Jonathan Must Come Home

Untimely Death

If there’s ever a story in the Bible that has moved and broken my heart on the subject of the untimely death of such an amazing person, it must be that of Jonathan. My humanity compels me to a complicated conflicted emotional tag between God’s choice (David) and Israel’s rightful heir (Jonathan) who is set to be the next king of Israel. Unlike his father, Jonathan is the type of friend to David that EVERY human being would die to have! He is so selfless, loyal, expressive and absolutely fights for David even though he knows what David’s success would mean for him.

His Father Saul is decisive—David must die! Why? He is keenly aware that God has moved on and given the throne to one (in God’s own words) better than him. As Saul does all he can to push back the plan God has not only set in motion, but executed and blessed, Jonathan his son who is scheduled to be king is found doing quite the opposite.

As tension is rising in the Palace the king is no longer annoyed with God, Samuel and God’s choice (David) only, he is now angry with his own son Jonathan who he suspects is helping David in secret.

Then Saul’s anger was kindled against Jonathan, and he said to him, “You son of a perverse, rebellious woman, do I not know that you have chosen the son of Jesse to your own shame, and to the shame of your mother’s nakedness?  For as long as the son of Jesse lives on the earth, neither you nor your kingdom shall be established. Therefore, send and bring him to me, for he shall surely die.”  Then Jonathan answered Saul his father, “Why should he be put to death? What has he done?”  But Saul hurled his spear at him to strike him. So, Jonathan knew that his father was determined to put David to death.  And Jonathan rose from the table in fierce anger and ate no food the second day of the month, for he was grieved for David, because his father had disgraced him (1 Samuel 20:30-34)

If you are familiar with the story, you know that Jonathan leaves this conversation and heads straight to a private appointment he had scheduled with David. Of course, he knew the implication of taking David’s side. The two weep, embrace and confirm both their fears. Someone they both love is trying to kill David. What’s more gut wrenching, someone more powerful than all three of them combined has made a choice that leaves everyone uncomfortable. No matter how the story ends, a heart will be deeply wounded. Jonathan and David are both torn. We love each other deeply, but God has chosen one of us. Whatever the aftermath, we must honor the choice heaven has made.

As THE chosen one weeps uncontrollably—knowing he must head for the wilderness (alone) at least for a time, the other weeps with a yielding surrender of the throne, glory and crown he had held as a prince—destined to be king. They kiss one another, embrace each other as tightly as only a brother can hold a brother you know you may never see again. And as difficult it must have been to let go, Jonathan and David make bloody vows and promises they live to keep, and there in grief, the two friends part ways.

I cannot even begin to express the respect I have for Jonathan!

Not only did he accept the will of God, he lovingly gave up the throne to David because he saw that God’s hand was upon David AND David had what God needed for the task ahead! He blessed David. He respectfully disagreed with his father, stood up for what he knew was right and walked humbly from the high place of honor.

I have been to funerals that felt much like the day David received news that Jonathan had died in battle. The aching restlessness of my own heart has primarily been from the difficulty reconciling how an amazing person who loves, and honors God can die so prematurely. It is this story that has helped me time and again to remember, that God has a purpose HE is trying to fulfill.

When HE decisively says: Jonathan Must Come Home! He has already factored in the 40 years that David would reign as king over His chosen people Israel, the wars David would fight, the songs and Psalms David would write, the kingdom David would expand and establish, the glory David would bring Him and ULTIMATELY, The SON of David that would come through His lineage, hang on a tree and save all of humanity!

Don’t worry: Jonathan is home, but he is home with GOD. But not just with God, David joined them only 40 short years later! A friend is a friend forever—If the LORD is the LORD of them!

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No Christian is safe when his soul is lazy, and his God far from him

Birds of Prey

Satan does not attack a Christian who is living near God. It is when the Christian departs from God, becomes spiritually starved, an tries to feed on lies that the devil discovers his moment of advantage.

The devil may at times stand foot-to-foot with the child of God who is active in his master’s service, but the battle is generally brief.

Empty pursuits are dangerous to renewed souls. Every false step invites the devil’s attack.

The happiest state of a Christian is the holiest state. As the closest to the sun gets the most heat, the closest to Christ has the most joy!

CREDIT: (All excerpts taken from Truth for life – Alister Begg & Charles Spurgeon morning and evening devotions 6.13.18)

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You’ve got to keep going for now. Your part in His kingdom is needed ~

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I was inspired by this one line from one of Ann Voskamp’s devotion (A Letter for the Long Haul) that showed up in my inbox just when I seemed to really need this kind of encouragement. It is easy to underestimate our part in the Kingdom, yet if we each played our role (no matter how insignificant and small it seemed in our own eyes) the tapestry of the pieces woven together from all of God’s saints do surely tell an amazing story!

There isn’t a book devoted to the life of Mary Magdalene for example, but her part in God’s revealed story is significant to say the least. To get out of bed on a morning when her heart was heavy and full of grief from the loss of a dear friend who had set her free and given her such a great sense of belonging could not have been easy. Her part in His kingdom was needed—because shortly after her waking up early to visit His grave, re-living the horror she had witnessed the previous few days of Jesus’ suffering, I’m sure Mary did not consider herself to be on an important mission, but she was. Only moments later—Jesus would call her by name AND send her to deliver perhaps the most important messages in all of history!

“…go and tell My brothers, I am ascending to My Father and your Father, to My God and your God”. John summarizes this discourse in Chapter 20 of his gospel in this way. Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the LORD!” And she told them what He had said to her.

Five little simple words, but a world-shaking, generation changing kind of a difference! I doubt very highly that Mary had considered her walk to the tomb that morning a significant part in building God’s kingdom. She had no idea just what she was about to walk into. This post resurrection story of our risen Christ would simply not be the same without Mary putting one foot in front of the other and pressing F O R W A R D in spite her pain, confusion and feeling bewildered. She was not the Chief of Staff at a world leading organization, she was not well known for any major accomplishments, she was simply a girl—a woman—a person like you and me who chose to be brave in spite the fear that had gripped the little sheep whose Shepherd had been struck, wounded and buried for three long days.

You too must keep doing the hard things my friend! Hard things like getting out of bed, getting on your knees once more for that colleague for whose soul your heart continues to travail, cracking that Bible open for your daily bread, loving your street with tears and a cold cup of water, digging around that seed you planted in the dirt that you await to sprout as you watch over it in the same way your heavenly Father watches over His own word to fulfill it ~

No surrender; no retreat. No turning back and no giving up hope! You’ve got to keep going for now. Your part in His kingdom is needed. You keep doing those BIG things that seem so small because ultimately, it is about you moving forward that terrifies the enemy. We don’t know when we might be leaving some of the greatest marks on the world. It all matters my friend—ALL!

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You will Bloom and Bear Fruit

Only what is REAL can nourish - Marlene Maina (7.19.18)

Walking inside Hobby Lobby recently, I was so tempted to buy the new colorful synthetic blooms of artificial flowers on sale for our garden. What stopped me was the memory I cannot erase of just last summer (2017) how beautiful our backyard looked (so many colorful breathtaking flowers) that the previous home owners had nurtured and planted around the house. Our backyard (pictures below) was flourishing! Not only did it look amazing, we were all mesmerized by the stunning butterflies, red-robins, bees, bunnies and so many of God’s creatures that came to our home for their needed daily nourishment.

I stood for a moment holding one giant hot pink flower made of tin. This is impressive! I thought. But that’s where it ends. Fake things can only impress. They are lifeless and can therefore give no life. They may cut out the trouble and sweat that goes into planting, nurturing a thriving garden, but all artificial flowers can do is look perfect every season (though of course they remain fruitless). And that was why I put the flower back. I don’t want a life that looks impressive. I want a life that bears fruit and nourishes many. A life that has undergone the undesirable, but necessary due process of struggling out the dirt to finally bear real fruit.

If the towering Sunflower in our garden was to ask God “What is my purpose?” I am pretty certain, God would answer “I have put you out there to tell a story, to display my glory AND to produce (nectar, pollen and seeds for this season and the next).” The flowers don’t complain that the bees are using them for honey and the apple tree does not fuss over how many more apples were taken from her. They simply live out their purpose.

And so with that I made a decision. I ordered a hoe. I must till the ground, plant the seed, water the seed and wait patiently for the seed to germinate to do what it was truly designed to do; and that is to give life!

Unfortunately, retailers report a surge in sales of artificial plants, blooms and so many other things lately. It’s hard not to see that this is the general direction many of our lives are headed. Many posts are solely posted simply to impress, not to nourish anyone. God is constantly sending people your way. They are either finding food or leaving in frustration and disbelief. To be authentic, you must be willing to accept everything that comes with becoming real. Yes, some seasons will call for you and I to endure some serious darkness and isolation in the dirt where God has planted us. Our lives may even go through soggy wet seasons of tears, messy muddy seasons of floundering with sin and messing up, lonely obscure holes where we struggle for our new identities in Christ but this we must do in-spite the fact that no one yet knows our names or celebrates our beauty or our blooms!

That coveted season does surely come!  After the dry season, the cold season and even our own fear of dying to self or dying at all… but remember, you are planted, not buried. A fruitful season is coming! You will bloom and you will bear fruit, but not just to be impressive.  Your beauty must contribute to creations collective display of God’s glory! YET, even that season will also be for a time! So we are not to get lost in our prime seasons of (strength, youth, health, popularity, power, money or commerce). People will automatically flock to you for nourishment when you bloom where you are planted, but always remember, it is for a purpose and for a time. Some may be thankful, others thankless, but as long as you are doing what God had in mind when HE made you, you can ENJOY your season to nourish others and bloom to your VERY brightest capacity!

The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail (Isaiah 58:11)

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7 Reasons Why You Should Intentionally Invest in your Child’s Spiritual Growth

 

Patience (Yellow, Blue JosiahKids Shirts)

I started working with teenagers at my church in New Jersey when I was only 21 yrs old. As I packed up and left for Bible School, I was already sure of two main things. The window to influence a child for good closes quite quickly. And two, it is better—much better to start early. For many years, I have spoken to parents in the wee hours of the night agonizing over their teenagers and young adult children. I knew earlier on that once I became a parent, it would be imperative to pour in as much good as I possibly can into the lives of my children (and any others) that God would place along my path. Unfortunately, not all parents see the value of their child’s spiritual formation. Many times (athletics, academics, a life of ease and excellence in everything else) has been prioritized over a child’s relationship with God. This breaks my heart. I thought I’d try to provide a few persuasive reasons why your child’s spiritual formation should be at the very top of your family’s priority.

  1. As a Sunday School teacher, I can personally attest that what your child receives on Sunday morning is possibly equivalent to taking a vitamin once a week. It’s helpful yes, but by no means can it replace the trouble you take to prepare a nutritious meal that your kids rely on for their health and sustenance. You are a spirit. You live in a body. When it’s all over, our bodies will return to the dust, and the spirit will return to God who breathed His breath of life into us. Your child’s spiritual stamina should be of greater value than the value we have placed on ensuring our food is (authentic, organic, locally grown well-seasoned, natural, pesticide free) as seen on TV, blogs and media campaigns. Do that, yes! But put in more effort to feed the Spirit man—nothing can match the wisdom, guidance, protection, and leading that God will provide your kids when you invest in nourishing their spirit. Don’t settle for spiritual undernourishment.

 

  1. We are always (ONE) generation removed from following God wholeheartedly. Hezekiah loved and feared God greatly. He destroyed idol worship in Israel, sought to please God, and cried out to the LORD to heal him from a grave illness. God heard him, answered him and added 15 years to his life—even blessing him with a son; Manasseh (see 2 Kings 21). This son of a God-fearing man did more evil in the eyes of the LORD than all the kings of Israel combined. He led the entire nation astray, provoking the LORD who answered Judah with disaster everywhere. Just because you fear God, does not mean your children will follow in your footsteps. You and I must work to ensure we give our children a sure faith of their own. You will never know the evil you will restrain by investing from the front end. Think of it this way: every evil we know was invented and or imagined by someones child.

 

  1. The Bible is transparent about the good God seeks to do in the lives of His people, but it also warns to beware of the schemes, seductions, and enticing of the evil one who comes to steal, kill and to destroy. If the enemy can discourage, derail, disconnect and distract (us) and our kids early, this means he will have less work to do later. Michael Jackson had amazing skill and talent, but there was an open door. Satan is actively seeking to plant seeds of doubt about your child’s identity, purpose and calling. Did God really say? I’m I beautiful? Do I really fit in? Is this really wrong? Notice that all three times when Satan attacked Jesus in His most vulnerable state, though HE was the Son of God—He answered: It is written. It is written. It is written. Can your child competently rebuttal and refute Satan’s lies? Read (Deuteronomy 11:18-21) God gave this responsibility to the Fathers and Mothers—not the child. We are to own this!

 

  1. We never quite know when difficulty will come knocking on our family’s individual doors. On what should have been an ordinary day, Joseph was sold into Egypt as a slave by his own brothers, Daniel as a boy found himself in Babylonian captivity, the little servant girl was snatched from her own family in Israel by the Assyrians and given as plunder (a slave) to Naaman’s wife. Never did it occur to any of these young people that their lives would change so drastically in one given day. I too personally know the pain of deep loss that came knocking so unexpectedly—leaving my “perfect” childhood a shattered wreck. In all instances (including my own) it was GOD—knowing HIM really, well that saved the day! For Joseph, Daniel and the little servant girl they all brought MASSIVE national change because they knew the God of their fathers!

 

  1. I am yet to find a better discourse given on this topic than that Christ himself gave in Matthew 6. There are SO many good things said in that one chapter, it is impossible to add them all into this one bullet point (so read it). If I had to choose a single highlight from that chapter, it would have to be: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33) What things? Whatever you have need of! Apparently, God already knows that you need clothing, food, shelter—that He does not want you to worry about it and or spend all your time focused on amassing wealth or temporary things. He promises to supply ALL your needs if you will just dare to put Him first!

 

  1. Listen to what Malachi says while addressing an issue of spiritual and marital fidelity (2:15). Has not the one God made you? You belong to Him in body and spirit. And what does the one God seek? Godly offspring! SO be on your guard… Though it might be nice to do, God is not in the least concerned that we should raise Him the next generation of Gold medal champions. He is not even concerned that our children make it to the NBA, NFL or bring home the FIFA world cup. Rather, what would please HIM most is to have us raise Him children who fear and reverence His great name. Think about it, the Bible says Eli raised (worthless sons). God literally had to destroy them. Hophni and Phinehas were unfit to serve as priests before God. Their story is chilling—they completely lost the fear of God. Their father Eli had also lost his spiritual vitality and could not restrain his sons from doing evil. He could not even discern that this tiny little Samuel running around in the LORD’s temple—was his own replacement. All three men died on the same day. God had raised a new prophet for Himself. Samuel would serve God for the next 40years! Our children must be fit to serve the living God.

 

  1. I can think of no greater complement from the living God than to hear HIM say of King David: “I have found a man after my own heart.” What that simply means, is that I have found a person who has likes and dislikes like my own. He is passionate about my passions. He loves what I love. He hates what I hate. He is not perfect, but he strives to please me and brings me great joy! Wouldn’t we all love for God to feel this way about our children? Let me submit to you, parents. Your children cannot love a God they do not know. In order for their hearts to be in sync with the heart of the God of heaven, they must first begin with the very first verse (in the beginning, God…) and make their way to the very end of the revealed story of the heart of God. There are no shortcuts. They must take the stairs one step at a time into the heart of God!

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7 Hebrew Words That Will Make You Get Your “Praise” Right

It’s rare to hear things that inspire awe these days, but recently I did @ a Chris Tomlin concert I attended in my hometown of Atlanta. I hope this blesses you as it did me. Our English language can at times be very flat/limiting. Example: we love pizza, and we love God. But we all know there’s no way God and Pizza can even begin to compare. There are different levels and types of love (agape–the highest form of love, the God kind of love), (Philadelphia—brotherly love), (Eros— desire, erotic kind of love).

Now back to the Word(s) that literally took my breath away! Made me truly appreciate the Hebrew language that much more. So the English word “praise” is so general, it cannot even begin to capture the depth of the 7 different ways our Hebrew brothers and sisters apply this concept. Read this and see if it does not forever change how you view and engage God in worship!! This again, I insist is the reason why our amazing God is undisputed, uncontested, unmatched and unquestionably #1 : ) I love HIM!

  1. Yadah: worship with extended hand. Lift your hands to the LORD. Absolute surrender “pick me up, I’m all yours”.
  2. Halal: hallelujah, to make a show, to boast, to celebrate, to rave of the LORD, to shine, to stultify (make a fool of oneself)
  3. Tehillah: a spontaneous new song. Unrehearsed song. Erupting from the great deeds and attributes/qualities of God
  4. Towdah: praise as a sacrifice before reception of an answer. Agreeing with God that it is as He says it is. Lifting up my right hand right into God’s extended right hand. Agreement in faith. Trust.
  5. Zamar: music accompanied with instruments, strings, striking the fingers, drums—O’ my….
  6. Barak: to kneel, to bless, to bow in the presence of a King. Adoration!
  7. Shabach: volume, triumph, loud adoration… a holy Roar!!! To SHOUT (your whole being; totally uninhibited)

I can’t hear you…………………….. !!! Say what you want, but I hope you will never again stand like a tree with arms folded during worship, or look down on those who Shabach and Stultify : )

Let EVERYTHING that has breath : ) Praise the LORD…………………………

D7

Your Prayer Is Heard!

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I was upstairs in our Master bathroom the other day, just about to begin working on my usual evening routine. With my phone in hand, I pulled up an audio file from my playlists, scrolled through 33 options and thought—this will be perfect as I shower! It was a message I had saved from a Women’s Conference I had attended back in 2014 by Lisa Bevere. I hit play, but no sound. Come on! I powered off the phone and tried again. My husband was out of town so I was home alone with our girls. We had just finished their showers, homework, and dinner when I left them in the living room watching Odd Squad so I could shower as well.

Discontented, but ready to move on to the next thing, I decided to just jump in the shower and sing instead. I love music! Halfway through the shower, I began to hear Lisa’s sermon. It was surprisingly very clear, but the sound was coming from our bedroom—right outside the double doors that lead to our bathroom. I was confused. The phone (I could see it) was still by the sink in the bathroom. But the familiar sermon was playing and the unforgettable narratives Lisa tells in her “Lioness Arising” message were captivating my heart yet again.

You see, I had completely forgotten that my phone was connected to our Brookstone Bluetooth Speaker which was downstairs sitting on the kitchen counter. So all along, while my girls were trying to watch TV, they were hearing Lisa speaking from the kitchen-SMILE! Each time I had restarted the phone, they heard the message start again and again. I know! I assumed it wasn’t working—I was wrong, it was. The girls (they are ages 6 and 8 now) were so interested in Lisa’s message that they had literally stopped watching their kid’s show, carried the speaker upstairs, placed it as close to (me) as possible so that I could hear what they knew I was hoping to hear.

They seemed to understand something very important. Mommy has no idea this thing is playing just fine down here.  Apparently, proximity affects reception?! Who knew? Lol!

As soon as I opened the bathroom doors—the very first thought that crossed my mind was, “what thoughtful girls I have!” They were sitting right by the speaker, laughing and engaged.  They understood my need AND sought to help me out. All three of us were blessed immensely when it was all said and done! That message was incredible. The very next thought that followed without much thinking was the thought you read as the title of this devotion. Isn’t this almost always the case? We’re in a situation, we pray about it. We pray again, but we hear NOTHING. We throw our hand up in complete frustration. What’s the use? God does not hear us. This is not true. In fact, quite the opposite is true. God is hearing you just fine. You just don’t know how clearly He hears you.

That Bluetooth speaker is one of the clearest sound systems we have ever owned in our house!

And as I got to thinking about it, is not prayer wired precisely in that same exact way? It channels out of our hearts (spoken and unspoken sorrows, burdens, pain, tears, fears, struggles) right into the presence of the ONE these are intended for—a caring and HEARING God. In fact, God says this about Himself (Psalm 94:9 does he who fashioned the ear not hear? Does he who formed the eye not see?) We may hear nothing but silence, but believe me if the angels were to carry God’s Ultra-Clear-Bluetooth within our proximity, we would seriously leap for JOY and lose the worry that plagues us. When the posture of our heart is humble, receptive and willing to search out God by CONNECTING with Him in prayer for guidance, provision, wisdom, healing, joy, and hope—heaven’s virtual Bluetooth (automatically turns on). You and I have no need to babble, repeat ourselves over and over or second-guess whether HE hears us. All that’s left is for us to believe that yes, indeed the sound of our prayers is CLEAR and AUDIBLE in God’s presence. So we must talk to Him like we talk to a trusted friend and believe that He will do for us what we have asked of Him! Here’s why we can…

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to HIS will, HE hears us. And if we know that HE hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of HIM. (1 John 5:14-15)cropped-marlene-maina-signature-black-and-white-jji.png