Mandy Baker Johnson

Living without Shadows

Tag: truth

I Have Encouragement

Back in August, I read an online article by John Piper that challenged me with the words Philippians 2 would change my life. It’s a chapter I’ve tended to avoid in the past…. So far out of my realm of experience and with the potential to be deeply uncomfortable, I’d always read it without reading it (if you see what I mean).

But, I was challenged in a positive way. I want to change, to be more like Jesus, because He’s fantastic and to be even a tiny bit like Him is amazing.

Over the next few weeks, I’m planning to share on here some of what I learned. It’s taken from my journal so may be a little rough around the edges. But I was blessed by my study and I hope you will be too. I fell a little more in love with Jesus, who is truly extraordinary.

In verse 1, Paul writes: ‘So if there is any encouragement in Christ…’.

Paul seems to be me to be writing from an assumption that there is encouragement in Christ. Present tense: is. Now, for this time.

If encouragement comes from God, surely discouragement comes from the enemy. So I don’t want anything to do with discouragement. I will remember that in Jesus, I have encouragement. Have, have, have.

En-courage = to put courage into.

It puts courage into me when people say truthful things to build me up. They tell me I can do this, that I’m good enough, not to be afraid. Courage helps me step outside of my comfort zone and try new things. (My latest ‘stepping out’ is to dance with a rainbow-coloured ribbon during worship – a huge step for me but I’m doing it because someone has put courage in me.)

God does this. He tells me I am hidden in Jesus – literally hidden in His perfection. I am loved and accepted by the Father who sings loudly and exuberantly over me and dances around me because I am His.

Encouragement in Jesus? Oh yes!

Grow

And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord,
you must continue to follow Him.
Let your roots grow down into Him,
and let your lives be built on Him.
Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught
and you will overflow with thankfulness.

When we feed something, it grows.

When I eat food, especially now I’m in middle age, my tummy grows. Sad but true! But when I exercise, my fitness level increases so that I can do more exercise. Hopefully, if I keep running, my muscles will develop and my tummy will stop growing. Hopefully….

It’s the same with my spiritual life. These verses urge me to keep following Jesus.

How do I do that?

I need to put down roots in Jesus. That means learning more-and-more to rely on Him, to be settled in Him. I want to get to know Him well and the only way to do that is by spending time with Him like I would any friend. My Bible is full of Jesus: His character, what He does, what He likes and doesn’t like. When I read it and pray, my roots are growing .

Building my life on Jesus is being secure in Him and in who He says I am. He gives me the freedom to be the person He made me to be.

And then I find that my faith grows as I get to know the truth. Jesus said that the truth sets free, and it really, truly does. When I think of how much Jesus has done for me it brings a huge smile to my face. I do overflow with thankfulness.

YEEE HAAAAH! YAY JESUS!! WHOOP!

Let me finish with a story.

When I was thirteen, my parents and I went on holiday to the Norfolk coast. It was a last minute booking because my dad had just come out of hospital. Amazingly we found a chalet near the beach that was available.

Hmm. It had been closed up all winter and we were the first people in. It hadn’t been cleaned. And it was full of spiders. Big, small and every size in-between. There was a monster under the kitchen table that even my dad wouldn’t tackle. They were literally everywhere.

Somehow we stayed in that horrible chalet for a week.

But I came home with a fear of spiders. It got so bad that I wouldn’t enter a room without quickly checking out floor, ceiling and walls first. I almost crashed the car when I spotted a tiny money-spider on the rearview mirror.

I had secular counselling which helped a little.

But the fear was still there. I never even prayed about it because I was scared of not being afraid. And if I’m honest, I didn’t think God could handle it anyway. Not even He could do the impossible, could He?

Three years ago, God stepped in. I was going through prayer counselling and He set me free from fear.

The result is that last Monday, my mum had a biggish spider in her kitchen that I was calmly able to deal with. No hyperventilation, no screams, no shaking.

This is truth: God’s perfect love casts out fear. My roots are in Jesus and I’m building my life on Him. My faith in Him is growing. The truth is setting me free and I’m so grateful.

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.

Who are you?

If I asked: ‘Who are you?’ how would you respond?

I could give different answers depending on who I was talking to. I remember one Christmas when I was being interviewed as part of a church service: ‘Hi, I’m Mandy, son of Don and Janet,’ I proudly announced. There was a silence before laughter erupted from the congregation, while I wondered what I’d said to cause such amusement.

Later on, I defined myself according to my job or my church ministry:  medical secretary, mobiliser, Sunday school teacher, youth leader. My security was in who I was but since I defined myself by what I did, I only felt secure as long as I had a job or ministry.

But then in 2010, I became ill and ended up losing my job. We had recently moved to a new church, so I had no ministry and the illness kept us from getting involved. I also lost long-term memories as a result of being ill. It was a scary and bewildering time. When you lose your memories, you’re not sure who you are anymore. Thankfully, God stepped in and healed me. But I still had no job or ministry and since I’d always used what I did to define who I was, I went through a confused period of feeling precious and loved because God had healed me while also feeling insignificant and without worth because I had no idea who I actually was.

This was highlighted to me when I volunteered to be part of the small reception team in the church office. Julie the team leader organised a ‘getting to know you’ lunch and suggested that we went round the circle to introduce ourselves. I panicked. The other volunteers were mostly students and all younger than me, and I didn’t want to look a middle-aged numpty in front of them. But I was completely blank. Who was I? It was getting closer and closer to me. My palms were sweating. Then the young woman sitting next to me said that she was a housewife. Oh the relief, because I fit that category too. Without looking at anyone, I softly said: ‘I’m Mandy and I’m a housewife.’ Ordeal over.

Who am IA few months after God healed me, I began working as a medical secretary again. But there was an uneasiness deep inside. I was more than a medical secretary. But who was I?

It wasn’t until last year when Penny, my pastor’s wife, gave me a sheet of statements entitled: Who I am in Christ, that I began to have any idea who I was. Penny advised me to read that sheet aloud every day.

A quick glance told me that it didn’t reveal anything new. It was all things like:

I have been made right with God.

I am a child of God.

I am tenderly loved by God.

I am chosen by God, holy and dearly loved.

These were all truths I had been taught from birth. Ordinarily, I might have cast that sheet aside thinking that I knew it. But God was dealing with some deep issues and consequently I felt fragile. So I read those statements aloud each morning.

Right from the first reading I realised I only believed about half the truths listed on that sheet. Head knowledge of many years had never dropped into my heart. The words I am tenderly loved by God and I am chosen by God, holy and dearly loved were just words, nothing more. Did God love me? Had He chosen me? He loved and chose other people, but surely He didn’t mean me?

During the following weeks and months as I read those statements of truth aloud daily and looked up the Bible verses from which they were taken, the Holy Spirit gradually dropped head knowledge into my heart.

But it wasn’t an easy process. There were tears (lots) and doubts, I was angry, I even thought I’d lost my faith for a couple of weeks. It was hard to accept that God loved me. It was a huge struggle in fact.

I was learning the hard way that if your identity is in what you do or what you have, then that sense of who you are is pretty fragile and can be lost – as was mine through the illness. Our identity must be anchored in something more secure, in something that can never fail or be lost, in Someone bigger than us.

Image used courtesy of Mister GC at freedigitalphotos.net.

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