in a lake.

Naaman was told by the prophet to go and wash in the Jordan River to be healed of leprosy. It seemed a silly, almost insulting, instruction but when Naaman came down off his high horse (literally and figuratively), and did what he was told, God miraculously healed him.

Moses repeatedly went in to Pharaoh with the request: ‘Let my people go.’ Pharaoh ummed and aahed and faffed about, and flatly refused. God sent increasingly nasty plagues until eventually the stubborn, arrogant king agreed to let God’s people go.

Ruth, whose story I’ve been reflecting on recently, showed intense loyalty and love to her mother-in-law when she declared: ‘Where you go, I will go….’ And thank God she did, because she is one of Jesus’ ancestors.

Jesus told the famous story of the Good Samaritan and encouraged His original listeners to ‘go and do likewise’ in terms of being a good neighbour.

Another famous statement of Jesus’ is the one He made shortly before going back to His Father, to ‘go and make disciples of all nations…’ It’s His heart’s desire that every Jesus-follower should so overflow with passionate love for Him that wherever we go, we will share the good news of God wanting a relationship with us and being willing and able to deal with all of our baggage.

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

Celebrate the Seasons

You have made the seasons:
winter, summer, autumn and spring.

I live them each day of the year;
praying for a heat wave
(of which we Brits have had enough after one day),
and longing for snow each December.
Every season following the last,
because You have promised that summer and winter, springtime and harvest will never cease.

You have made the seasons in my life:
winter, summer, autumn and spring.

An autumn of pruning, a laying down of ministry,
quiet time to wait on You.
There is beauty to be seen even in the shedding.
A winter of waiting, of chronic illness,
the bleakness of no ministry, no fruit, loneliness,
what’s my purpose?
Then a spring of fresh hopes cherry blossoms on a tree,
For me it was a spring of healing,
of new dreams and possibilities.
Summer fulfils the promise of spring,
new ministry, fruitfulness,
a sense of being Your workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works.
Not boring, religious stuff either.
But adventures with Jesus, growing in faith,
laughing for joy that I’m Your daughter!

I celebrate the seasons Lord,
You have given a time for everything.

Celebrate: Good Plans

I’ve loved looking at Rahab’s life these last few days. She was a ‘woman of the night’ who sold sex to men. Someone it would be easy to look down upon, but God had His sights set on her.

God loved Rahab from the depths of His heart. He had plans for her life: to rescue her out of the brothel and bring her into friendship with Him. Although Rahab couldn’t have known it at the time, she played in integral part in the Jews’ history. Her son Boaz married Ruth, a widow from a despised nation. Ruth was an outsider, but Boaz had been taught by his parents to welcome those who are ‘different’.

And God chose this family line through which to send His Son. What astounding grace to a prostitute! No one seeing Rahab working in Jericho could possibly imagine the wonderful plans God had for her.

How amazing it is to know that God has plans and dreams for us. He has good things for me, and He has good things for you.

I have dreams and hopes for myself. Some of those dreams I’ve had to lay down: the dream of having children. Does that mean God has a second-best plan for me? Or that He doesn’t love me as much as He does someone else to whom He has given children? No way! He is crazy about me. It just means His plans for me are far better than the best dreams I have for myself.

I love that God plants hopes and longings in my heart, and then fulfils those desires. And He always has far better planned for me than anything I can imagine.

Knowing Him is to know true life. It really is. And so I celebrate God today, and the way He fulfils my heart’s desires and that He dreams over me good plans. Whoop! What a God! Yee haaah!!!

Celebrate 300

This is my 300th blog post!

If not for Adi, this would never have happened. He persuaded me to start blogging, back in October 2008. It took me a while to settle into the groove and find my ‘voice’, and there were lots of doubts and angst. Through it all, Adi believed in me and in my God-given gift to write.

This blog started as a memorial of our tiny twins’ extremely short lives. They were only about twelve days from conception when we lost them, but it seemed wrong for their existence not to be acknowledged. Today, I celebrate our precious Two and Three. You can read more of that story on my About page.

I celebrate my readers. Thank you for every ‘like’, retweet, and comment. You are such an encouragement and blessing.

I celebrate the seekers who have been directed to my blog specifically because you can identify with some of the issues I write about. Thank you for getting in touch and trusting me to pray.

Writing itself is a way to rejoice in who God has made me and what He’s done in my life. Without my fingers tapping on the keyboard trying to keep up with flowing thoughts, there’s every chance I might explode. Being able to share my reflections in this blog is such a privilege.

And finally, I must celebrate my Jesus. He has chosen me, made me a royal daughter, calls me His very own. Why? So that I may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called me out of darkness into His marvellous light.

 

Keziah’s Diary: Treasure

You saw me in my childhood,
Lost, alone, sullied, rejected.
And You gave me full acceptance.

You saw me on the street corner,
Beautiful, empty, desolate.
And You gave me peace and joy.

I was a prostitute,
Unworthy, unlovable.
You said my value was above the price of rubies.

You saw me in my sin,
You came to rescue me.
Oh what sacrifice was Yours,
To woo me back and make me pure.

You saw me in the darkness,
And Your love shone so bright.
I’m forgiven, I’m a child of light.
All because of You.

I’m loved.
I’m chosen.
I’m forgiven.
I’m accepted.

Jesus, my treasure.

Keziah’s Diary: Injustice

That encounter with Jesus intrigued me. I couldn’t get the way He’d treated me out of my head. There was definitely something different about Him, but I couldn’t put my finger on it.

I asked around a bit and found out Jesus is a travelling teacher. 

When I wasn’t working (I don’t know how else to earn money so I can eat), I made a point of going to hear Jesus teach. He was so interesting. He told everyday stories that I could identify with and which made me think. I’ve never heard anyone else teach like He does. And what I really love about Him is how He doesn’t avoid ‘sinners’. He welcomes people like me. Crazy, but true.

The more time I spent hanging around with Him and His friends, the more I felt convicted that I shouldn’t be working as a prostitute. That’s wrong and while I’ve never sensed Him condemning me for it, I just know that He doesn’t like what I do. He gives the impression that He sees me, Keziah the person, not Keziah the prostitute. I think He grasps the injustice I’ve been through.

I only got into sex work as a way to survive because I couldn’t see any other way forward. My childhood wasn’t especially happy and when one of my uncles showed me his own particular brand of ‘love’, my parents went mad. They said I was dirty and threw me out of the house. I had to learn the hard way how to survive on the streets. When you’re in the dust and you haven’t eaten in days, you do what you have to do.

The best of it is, the ‘respectable’ people who go to the synagogue every week are judgmental and look down on me.

‘There goes a bad girl,’ they say, with their haughty looks, perfect families and nice homes.

They think I’m not worthy of God’s love – and I’m not. This isn’t all my fault, yet I’m made to feel that it is. All they see is the woman on a street corner selling herself. They don’t see the abused and frightened child or the circumstances that put me here. Yes, I’ve made choices, but they weren’t really choices. It’s not like I enjoy what I do.

But Jesus is special. It’s like He seeks us out. I sometimes think sinners like me are His favourite kind of people. He spends enough time with us! I dunno, when I’m around Jesus I feel like God has come to earth or something….

Keziah’s Diary: Heal

The strangest thing happened yesterday . I’m still reeling from it. Did I imagine it? No, I feel different, I look different. Oh wow, this is amazing.

I went to work as usual. I hoped I’d get customers quickly so I could buy food and go home. There was nothing in the cupboards. I should probably plan better but my head is all over the place and it’s hard to get into a routine. I say ‘is’. I think all that is going to change now….

Business was slow. I stood patiently in the hot sun on my usual corner, I like this spot because there’s an olive tree that provides a bit of shade. And I eat the olives when they’re ripe, probably shouldn’t, but there we are.

Late afternoon I saw this group of men heading towards me. I patted my hair tidy and struck an alluring pose. 

They looked an odd bunch to be friends: some were clearly manual labourers judging from their muscles, one had the despicable air of a tax collector and I recognised one as a terrorist. But their leader, he was something else altogether. One look at him and I knew he’d never take part in my kind of business.

I pulled my robe tighter around me and turned away. I wished the ground would open up and cover me. I felt so ashamed and dirty. I was worthless, less than nothing. I wished I’d never been born. My life was pointless: how many times have I been used and not paid, or abused? Because the men I deal with think they can do what they like and get away with it.

But he came closer until he was standing right in front of me.

‘What do you want me to do for you?’

The words were so gentle and gave me the tiniest bit of hope. Such a simple question, yet coming from him it broke down the barriers I’d erected.

I longed for peace more than anything. To be able to sleep at night like a baby. For relief from these terrible, jagged, emotional wounds that cracked and bled at the slightest provocation.

‘Peace,’ I whispered.

‘I give you My peace. Don’t be troubled or afraid. I am giving you life. This is why I came: to bind up your broken heart and heal your wounds.’

At once I felt different, lighter, as if a very heavy load had been lifted. I raised my head and smiled at him. He beamed back. ‘I’m Jesus. What’s your name?’

‘Keziah.’

He squeezed my hand.

What a Man! He didn’t want anything from me, but gave hope, and peace, and life. Wow. I love this Man.

And guess what, last night I slept like a baby.

  

 

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