Mandy Baker Johnson

Living without Shadows

Tag: love (page 1 of 3)

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

Deny

Two people have been on my mind today, both of whom participated in the first Easter.

Simon Peter was one of Jesus’ closest friends. I like Peter. He frequently opened his mouth before engaging his brain and generally jumped in with both feet. Peter blurted out deep spiritual truths that could only have been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit, at other times he got it badly wrong.

Peter had an inkling that Jesus was about to walk into a whole load of trouble, and was determined to stick by Him.

Yet when the key moment came, Peter bottled it. He denied he knew Jesus. Peter’s heart must have broken when he realised he’d let his Lord down. I can identify a little bit with him, can’t you?

The other person who has been on my mind is Mary of Bethany. She too was a close friend of Jesus. She, with her sister and brother, showed Jesus warm hospitality whenever He came to their village, and He spent time in their home in the week leading up to His arrest and execution.

Mary used her two ears more than her mouth. She listened to Jesus. She pondered what He was really saying and what was the meaning behind His words.

Jesus had been open with all His close friends about His forthcoming crucifixion, yet only Mary seemed to grasp what He was saying.

A few days before His arrest, while Jesus was relaxing with friends over a meal, Mary anointed Him with expensive perfume (the value was around a year’s wages). She recognised who He was, and knew He was about to die. She may not have understood everything He’d said, but she wanted to pour out her extravagant love for Him.

Jesus loves a loyal, loving heart. He insisted that Mary’s beautiful act of worship be remembered wherever the gospel is taught – even more than 2,000 years later in a blog post.

The wonderful thing is that Jesus dealt with both Peter’s and Mary’s sin on the cross. Peter may have denied Him when He most needed a friend, but Jesus still didn’t turn His back on Peter.

I’m glad that Jesus knows we are prone to stumble along behind Him at times, often getting it wrong, occasionally getting something right. I’m so very thankful that my dearest friend Jesus died so that I could call Him friend, and so that He could call me friend. He is the most magnificent person who has ever lived, and I’m thrilled I can call Him mine.

If you’re reading this and don’t know Jesus, He is inviting you into a relationship with Him. Please leave a comment below or contact me via Twitter if you’d like to know how you can do that.

 

 

Sign

I attended a women’s conference Outrageously Loved on Saturday. I’d gone expectant to meet with God and for Him to meet with me. And wow, I was not disappointed!

At the front of the room was a banqueting table, laden with all kinds of goodies: chocolates, crisps, tortilla chips, strawberries, grapes, a pineapple, marshmallows, Maltesers, etc, etc. The banner across the table read: He brought me to His banqueting table and His banner over me was love.

While praying and preparing for the conference, the ladies organising it were seeking God for what He wanted for the day. He showed them a picture of a banqueting table with crystal glasses and delicate china as well as lots of goodies and treats.

The first thing the organising ladies did was to offer an invitation to us from the Father, to come up and partake of the banqueting table He had prepared: of the delicious nibbles right before us. It was a picture of how the Father was inviting each of us to meet with Him, to come to his spiritual banqueting table to know Him more intimately.

As part of our worship and as an act of faith, we went forward to help ourselves.

I was thrilled and went forward happily. But my breath was taken away when I saw what was there, and was a sign to me that the Father really was in this and He had planned it with me in mind.

Popcorn.

Popcorn is my latest favourite snack.

My Daddy in heaven had seen that, and gave me popcorn on Saturday as a sign of His outrageous love for me.

The Father’s love is so crazy, unlimited, and extravagant that He doesn’t just want me to believe with my mind that He loves me ‘because the Bible tells me so’. Oh no. He wants me to know with every fibre of my being that He is utterly besotted with me!

WHOOP WHOOP WHOOP!!!!

 

 

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

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….

Loyal

‘What’s the first thing that comes into your head when I say the word loyal?’ I asked Adi.

‘Dog.’

Strangely enough, it was the first word that came into my head too.

The most loyal dog I can think of is Greyfriars Bobby in Edinburgh. If I remember the story correctly, Bobby was so loyal to his master that even after the man had died Bobby remained by the grave and had to be fed by the kind people of the city.

I googled the meaning of loyal: giving or showing firm and constant support or allegiance.

Synonyms (other words meaning the same thing) for loyal are faithful, true-hearted, devotion.

Those words describe the loyalty of a dog, who is often called a man’s best friend. Certainly my brother’s dog Ben had eyes for only one master, my brother. Even after my brother married and passed Ben onto me, whenever he visited Ben would leap around him barking and yelping, tail wagging till it nearly came off. We were left in no doubt where Ben’s true heart lay.

Change the letters of the word dog and you get God.

Loyal, faithful, true-hearted, devoted: all words that describe God’s character and the way He feels about us.

He is devoted to us long before we’re aware of Him. I read a beautiful story online recently of how a girl suffering with anorexia bulimia was aware of Jesus’ presence beside her as she was sticking her fingers down her throat over the toilet. This was before she knew Jesus the Person who loved her.

I had the amazing privilege of being able to tell a group of women in the sex industry how Jesus is crackers about them and how He would have chosen to hang out with them when He was a man on earth (not to use them or get anything from them but simply to be with them because He saw precious people made in His image).

The more I realise how intensely faithful God is to me, the more I fall in love with Him. He’s the Best. Whoop!

What’s That Smell?

When [my daughter] was a baby I used to carry her with her head on my chest and I would breathe in her baby smell and I remember offering her to another family member to sniff because she smelled so beautiful. From the moment I took my first breath as a mummy, it’s my favourite fragrance in the world, matched only by that of her little sister. 

My friend Helen Murray wrote those words and they got me thinking….

To the Father, I smell like Jesus.

What does it mean to smell like Jesus? We’re not talking aftershave here.

Jesus: Scents of Justice and Mercy

Before Jesus came, God’s people had to offer animal sacrifices as a temporary payment for their wrong-doing. The payment for wrong-doing is death but God accepted offerings of sheep, goats and cows so that the people wouldn’t have to die and be separated from Him. Such offerings smelled of God’s justice and mercy and are described as being a pleasant scent to Him.

CrossAll those temporary sacrifices pointed to the one perfect sacrifice: Jesus. When He willingly gave Himself up for me, the Father saw it as a fragrant offering and accepted His sacrifice. Jesus paid for my wrong-doing fully. There’s nothing left to pay. And that smells good to the Father.

Smell Like Jesus: Live Like Jesus

The Bible urges me to imitate God.

Why?

Because I’m His beloved child.

How?

By walking in love. Love looks like what Jesus did, giving up His life. Jesus said that the greatest love is to lay down your life for your friends.

Smell Like Jesus: Love Like Jesus

For most of us, love won’t look like dying for someone. Although it might….

It means thinking and acting more like a community than an individual. This is something my church is focused on at the moment, building authentic community.

For example, between Christmas and New Year our old washing machine died. Aaaaggghhh! What to do? Friends from church had recently moved into the area and happily gave me a key to their house so I could pop round and use their washing machine for the next eight weeks. There was some sacrifice on their part and lots of gratitude on mine.

Washing MachineSacrifice can mean having a little less ‘me’ time so I can focus on others.

Someone said recently that the opposite of love isn’t hate but selfishness. That makes a lot of sense.

When we love like Jesus, it smells nice to the Father.

Smell Like Jesus: Give Like Jesus

Jesus is my treasure. He has generously given me forgiveness, peace, freedom, love, joy. But best of all, He has given me Himself. I know Him and He knows me. I love Him because He loved me first and showed me what love really is. Jesus likes me. Wow! (Whoop! Whoop!)

The more I grasp this, the less I want to hold onto my money and the more I want to give because of this amazing God who loves me.

Yes, it’s important to be sensible and plan for the future.

But when we give joyfully and sacrificially out of an overflow of thankfulness to this wonderful God who loves us, it smells beautiful to Him.

Smell Like Jesus: Be Like Jesus

God says that His children are a fragrant aroma to people around us. Wherever we go, people get a whiff of Jesus.

The next time you squirt on your perfume or aftershave, remember that you already smell heavenly. You smell like Jesus.

 

Decide

Oh son, I love you so much!
You delight my heart and bring me joy.

Being with you dad, is just the best thing ever.
You’re awesome!

Let’s create more, just like you son.

Fantastic idea dad!
You’ve given me so much, can I share with them?

Not even conceived, yet I see each one…
and how I love them.
But son, I don’t want little robots.
I’m giving them the choice,
they can decide to love me or not.
I’ll make it easy:
I’ll create a fabulous world for them to live in
with trees, mountains and flowers,
and a sky full of stars.
Every evening I’ll paint the sky with orange, pink and gold.
Each morning will be greeted with blazes of silver and choral trilling.

I see dad….
The choice to decide is dangerous.
They’ll want to please themselves and rebel against you, won’t they?

Yes son, they will and they will be separated from me.
But I want to show them my love.
They are precious –
I want them to understand what love looks like, what it is.

How can we show them?

Dad, they will deserve death for rebelling against you.
I will die in their place and become the Way to you.
The greatest love is to die for a friend –
I will die for my enemies.

Son, I will accept your sacrifice on their behalf.
You take their place, and
I will lavish the love I have for you on them.
I will make them co-heirs with you of all that I have.
They cannot even imagine the wonders and pleasures in store for them!
I will pursue them with my goodness and love at every turn.

We have made our decision.
Now it is time for them to choose.
Today is the day of acceptance, now is the time of salvation.

An imaginary conversation between God the Father and God the Son before the dawn of time.

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