Mandy Baker Johnson

Living without Shadows

Tag: joy (page 1 of 2)

One And The Same?

Paul writes verse 1 of Philippians 2 as if it’s a done deal:

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

The assumption is that we have these beautiful and lovely things in Jesus. So with that truth as a foundation, Paul urges all believers to be united:

.…complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord, and of one mind.

Hmmm…. does it complete my joy when believers are united? I like it, it’s a nice thing. But in all honesty it doesn’t get me bouncing around. I need to grow in this area. I so want it to be more than a nice thing to which I pay lip service. Because it’s important.

When I’m facing something challenging, it pretty-much becomes my sole focus and my prayers reflect that. What about Jesus? You can’t get any more challenging that being the Son of God facing unjust death by crucifixion and the horror of becoming the sin of the world. Yet what was Jesus’ last recorded prayer hours before He died? That His followers be united and that we would see His glory.

Wow.

Unity. It’s vital. It’s a God-thing.

When a group of people are united, others take notice. There’s a beauty about it.

When believers are united, we display God’s wisdom and glory. It’s attractive.

To follow Jesus is the highest calling. To be a child of God is the highest status.

I wonder… if we realised what we have in Christ and who we truly are, surely we would be much more likely to make allowances for one another and be loving and kind without being critical and judging. There are times when the truth needs to be spoken, but in a loving way that builds up rather than destroys.

If our gaze was completely taken up with Jesus, I’m sure we wouldn’t be so quick to tag people and write them off because they do things a bit differently to us.

We’re all works in progress. None of us have got it together. And that’s okay: our Daddy-God has promised that the work He has started in each of us He will complete.

So look at our amazing gracious wonderful God and be thankful. The more we appreciate His grace in our hearts, the more we will show grace to others.

Thankful hearts are united hearts.

 

 

*Photo by William White on Unsplash

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.

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.

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!

Celebrate: Women

It’s Mother’s Day.
I think I prefer the phrase Mothering Sunday.

There are many who ‘mother’ without ever having the official title.
If we use it as a verb, the term means to bring up a child with care and affection.
Millions of women do this.
Every day.
They mother those who don’t have mums.
They care for others without necessarily having a biological bond. They’re no less mothers, nor would we think of them as less.

Some ‘mothers’ are grieving today. Some because they wish they’d had a chance to own that title.
Some, because their children aren’t alive anymore. Others because their children are estranged or in other parts of the world they can never get to.
Some of our ‘missing’ is because our mums aren’t here anymore, and that hurts to our very core.
Mothering Sunday is important; a chance to say thank you to those that mother us.
Be thankful for your mum. Be grateful for those who mother you.

Look out for those today who feel the day more keenly and need a little care and love.
I’m so thankful to God for my mum, and also those that care for me with mothering skills.

Spare a thought right now for those who will smile today, but behind that smile are 1000s of tears. Weep with them if you need to, but show them you care.

Mothering Sunday is for us all.

Keren Baker

Witness

‘As God is my witness….’

People sometimes say that to assert their innocence or to show they really mean what they are about to say.

God is their witness. He is privy to everything we do and think. He knows the secrets in our hearts.

God knows when you’re hurting, when things aren’t fair, when you are so stressed with balancing stuff that you don’t have any head space left. Maybe you’ve witnessed something you wish you hadn’t.

If you are weary and feeling heavy with all the burdens you’re carrying, Jesus says: ‘Come.’

‘Come to Me, and I will give you rest.’

God isn’t a cold-hearted witness. He heals and restores, He mends broken hearts, He bandages wounds. He gives hope and peace and joy.

God is nice, and He likes you.

Joy

Martin and Gracia Burnham were kidnapped by terrorists and held in the Philippine jungle for more than a year. Hours before their captivity ended, they chatted about Psalm 100, knowing that they may not leave the jungle alive but wanting to serve the Lord with gladness and come into His presence with singing.

Joy: the ability to praise God in a dark place.

Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. It’s different to happiness because that’s dependent on circumstances. Joy is supernatural, given by God.

I first discovered joy during my illness six years ago. Like Martin and Gracia, I wondered how to serve God when simply breathing took the majority of my energy and concentration. The Holy Spirit brought these verses to my attention:

‘Count in all joy’ when you go through trials. Why? Because there is a reward if you do.

I was so comforted, knowing I could still serve God when I couldn’t do anything. Each afternoon, I breathily and tunelessly sang praises to God for a few seconds. That was my sole activity for the day. Yet I knew that God heard me and valued my sacrifice of praise.

The seed of joy that God planted in my heart has grown as I’ve cultivated it by practicing joy.

That’s not to say I always feel like praising God. I have days when I’m more miserable than joyful, when patients get on my nerves, things go wrong, or I’m hormonal and tired. Sometimes I text my friend Ali to let her know I’m struggling. She always texts back that she’s praying and reminds me to get back to praising God. I do the same for her. We both find that we usually feel tonnes better if we take a few minutes to praise God in tongues if we can’t find the words in English.

Jesus knew all about joy in dark places too. He urged people who are persecuted for their faith to ‘rejoice’ and ‘leap for joy’. What? Sounds heartless. But Jesus saw things from an eternal perspective and He thinks it’s worth it for the reward. God the Son promised a great reward for those who are persecuted because they love Him.

Jesus Himself went through the crucifixion because of the joy He was looking forward to afterwards: the joy of having you and me as His friends.

Linking up with Little Things Thursday.

 

Mighty

Day eight’s word prompt for Lent is MIGHTY.

For me, the word mighty conjures up mountains, high seas, a knight in armour, a white charger snorting for battle.

All of these were created by the one whose name is Mighty.

On days like today when I’m tired, a bit stressed and generally out-of-sorts, I want someone who is bigger than me to turn to. I need someone wiser than me, who is never stumped or in a mood, who is always consistent and knows what to do. This Mighty One invites me to come to Him and give him my rubbish and mess so that He can give me His rightness and peace and joy. It’s a great deal.

This painting of Britain’s Lake District by my dad is a powerful reminder that my help comes from the Mighty One who created them both.

 

Injustice

The word prompt for day four of blogging through Lent is INJUSTICE.

It’s not fair!

My life was a mess. I had a tough childhood, things were done to me, and as I got older, I reacted. I got into stuff I shouldn’t have. Nice people didn’t want anything to do with me. I couldn’t blame them. The presence of evil clung to me wherever I went. I hated being alone, my thoughts would race round in circles until I thought I was going mad. The nights were the worst. Dark presences in the bedroom that made me cower on my bed and wish I was dead. Nightmares that were frighteningly real whenever I did get to sleep. I hated my life.

And then He came.

He saw me, the real me. He was patient. He gave me time. He made me feel safe. And He wanted nothing from me. One scorching afternoon under the vines while His friends were resting, I found the courage to tell Him about my nightmares and my past. He listened. And then He asked what I wanted.

‘I want to be free.’

I wanted peace, to lie on my bed at night and feel safe, to be happy, to be free.

He smiled and placed a hand on my shoulder.

‘Be free.’

Immediately the dark, evil presences left. I felt lighter and oh what was that I felt? Joy. That was it. I broke into delighted laughter and He laughed with me. I’ve never heard a more joyful noise.

Life hasn’t been the same since. Jesus gave me peace in place of tension and joy in place of despair. I’ve had no fear going to bed since then. I’m no longer troubled by evil presences or nightmares.

And now He is being dragged through the streets as the worst type of criminal. They are going to crucify Him. It’s not fair. He doesn’t deserve this. He’s perfect.

That’s it. They’ve killed Him. This man of peace who does good and rescues people from oppression and a life of hell. He’s dead. Why? Oh God, why?

 

 

 

Featured image used with permission courtesy of Free Digital Photos and Stuart Miles.

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