Mandy Baker Johnson

Living without Shadows

Tag: Son

Given

It’s that time of year again and I am taking part in Rethink Church’s Lent word-a-day challenge. Sometimes it will be a photo on Scamper’s Adventures blog and other days, like now, I will write a short blog post.

Today’s word is GIVEN.

I am broken,
but You give wholeness.
My life is ashes,
for which You give beauty.
My heart is heavy and I am in mourning,
You give me a garment of praise and oil of joy.
You give me comfort.
You give me peace.

When I am afraid and overwhelmed,
You are my strong tower where I hide.

Father, You have given me everything I need.
You have given Your Very Best.
Your own Son,
betrayed, abused, tortured, shamed, killed.
For me.

Because of Jesus given at the cross,
I can be forgiven,
I can be free,
I can live abundant life,
I know You.
You are my Father, Friend, Saviour, Lord, Comforter, Prince of Peace, Strong Tower, Place of Refuge.

Memories of a Billboard

At the beginning of 2017, the church I attend Arnold Road Evangelical Church gave out a Bible verse for the year:

For God so loved the world that He gave
His only Son,
so that whoever believes in Him
will not perish but have everlasting life.
John 3:16

This verse reminded me of more than sixty years ago.

The words – in slightly different English to now – were pasted onto a billboard. Every time I walked along Radford Road on my way to school, there it was staring me in the face, and I read it.

To me, it was a link in the chain of events to me becoming a Christian.

I can still see it in my mind, reading it as I walked past.

It is one of my favourite verses because it reminds me that Jesus died for me because He loves me.

MumJanet Baker

 

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.

Rejected

I’ve been thinking about a father and son, and a garden, and rejection.

You couldn’t get a closer relationship anywhere than Jesus and His Dad. Always together, always united, never a disagreement. They loved each other, enjoyed one another’s company, were completely fulfilled in their relationship.

Their perfect love overflowed. Jesus’ Dad wanted more sons and daughters just like Jesus. Jesus wanted brothers and sisters to love just like His Dad loved Him. Not because they were emotionally needy; the desire came from an overflow of purest love.

The result was us. But the snag was also us. Because there was a snag. We were created perfect, in God’s own image. But we wanted to be God and rule our own lives without bothering about allegiance to our creator. We deserved death but that’s not what Father and Son wanted for us.

They weren’t daft. They knew we would rebel and stick two fingers up at them and turn our backs. But because of their overflowing, crazy love they wanted what was best for us: relationship with them. So knowing precisely how horrible we would be, they went ahead with creating us, having Plan A in mind.

Plan A was Jesus dying the death we deserved by rights. Plan A was Jesus becoming the Way to the Father.

Olive GroveThe night before Jesus died, He went into a garden of olive trees to pray. He knew the agony that awaited Him – physical torture, an agonising death, taking the darkness and sin of the whole world, separation from His Dad. It cost Jesus everything. I can’t imagine such perfect love as blazed in the Father’s heart for Jesus being torn apart when He was forced to reject His Son at the moment Jesus became our sin on the cross.

Father and Son looked together at the cross and saw all the sons and daughters who could only come to the Father through Jesus dying, and agreed with their whole hearts that we were worth the cost.

Because Jesus was rejected by His Dad, I am accepted by His Dad.

Because Jesus was rejected by His Dad, you can be accepted by His Dad. You only need to ask and follow Him with your whole heart.

Found

Jesus told stories about lost things being found.

A sheep strayed away from the flock and got lost. The shepherd went looking for it. When he found it, he brought it home on his shoulders, rejoicing.

A lady lost a valuable piece of jewellery but she cleaned the house, moving every bit of furniture until she found it. She was so happy that she invited her friends in for cake and wine.

A rebellious son ran away from home and lived the high life before losing his money and his friends. He crawled back home hoping he might be taken in as a servant but his dad was looking out for him and rushed to give him a massive hug. Then his dad threw a party to celebrate that his son had been found.

The sheep, the jewellery and the son never became worthless or reduced in value because they were lost. They were still precious.

God thinks of you like that. If you don’t know Him, it’s like you’ve wandered off and got lost. But He will never stop pursuing you because He wants to find you, because He loves you. (If you don’t believe God is pursuing you, consider the fact that it’s no accident you are reading this blog post. He’s crazy about you.)

Love

It’s day ten of Lent and the word prompt is LOVE.

It reminded me of the verse that talks about keeping ourselves in the love of God, probably because I’m trying to memorise it at the moment. But it got me thinking. How do I keep myself in the love of God?

It’s rather like abiding in Christ. Sounds great. But how does it happen and what does it look like?

What is love?

When I was struggling with this a while ago, I asked Adi, ‘How do you know that I love you?’

‘Well, you tell me,’ he said, ‘You’re interested in how my day has gone. You go out of your way to do nice things for me. You’re supportive when things go wrong and I’m feeling rubbish.’

Love is words and actions.

Understanding what love looks like between Adi and me helped me begin to grasp what God’s love looks like.

At the heart of it, God’s love looks like Jesus dying for His enemies so that He could invite them to be His friends. Not that God is sad and needs us. But the Father’s heart blazes with love for the Son, whose love overflows for the Spirit, who utterly adores the Father. It was out of an overflow of red-hot, blazing love that caused God to go so such extraordinary lengths to invite me into His family.

I was nothing and He gave me worth. The Most High calls me friend.

He has given me a new heart and is growing in me love and compassion. The outworking of that is that I’ve begun to see people as He sees them. A homeless man is someone’s son. A prostitute is someone’s daughter. We are human and we have worth. Love raises up.

God gives me security.

So how do I keep myself in God’s love?

I like the way this version puts it:

But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith,
pray in the Holy Spirit,
and await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life.
In this way, you will keep yourselves safe in God’s love.

I couldn’t love anything more…

I love the film Father of the Bride with Steve Martin. A scene that has come to mind time and again this week is one where the father George buys his daughter Annie and her future husband a quality cappuccino-maker as a wedding present.

(Up to this point, George has struggled mightily with the cost of the wedding, never mind the thought of giving away his only daughter. In the preceding scene, George has a wake up call after being arrested for a public meltdown, and is now doing everything in his power to make the wedding plans go well and to show Annie how much he loves her.)

Back to the scene:

After receiving the gift Annie turns to her dad with adoring eyes and says: ‘I couldn’t love anything more’. She is clearly happy with the gift, but she is also revealing her feelings for her dad. She loves him. As she goes off to show everyone the cappuccino-maker, George – as narrator – says: ‘My feelings exactly’.

Did you realise that that is how God feels about us? He says of us, ‘I couldn’t love anything more’.

The first time I realised this was eighteen months ago. God had been doing a lot of very necessary demolishing and rebuilding work in my life, and He relaid my foundations by revealing Bible truths I’d never properly seen before. When I read Jesus’ prayer in John 17:  ‘You… loved them even as You loved Me’, I actually texted a good friend to ask her if that was true. I was so astounded. Isn’t it amazing? To think that God the Father loves me as much as He loves Jesus. Wow! That is completely mind-blowing! WOOO HOOO!

Just like in Father of the Bride, God has given me a gift – an eternal and abundant life of being friends with Him. This gift is the most expensive present ever. It cost far beyond billions of pounds – it cost the very life-blood of Jesus, God’s only Son. And now He looks at me with eyes full of love and says of me: ‘I couldn’t love anyone more’.

Barbie Swihart

Sandra Heska King - Still Saturday
Faith Along the Way

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One Of Us

‘The Word became flesh and lived among us’ – what does that actually mean?

Jesus became human and moved onto the estate.

Jesus was once the single cell of a fertilised egg – fully God and fully human.

As an embryo, Jesus didn’t just take up space in Mary’s womb, He was her Son.

Jesus was a real baby, born into the human race, with grandparents and a family tree. Just like me.

But Jesus is 100% God. Not like me.

Imagine God breathing air with lungs He had created….

One of His most precious names is Emmanuel – God with us. This is what we celebrate at Christmas, it’s all about Jesus and the wonder of God becoming man and walking among us. Jesus had friends and people who didn’t like Him; He was a son, a big brother, a cousin, an uncle.

Christmas can be so stressful – squeezing in time to write cards, buy and wrap presents, going out for Christmas dinners and drinks with work colleagues, friends and family, trying to keep an eye on the budget and seeing how far you can stretch your finances – by the time you get to the day itself you can end up feeling a bit frazzled. For many people, it’s fun to spend time with family. For others, there are family tensions to contend with, or loneliness, or worse.

Jesus knew all about family life. He was part of Mary and Joseph’s family. He had siblings. And it wasn’t all plain sailing. His family disbelieved and rejected Him, they thought He had mental issues, and they tried to manipulate and control Him.

But Jesus knew who He was. He was more than Mary’s son. He was more than the brother of James, Joses, Judas and Simon.

Jesus was the Son of God. And He had a purpose in life. He was headed for the cross so that He could defeat death and set us free from the fear of death. Jesus knew who He was and so He was able to be Himself and do what He was meant to do.

He offers that same assurance to us if we trust Him. For me, knowing who I am in Christ has literally changed my life. I am secure in knowing that I am loved and accepted. I love that Jesus was born into a human family so that I could be adopted into His Family. Amazing! There is confidence, peace and joy in knowing who you are.

When life kicks off, as it does from time-to-time, and I have a wobble, feeling rejected and worthless, I now repeat these five truths aloud to myself:

I believe that God is who He says He is.
I believe that God can do what He says He can do.
I believe that I am who God says I am.
I believe that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
I believe that God’s Word is alive and active in me.

Let’s celebrate JESUS this Christmas – He is so much more exciting than Santa and reindeer and tinsel and turkey and smellies. He is Son of God and Son of Man, willing to be our Emmanuel.

Renewed Daily - Recommendation Saturday

Barbie Swihart

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