Mandy Baker Johnson

Living without Shadows

Tag: peace (page 1 of 2)

One of Those Moments

I’ve just had one of those moments.

Christmas. Emmanuel. God with us.

God with us.

That means something.

This is not all there is. (Thank God.)

This year has been the toughest I’ve ever known personally.

It has been twelve months of struggling with mental health issues, significant loss and deep grief.

Brexit, Trump, politics, the world generally going bonkers and no way to get off.

It feels so overwhelming as to render me completely numb.

I’m so fragmented nothing feels real. Not always even sure on the surface that God is there, but occasionally catch glimpses of His handiwork and know that He must be here…. somewhere.

Let this truth sink in: God with us. Jesus chose to come to this crazy, sick, evil, twisted, despairing world. God with us. He came to bring peace. His peace reigning in our hearts regardless of what is going on around or within us. Peace with God.

Because He came that first Christmas, I have a Safe Place to run to and hide. Jesus is my Strong Tower where I and every part of me is safe and loved and known and wanted and comforted.

 

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 🙂

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.

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.

  

 

Freedom in Christ – Part 2

How will knowing who I am in Christ affect things?

Worship

Knowing I am a child of God frees me from being self-absorbed. Magnifying Jesus (focusing on Him) puts everything else in the right perspective.

Show emotion in worship. Remember the woman who wept over Jesus’ feet. God has given us emotions; it’s right to use them when worshiping Him.

Go to war in worship. When I’m shrivelling up inside with fear or rejection or feeling ‘down’ for no apparent reason, I need to choose to worship God. I try to take myself in hand and go to the kitchen and sing. I have to be deliberate about it. And usually the negative feeling either lifts enough to give me some breathing space or disappears altogether like sun on mist.

Truth

Believe that God’s promises are for me, not someone else. Jesus invitation for is for ‘anyone’. If you are anyone, then you qualify.

Renew my mind with truth. Old thought patterns creep up on me when I’m vulnerable. I used to wish I’d never been born or that I could sink into oblivion. Thanks to God persistently showing me how loved and precious I am, I no longer think that way.

All the positive things God says about us are true. Pick a verse like Romans 8:1 about there being no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. Instead of thinking negative stuff (lies) about yourself, focus on the truth that God doesn’t condemn you. He loves you and has made you secure in Christ. Focus on the truth until it becomes a part of who you are.

Thinking lies about myself brings condemnation and fear. Thinking truth about myself brings peace and freedom. Training ourselves to think truth about ourselves is an on-going process, but we must pursue it if we are to know anything of the abundant life Jesus offers.

White flowersPurity

Am I living in purity so that I can enter in to everything God has for me? Living in purity isn’t a passive thing.

Giving in to small temptations leads to big temptations, and big things can destroy you. Especially secret things; things you hope no one ever finds out about. I know, I’ve been there. Telling someone you trust breaks the power of sin. The Bible urges us to confess our sins to one another.

The Holy Spirit is the holiness expert. If I’m holy, I’ll be attractive to be around because my life will point people to Jesus.

Fruitfulness

Fruitfulness is not what I do, it’s how I live my life. Believing and living by God’s promises makes me fruitful. The Holy Spirit will grow His beautiful fruit in my character: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

If I am living in grace and am at peace with myself, if I’m living as a daughter of the King and confident of who I am in Christ, then my behaviour will be affected.

 

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

Surround

Surround: to be surrounded can be both good and bad.

Jesus was surrounded by enemies on the cross. Not only human enemies: people who despised and mocked Him, pleased He was suffering and dying. But also spiritual enemies: the devil and his hordes.

Because Jesus died surrounded by enemies, I can be His friend.

Because Jesus was surrounded by hostility, I can know His peace.

The Bible says my life is hidden with Christ in God. To put it another way, I am surrounded by God Himself. Nothing can separate me from Him and His love.

 

 

Photo used courtesy of Geerati at freedigitialphotos

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.

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.

Voice

Day two of my blogging through Lent on VOICE.

There’s nothing quite like cuddling a brand new baby only a few hours old. This is my friends’ gorgeous little son Lucas. As I held him in hospital a few days ago, I marvelled at his tiny weeny fingers and toes, his cutesy little nose (he won’t thank me for saying any of this when he’s older) and his perfectly formed ears.

As I keep cuddling, feeding, and soon playing with him, Lucas will start to recognise my voice and we’ll both look forward to our visits.

But for now, there is one voice that will stand out above all others to Lucas. By twenty four weeks’ gestation, his hearing had developed and he would soon recognise the voice he heard more than any other in the womb: his mum’s. Other voices will be familiar to him too: his dad’s and his older siblings.

Now that he’s here and having cuddles with lots of different people, there are other voices Lucas is getting used to. But when he’s hungry or needs his nappy changing or is just plain upset about something, guess who will be able to soothe him quickest – mum or dad. Because it’s their voices he is most familiar with and will associate them with love and food and security.

I too have someone to go to for love and security, for everything I need. I’m learning to know His voice and distinguish it from all the other voices and influences in my life. Jesus declared that His friends hear His voice. I love His voice because He speaks truth to me that gives hope and sets free, and He gives me peace and joy.

 

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