Mandy Baker Johnson

Living without Shadows

Tag: King

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

Rahab’s Journal: Wise

Two men came to my house yesterday. That’s not unusual in my line of business. I’d been watching them from my bedroom window; I felt certain they were up to something. These two looked like decent blokes and I didn’t want them getting into trouble. 

I ran downstairs, opened my front door and beckoned to them.

The old battle-axe who lives down the road spotted me and stomped into her house, slamming the door. I shrugged my shoulders. So what? I don’t care.

I invited the men inside. I’m not sure, to be honest, that they knew what I was or where they were. My main room is tastefully decorated but what with the mirrors and linens draped around the walls, you can’t really mistake it.

I nearly laughed out loud when the coin finally dropped and the pair realised where they were.

‘Look, it’s pretty obvious you’re up to something. If I can tell, the king is going to be on to you like nobody’s business. Now, who are you and what are you doing here?’

Turns out the two men were spies, sent out by Joshua, the new leader of the Israelites. They are coming to invade my country. My heart sank.

Even in Jericho, we’d heard the stories of the famous God of Israel. How He’d done awesome signs and wonders for His people when they were slaves in Egypt and rescued them. Pharaoh and his army were made to look pathetic against this rag-tag group with their powerful God. Their God was Someone to be reckoned with.

I’d listened to the stories of the God of Israel and always secretly wished I could know Him. He sounded incredible, the way He fought for His people, rescuing them from slavery. The gods of Jericho just don’t compare. We bow and scrape and sacrifice, but they do absolutely nothing for us.

While we were talking, someone banged on my door.

‘Quick,’ I pushed the spies ahead of me up the stairs and onto my roof, and hid them under some stalks of flax I was storing up there.

Then I raced back down the stairs and opened the front door. It was officials from the palace. Word had evidently reached the king that I was harbouring the spies. 

Good job I’m quick at thinking on my feet.

‘Oh yes, love, they were here,’ I told the officials, ‘but you’ve missed them. They left just before the city gates were closed. They haven’t gone long. If you’re quick, you’ll catch them.’

Thankfully, they believed me. They had no reason not to. After all, a couple of them were regulars….

Once the officials left, I went back to the roof. Now to take my chance.

‘I know the Lord has given you this land. I’ve heard how He’s fought for your people over the years. We, in Jericho, are terrified of Him. The Lord is the Creator God. Now, I’ve got a favour to ask. Since I’ve saved your lives, when you invade the city, please promise me you won’t kill me or any of my family.’

I was trembling inside. I gave it everything I’d got. Would God’s people be as kind as their God?

To my great relief, both spies nodded.

‘Yes okay. See this scarlet sash? Bring all of your family into your house, your mum and dad, brothers and sisters, everyone, and then tie this scarlet sash in the window. We promise that when we invade the city, everyone inside your house will be safe.’

I swallowed hard and nodded. ‘Thank you.’

In case my house was being watched, we tied a rope from the roof onto the city wall, on which my house is built, and the spies climbed down and escaped.

I’ve made a wise move I think. I hope the spies will keep their word.

 

Samuela and the Captain

‘Samuela nooo!’

My ima’s heartrending screams filled my ears as the tall soldier dragged me away. I stumbled along beside him, unable to see through my tears, until he pushed me to the ground with a stern ‘Wait here.’

My best friend Deborah wailed next to me and I put my arm around her, ‘Surely Yahweh is still with us.’

When the army had finished ransacking our village for valuables, they roped the captives together and forced us to march. We walked for days. Deborah and I stayed together, helping each other as much as the ropes would allow.

The captain looked me over. He had already chosen the best of the male prisoners for himself. I stared at the ground, scared of what might happen. 

‘You’ll do for my wife,’  he said.

His friend liked the look of Deborah and pulled her into his tent that night. I held my hands over my ears to block out the sound of her distress. I was terrified the captain would do the same to me but he left me alone.

The sun was setting when we finally arrived in the big city of Damascus. The soldiers untied the captives, and Deborah was led away by the man who had forced her into his tent each night. Tears made muddy tracks down my dirty cheeks when I saw my only friend being taken away. I knew no one.

‘Come.’

black-horseCaptain Naaman on his majestic black horse led the way to his house, we his slaves trying our best to keep up with him. I shivered with cold and fear, having been captured in my thin dress which was torn and dirty from the long journey.

A well dressed servant came out to greet his master.

Captain Naaman commanded that the male slaves be taken to the outside dwellings. Then he turned to me. ‘And this one is for my wife. You had better clean her up before she comes into the house.’

I was led to a room where I could wash, and a clean tunic was brought for me.

One of the household servants led me into a large and beautiful room. It was the richest place I had ever been in. Reclining couches were laid out here and there on the marble floor, and I could hear water tinkling in the background. I found out later it was a fountain.

‘Come here little girl,’ said a woman’s voice.

I raised my head and saw a dark-haired lady reclining on one of the couches. She held out her hand and I went and stood before her.

‘What is your name?’

‘Samuela.’ I whispered.

It was the first word I had said since comforting Deborah when we were first captured weeks ago.

Odd that my name should be the first word I said in this new, strange place. My abba and ima had given it to me because they thought they could not have children. They pleaded with God for many years. When He answered their prayers, they planned to call the baby Samuel which means ‘God hears’, but when I – a daughter – was born, they changed it to Samuela.

    *     *     *     *     *     *     *

mop

My mistress was kind, and though I had to work hard as her maid, I was never mistreated. Captain Naaman was a fair man and his servants had no need to be afraid of him unless they had done something wrong.

It was awful when the captain noticed the small discoloured patches on his arms. The doctor confirmed leprosy. We thought his army career was over but the king wanted Captain Naaman to stay in charge of his army because the captain was a formidable soldier who had led many victories.

But over time, he began to lose feeling in his limbs. It was dangerous for a soldier to go into battle unable to feel pain when he was wounded. We knew it was a matter of time before he lost a limb or went blind.

One morning, I stood behind his wife brushing out her beautiful long, dark hair. I heard a sniffling noise and quietly stepped across the bed chamber for a piece of linen which I handed to her.

‘Thank you Samuela,’ she said. ‘I am so worried about my husband. We have prayed and made sacrifices to our god Rimmon but his leprosy is getting worse.’

‘My God, Yahweh, could heal him.’

My mistress turned round so quickly I jumped.

‘What did you say, Samuela?’

I cleared my throat. ‘I wish my master would go to Yahweh’s prophet in Samaria. He would heal him of the leprosy.’

My mistress eagerly pressed me for details and I told her all I could remember about the prophet Elisha, and how Yahweh worked miracles through him.

‘Naaman! Naaman!’

I could hear them talking. Then the captain left the house. My mistress told me he had gone to see the king.

The captain returned with a letter from the king and made preparations immediately to travel to Samaria. There was an expectant air in the house. Could he really be cured of this horrible skin condition?

 *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Less than a month later, Captain Naaman returned home. His skin was as clear as a baby’s.

muddy-riverMy mistress told me the whole story, of how the master had caused panic in the king of Samaria’s palace when he turned up there asking to be healed. Thankfully, Elisha the prophet heard about it and sent a message with the instructions for the captain to wash seven times in the Jordan River.

My master was furious at first because he thought Elisha should chant incantations and wave his hands over the leprosy. But some of his trusted servants who had accompanied him convinced him to give it a try. The Jordan is nothing like the clean rushing waters of the rivers flowing through Damascus. But my master did as he was instructed and was completely healed of leprosy.

Now my master and my mistress worship the one true God. My God: the One who heals.

Freedom in Christ: Part 1

We are made to live in freedom.

I get upset when I see animals and birds in cages, whether in a home or in a zoo. They are meant to be free.

Before God began setting me free from emotional and mental baggage three years ago, it was like being squashed into a tiny space where I couldn’t breathe. But He had a far better plan for me than that; He has brought me out into a spacious place where I can stand with my arms outstretched and breathe deeply.

Jesus came to bring abundant life. The thief steals, kills and destroys anything good in our lives. Jesus doesn’t want that for any of us.

The key to freedom is identity. It’s vital to know who I am. More than thirty years ago, I was born of the Spirit (became a follower of Jesus). This meant that I had a noble birth.

It doesn’t matter that I was born to working class parents on a council estate, had an average education and didn’t go to university. Why? Because I became a daughter of the King of kings, making me a princess (in the best sense). Nothing can change my position ever. I am fully accepted by God, now and for always.

As a member of God’s royal family, I get to use the front door of the palace and sit on the family seats. I don’t have to creep in like a servant through the back door.

This is His tremendous gift to me. I could never earn His favour. It’s something He gives because He loves me.

Knowing who I am makes a difference. If I have a wrong view of myself, I think that other people see me like that.

LocustWhen the Israelites spied out the promised land, they said: ‘…we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.’ They felt small and insignificant in the eyes of their enemies, leading to doubt and fear. That generation of Israelites never did make it into the promised land.

Jesus’ desire is for us to live in on-going freedom every day. He hides us in His perfection.

When God began having a good rummage in my life, chucking out the rubbish I didn’t need, and bringing me into a freedom I’d never known, it felt as though I was expanding to be the person I was always meant to be. There were unexpected changes: a sudden liking of the colour pink (I’d always despised pink in the past), and enjoying baking and knitting. I also have a freedom in worship that I never experienced before. He is growing in me compassion, resulting in inclusive friendships rather than jealousy and exclusivity.

If you are reading this, know that God is absolutely crackers about you. Ask Him to show you any areas in your life where you don’t have freedom so that He can come and break chains. Jesus wants you to be yourself.

Be content in who you are and in who God made you to be.

 

Based on my notes from a talk by Liz Holden. Used by permission.

Featured image used courtesy of stock images at freedigitalphotos.

Path: Easter

It was a path on which a donkey trod. Palm branches and coats were strewn along it, the Jewish equivalent of a red carpet for a king.

Last SupperLess than a week later, the path led from an upper room where a special meal had been celebrated among friends, though not all were true, there was an enemy in the camp.

In a garden there were tears, sweat and blood, and then the betrayal of a close friend.

Good FridaySix trials – a mockery of justice – and the bloody trail to an execution hill. Nails, a hammer, and a crown of thorns. Rejection of a Father for the sake of many sons and daughters who would benefit from the One Son’s obedience.

A violent death, a borrowed grave, a hushed holy Saturday.

But Sunday is coming.

Saturday

Mine!

One of the many things I love about Jesus is the way He completely identifies Himself with me. Regardless of the cost to Himself, He has always been determined to show me the depth of His love.

You’ve got to really love someone to be crucified. It was one of the worst forms of execution ever devised with the victim nailed in place unable to move hands or feet, severely cramping muscles, slowly suffocating to death in agony. Jesus was perfect – even Pilate and Herod couldn’t find that He’d done anything wrong during His trials. But knowing it was the only way that I could be rescued from darkness and oppression and transferred into His Kingdom and adopted by His Father, Jesus was willing to be crucified. Not only was there the physical pain to contend with, public execution was shameful. If you’ve ever been told off by your boss in front of others or shouted at in the classroom by a teacher, you can appreciate a little of what Jesus went through. People being crucified were fair game for the general public to mock and laugh at, and Jesus had to face that. His very identity was challenged by the mockers. That’s hard to take. He suffered rejection – many of His closest friends stayed away; even His Father had to turn away when Jesus became sin so that I could have His purity. On the cross, He was silently showing everyone that He loved me, basically saying: ‘She’s mine!’

Jesus identifies with me in the spiritual realm. When I chose to follow Him at the age of ten, His Father transferred me out of the domain of darkness and into Jesus’ Kingdom. I didn’t appreciate what that meant until a couple of years ago. I had been plagued with demonic nightmares and unwanted presences in the house for several years. At first I put it down to imagination but my pastor and his wife realised it was far more than my imagination. They came and prayed round the house with Adi and me, and all of that darkness was forced to go because Jesus is mightier than any occult powers. Because Jesus has identified Himself with me, marked me as His own and given me His authority, demonic forces have to take notice and leave. They don’t have a choice because Jesus is the King.

Diamond RingI don’t need to worry about Jesus getting bored of me or changing His mind. My name is engraved on the palms of His hands – that sounds pretty permanent! He has also promised that one day, He will proudly present me before His Father with exuberant joy, and He will announce to His Dad and to all the angels: ‘Mandy is mine!’

When Adi asked me to marry him, he gave me a diamond ring. The cost was less than £50. But it marks me as his wife, I belong to him and he belongs to me. The Bible says that I, along with the whole Church, am being prepared as a beautiful bride for Jesus. He has given me His Spirit as an engagement ring. The cost to Jesus was His life. The Holy Spirit marks me as belonging to Jesus, and He belongs to me.

WOO HOO for a fantastic God!

Linking up today with Claire Musters, Helen Murray and Ros Bayes.

 

 

© 2021 Mandy Baker Johnson

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑