Mandy Baker Johnson

Living without Shadows

Tag: worship (page 1 of 2)

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!

Everything You Do

Last Wednesday I went to a dance as worship evening. I’d signed up for it a few weeks previously, then had a minor panic: ‘What have I done? This is my worst nightmare.’ I was always the kid in PE at the back of the room doing as little as possible in a very unco-ordinated, awkward sort of way.

Ladies in graceful, flowing costumes demonstrated and talked about portraying biblical truths in dance. I was drawn even while thinking, ‘But I’m not a dancer, I’m a writer.’

The next day at home I decided [read more]

Wonder

Sometimes I jump for joy,
that Jesus Christ is God and died for me.
Sometimes full of wonder,
how can the very author of life die?

What sacrifice for me….
He took my sin and satisfied God’s wrath.
Now He has made me free!
I am thankful, I exult and praise Him.

I clap my hands and shout.
Jesus is worthy of the highest praise.
 King of kings, Lord of lords:
He beat darkness and He defeated death,

In wonder I worship
Jesus the Nazarene and Son of God.
In awe and in wonder
I kneel at Your feet and give you my heart.

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.

 

 

Breath

We sometimes say that there’s nothing like a breath of fresh air, usually if we’re in a room that is stuffy and hot, or if we’ve been really busy. To have a breath of air can feel so refreshing.

Spiritually-speaking, the Holy Spirit is rather like a breath of fresh air. He brings the presence of God, and that is refreshing. The Bible says that those who wait on the Lord renew their strength. How many times I’ve dragged myself to home group or a prayer meeting, feeling tired and achey and wishing I could spend the evening in the bath. It’s amazing how much better I feel – refreshed, rested, exhilarated – afterwards.

Even spending a few minutes praising God in my kitchen during the day makes such a difference. Sometimes I bounce into the kitchen, excited and looking forward to meeting with my Father. But on other days, it’s an act of the will. I never regret it and often emotion follows as my will urges my soul to focus on God.

The words of this song express it so well:

Let Your breath come from heaven,
Fill our hearts with your life….

Keziah’s Diary: Sacrifice

I’ve always known that what I was doing was wrong, but I loved the way Jesus accepted me. He didn’t push me away or condemn. It seemed the most natural thing in the world for me to kneel before Him and tell Him how sorry I was for all my sin. He put a finger beneath my chin and lifted my head. ‘I forgive you Keziah,’ He said, looking into my eyes. A weight rolled off me.

I decided not to go back to prostitution. Jesus teaches that if we put God first in our lives, then He will provide what we need. So I’m going to stake everything on that.

Shortly afterward, Jesus was invited for a meal by Simon, one of the local religious leaders. I made up my mind to go along too. Jesus has been so kind to me that I wanted to give Him a gift; the most precious thing in my possession was an alabaster jar of perfume. It was a family heirloom that I’d somehow managed to keep when my parents threw me out.

I was already at Simon’s house when Jesus arrived, along with some of the other ‘town riff-raff’ as Simon calls us. It’s common in our culture to do this.

I couldn’t believe how Simon snubbed Him. It’s common courtesy in our culture to give your guest a kiss on the cheek when they arrive, wash their feet, and to give them olive oil to cleanse their hands. There was none of that. Absolutely no manners. Simon was going out of his way to be rude.

I was horrified that they would treat Jesus in this way. He should have been an honoured guest, as a well-known travelling teacher. More than that, I believe Jesus is God come to earth.

What could I do? I know the shame and embarrassment of being insulted in public.

Jesus didn’t appear to be bothered. But I was bothered for Him.

Tears formed in my eyes. This was so wrong! They spilled down my cheeks, and then it came to me. I had no water but I could wash His feet with my tears. I knelt beside His reclining chair and let my tears drop onto His dusty toes. I’d brought no towel with me, so I let down my hair and dried His feet with that. Gratitude for Jesus’ complete acceptance and forgiveness of me, a sinful woman, almost overwhelmed me. I leaned down and kissed His feet again and again.

Then I stood and broke open my alabaster jar, and anointed His head with the perfume. The fragrant scent filled the room.

Simon and his other guests were looking on and nudging each other, clearly disapproving of my actions. They muttered at one another and gave both Jesus and me dirty looks. But through it all, Jesus sat peacefully, accepting my worship. If He’d pushed me away or even said quietly, ‘Okay Keziah, that’s enough now,’ I’d have been devastated. But He didn’t. Jesus accepted me and my sacrifice of worship for Him.

 

 

Sheer Delight

Interacting with animals is one of life’s good gifts. (Warning: this is a post that only animal lovers will truly appreciate!)

My guinea pig Pickles used to love racing me up the stairs. I showed him how to do it, then initiated us racing side by side. Always me initiating.

Then one day, I felt pressure on my mid-calf. I turned and looked down. There was Pickles on his hind legs, nudging me with his front paws. When he saw he had my attention, he got into the start position at the bottom of the stairs. It was a proud and emotional moment as I took my place on all fours by his side, and then we galloped up together. I forget who won, it doesn’t matter, my little furry boy had come to me to play, and my heart was full.

These days, I look forward to having Truffles the rabbit to stay. He loves cuddles, especially having his head and face gently stroked and his nose kissed. When I stop, he butts me with his head, wanting more. It’s a delight when he responds by licking my nose, and then he sits back expectantly waiting for me to resume kissing and fussing over him.

Animals don’t have to respond. They could just put up with me fussing over them before trundling back to whatever truffles-and-methey were doing prior to me coming along. Sometimes they do just that. But when they respond with pleasure, or even initiate contact, that brings me joy.

I think it’s similar to the way we interact with God. He pursues all of us everyday with His goodness and mercy. But when we respond to Him, that delights His heart.

To be honest, I don’t always feel like praising God or spending time with Him. Sometimes work is busy, life feels pressured and stressed, and I’m tired. But I know that when I do come to Him, it delights and blesses His heart.

For me, this looks like walking or bouncing or dancing (depending how I feel) up and down the kitchen, singing and praying in tongues. I read the Bible with pleasure, as if He had written it just for me. That makes even the hard bits that I don’t understand precious, because my Friend wrote them.

Other times we go for a meander together through the woods or in the countryside. I even go running with Him.

The pleasure I have in playing with a rabbit or guinea pig is nothing in comparison to the sheer delight the Father has in me whenever I come into His presence.

Listen

Yesterday I treated myself to a day in Derbyshire. Just me and Jesus. I wanted to take time out to be with Him, to listen and see what He would say.

On the drive to the beautiful village of Hartington, listening to worship music and pondering on the lyrics that reminded me that I am a child of God who is accepted for who I am, I invited Him to be with me. I know in a sense He is always there – He lives within me and has promised never to leave me. But I wanted to welcome Him like I would any good friend.

hartington-path

I set out along the path with anticipation. The whole day was ahead of us, me and Jesus in the beautiful countryside. There were no distractions, I had no phone or internet signal.

He led me beside rippling waters, the soothing sound washing away the everyday tension of the last few weeks.

I meandered through green pastures. My soul was restored.

I sang softly in tongues and English. Several times I stated: ‘The Lord is my shepherd,’ and recalled how He had led me through dark valleys at times. He has anointed me with the oil of His Holy Spirit and my cup of joy overflows. He has indeed prepared a table for me in the presence of my enemies. He is a good, generous God.

I couldn’t keep from smiling as I reminded myself of how His goodness and mercy pursue me every single day. His mercies are new every morning. His steadfast love will never fail me. And I will one day live with my God in His house. His home will be my home. Wow, wow wow.

still-waters

Jesus reminded me yesterday that He is my shepherd. He is the Living Water and I need to continually drink in the life He gives. He is completely satisfying while making me thirsty for more. And as I unpacked my tomato roll for lunch, I was reminded how He is the Bread of Life. Jesus is all I need. I wish I would remember that more often.

Jesus 🙂  I took time out to listen to Him yesterday, and my soul was restored.

The Great Escape

Did you know that a group of writers is called a worship? That’s what was happening at Scargill House last weekend. A bunch of people worshiping.

Many of us have become friends online and it was good to meet for the first time ‘in the flesh’ or catch up with real rather than virtual hugs.

Adrian and Bridget Plass were our hosts along with Tony Collins, standing in for his wife Pen Wilcock who was at home because of family commitments.

The theme of the weekend was the great escape. Bridget began on Friday evening by reminding us read more.

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.

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