God

Our World Is Broken

We're not okay

 

Chapter 1 | The Little Servant Girl ©

When the Foundations are Being Destroyed, what can the Righteous Do? (Psalm 11:3)

There is a popular Bible story that teaches a key lesson about the unlikely way an answer to a difficult problem can come.  In this story, the problem was Naaman’s—a high ranking commander of the Syrian army.   In 2nd Kings 5, Naaman is described as a great and honorable man in the eyes of his master, because by him the LORD had given great victories to Syria.  But Naaman had an issue.  He was also a leper.  There was no cure for leprosy.  And that was a big problem for a man with such a high ranking post.

The Syrians had gone out on one of their usual raids and had brought back with them a captive young girl from the land of Israel.  When the story begins, this immigrant—a nameless little girl is now working as a servant of Naaman’s wife.  She knew of a solution to Naaman’s leprosy.  It would have been easier as a captive slave to mind her own business and just watch the successful general shrivel to a knob.  After all, weren’t his people responsible for raiding her family and disbanding her from her own home?

If only my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria! For he would heal him of his leprosy.” (2 Kings 5:3)  Twenty words from this little girl from Israel were all it took to open up a possibility that did not exist before those words were spoken for our mighty general.  An important point in passing—Naaman actually believes her.  And though the way he thinks he would reach the goal of getting rid of this leprosy was a little twisted, he does get credit for not blowing her off.

“Thus and thus said the little servant girl from the land of Israel,” Naaman tells his master.  Without any hesitation, the king of Syria approves.  “Go now, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel.”  Supportive yes, but the value of the letter was yet to be determined.  “Now be advised, when this letter comes to you, that I have sent Naaman my servant to you, that you may heal him of his leprosy.”

Not only was the letter addressed to the wrong person (The king of Israel), the person writing it clearly did not know much about Israel’s dealings.  You can be sure Naaman held his letter very close.  Along with it, he also packed ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten changes of clothing.  But both he and the king of Syria had missed a small but critical detail.  No wonder the king of Israel tore his clothes the minute he was handed the letter.  “Am I God that this man sends a man to me to heal him of his leprosy?”  You see, Israel was deeply familiar with situations that were outside of their control–things that only God could do.  They called them miracles.  In fact, they were also quite familiar with lepers.  To the point where they had a very specific code prescribed in the Law of Moses of how they were to handle those with the disease.  Until then, leprosy was not a small problem.  It was incurable, but also very highly stigmatized.  And those who had it were to cry aloud from a distance so others could avoid any contact with them to avoid spreading it.

And this is where Elisha the man of (God) steps in.  When he heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he immediately sent to the king, saying, “Why have you torn your clothes?  Please let him come to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel.”

Naaman was likely confused by the King’s reaction but relieved by Elisha’s confident invitation.  Still operating from a paradigm of pomp that comes from living in the world of titles, influence, clout, and power a little too long, Naaman was about to attend a different kind of school.  If only he knew what it would take for him to get what he needed, it is doubtful he would have come to Elisha’s house with his chariots.  But it takes a deliberate knowing of the heart of the God of Israel to understand why the unimpressed Elisha doesn’t even bother to walk out to speak to Naaman.  “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored to you, and you shall be clean.” This was all he got from Gehazi, Elisha’s servant.  At this point Naaman is annoyed—heaving in hot boiling offense, he is pretty much ready to get out of there.  The content of the message, the context in which it was given and the messenger were all deeply insulting to him.  He was furious!

It’s easy to see how a person decorated in badges of honor, and who is saluted, served and submitted to by so many would be insulted by a second-hand message, relayed by a mere assistant who serves some low ranking prophet out in the middle of nowhere.  And so the story goes that Naaman almost missed a solution to a situation that meant life or death.  Looking from the outside in, the obstacle is fairly obvious.  We’re blinded by our own importance.  With the God of the Hebrews however, the insignificant is usually where He swaddles discreetly the most important answers to our deepest needs.

In this story, the instructions were too basic to actually impress our general.  It was the reason Naaman turned away furious.  Here were his thoughts:  “Indeed, I said to myself, ‘He will surely come out to me, and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, and wave his hand over the place, and heal the leprosy.’ Are not the Abanah and the Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel?  Could I not wash in them and be clean?”  So he turned and went away in a great rage. Elisha had ruined Naaman’s day.  It wasn’t what he wanted to hear and he certainly did not treat him with the type of high regard Naaman felt he deserved.  So he turned away to go back home—with his leprosy.

The Bible teaches that in the multitude of wise counselors there is great wisdom.  The assumption here is that the counselors do have to be good, otherwise, we would all be riding faster back to our starting place—throbbing with humiliation and rage. The only saving grace for Naaman—he traveled with a wise friend who could see what he couldn’t.  Thank goodness the words of Elisha stood in spite Naaman’s attitude—they still carried weight. They were still pregnant with the miracle-working power, of the Most High God.  Listen to what Naaman’s servants say to him.  “My father, if the prophet had told you to do something great, would you not have done it?  How much more then, when he says to you, “Wash, and be clean’?” With those gentle persuasive words, Naaman went down and dipped seven times in the Jordan River, and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child.  He was cured of his leprosy!

A story that begun with a few words from a servant girl living in the Syrian shadows burdened to see the need of her master met now ends with a healed Syrian commander who returns to Elisha’s house with the following declaration:

“Indeed, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel.”

Elisha would not take any of the gifts Naaman offers him, no matter how much Naaman persists.  Because as we all know, the gifts of God cannot be purchased by money.  And lest Naaman or anyone else watching is confused by the motives, intentions or the ambitions of a true prophet of God, Elisha only gives him one final blessing “Go in peace.”

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Family

Children Learn What They Live

children love what they live
Photo Credit: Mother for Life (motherforlife.com)

 Children Learn What They Live 

By: Dorothy Law Nolte

If a child lives with criticism,

HE learns to condemn.

If a child lives with hostility,

HE learns to fight.

If a child lives with ridicule,

HE learns to be shy

If a child lives with shame,

HE learns to feel guilty.

If a child lives with tolerance,

HE learns to be patient.

If a child lives with encouragement,

HE learns confidence.

If a child lives with praise,

HE learns to appreciate.

If a child lives with fairness,

HE learns justice.

If a child lives with security,

HE learns to have faith.

If a child lives with approval,

HE learns to like himself.

If a child lives with acceptance and friendship

HE learns to find love in the world.

“Children are so impressionable that they pick up even our unconscious attitudes.  I wish every one of us had inscribed on the walls of our home the words of Dorothy Law Nolte’s work.” John A. Lawrence

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The fear of God

Acknowledge Your Creator

Lewis, eyes to facts

It’s so funny to me to watch people live like they don’t need God –

It’s like a car refusing its engine, a house refusing its foundation, a big old baked potato without salt and a newborn baby who won’t have anything to do with milk.

It’s so funny to me to hear people rejecting Intelligent Design –

As if we could somehow stuff our food through our ears, and drink through our noses and use our eyes to walk the hallways, you know? When we hold the canvas, we call it a masterpiece. When HE holds our intricate cardiac systems in place–tirelessly assigning a well-ordered rhythmic tempo–supplying oxygen and nourishment to all the cells in our bodies (year-in; year-out) we call it, chance. Deep sigh!

It’s so funny to me to hear people denying the existence of God

It’s like a Corolla denying the existence of Toyota. It’s like Sprite denying the existence of Coca-Cola. It’s like the New England Patriots denying the existence of the NFL. And like the 4,000 diapers you changed and the teen who now denies your own existence.

Yeah! Totally absurd.  Our denying could never change that GOD (is)–any more than a child can diminish his mother’s existence no matter how much he may choose to exhaust himself in thousands of theories that disprove he once lived in a womb and born of a woman.

As the naval architect in charge of the plans for the ocean liner RMS Titanic, Thomas Andrews, Jr. found out–we will all soon find out, that this ship has hit an iceberg. And in only a short while, it is bound for the ocean’s floor. All the mathematical intelligence applied tirelessly to refute useless possibilities proved futile for Andrews–a “brilliant” architect who perished in the Atlantic along with more than fifteen hundred others on April 14th, 1912. He realized as all of us will (if we’re even that fortunate) that he only had one hour to reconcile the sum of his life. We are not masters of anything. We are created beings made in the image and likeness of a God who commands, and the sea obeys. Bow to HIM and you will stand up to anything!

Andrews’ body was never recovered. He was 39yrs old. This ship you should note–had been deemed unsinkable (“not even God could sink it” –they had boasted before the voyage) they were wrong!  Engineering arrogance. Academic haughtiness. Financial pride. Youthful vanity.

This is why so many died. Not enough lifeboats because they really did believe the ship was unsinkable. Remember your creator, in the days of your youth. In your smallness–acknowledge HIM. He desires to direct your path.

If you’re going to deny anyone—deny yourself! (Matthew 16:24-25)

“A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word ‘darkness‘ on the walls of his cell.” C.S. Lewis – The Problem of Paincropped-marlene-maina-signature-black-and-white-jji.png

Family, Legacy

As the twig is bent, so grows the tree

Identifying: We Reap the Same in Kind As We Sow 

As the twig is bent

Several years ago, “Our Daily Bread” carried an article by an anonymous author on the power of example.  It would be worth repeating it here.

“One day when Junior was 14 he noticed his father wearing a happy grin as he came home from the office.

“Got pinched for speeding, but Jake down at the city hall got the ticket fixed for me,’ he said.

“When Junior was 15, he was with his mother in the family car when she backed into a tree.  The damage would easily exceed $100.

“We’ll say someone rammed into us when we were parked downtown, she said. ‘Then we’ll collect insurance for it.’

When the boy was 16, he listened to his grandfather reminiscing about the ‘good old days of rationing’ when he made $100,000 black-marketing cars.  That same night Uncle John was bragging that on a good share of his business he sent no bills and took no checks—just cash.

“Why be a sucker and let those punks in the Internal Revenue Department get all my money?’ he asked.

“When Junior turned 18, his family pulled every possible string to get him a paid scholarship at a coveted Ivy League school.  They even lied about the family income to make it seem that their son needed financial aid.  When he had a rough time scholastically, an upperclassman sold him the answers to the calculus examination.  Junior was caught and expelled.  When he returned home, his mother burst into hysterical weeping over the disgrace he had caused.

“How could you have done this to us’; she sobbed.

‘This isn’t the way we raised you.””

John Lawrence:  I have a feeling I know why this was written anonymously; it is too like the real thing not to be based upon reality.

As someone has well expressed it “As the twig is bent it is apt to snap back in your face.

(The 7 Laws of the Harvest; Page 41)

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Legacy

Unblessed

A Fading Glory

 Unblessed

Profound sadness gripped my soul as I read the disheartening account of the story in first Samuel Ch. 13.  The last verse (v22) reads…

So on the day of battle not a soldier with Saul and Jonathan had a sword or spear in hand; only Saul and his son Jonathan had a sword in hand.

Can you imagine how helpless you would feel facing your greatest battle with no defenses at all? And as the king leading a whole nation, can you picture the pressure and anxiety of not being able to protect your own people… their possessions, the children, elderly and most vulnerable? Can you imagine looking at your oldest son (the only other person with a sword in the entire nation; other than you)?  A son who is now looking up to you for military directives, knowing you are outnumbered, overpowered and don’t stand a chance to win the battle set in front of you?

For years and years, Israel had been oppressed, harassed and attacked by the Philistines and this day was no different. The Philistines had assembled to fight against Israel.  Their army consisted of 3,000 chariots, 6,000 charioteers, and soldiers as numerous as the sand on the seashore, while Israel, on the other hand, had 2 armed men and a dwindling army of 600 men whose counterparts had run off in fear to hide in caves, rocks, and thickets—some even crossing the Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead.

Saul too was afraid.  His ONLY consolation was that Samuel was on his way.  The only problem, Samuel was late.  Samuel represented something BIGGER to Saul and the whole nation.  Samuel’s presence was as good as God’s presence in Israel.  He was the mouthpiece of God.  A prophet and a judge, a consecrated priest who God had appointed at a very young age to take the place of Eli and his (irreverent sons—Hophni and Phinehas).  If Samuel came, it was 99.9% likely God would deliver Israel with a miracle.  And oh’ how Israel needed a MIRACLE at that very moment.

Unfortunately, however, with more men dropping off the force, and Saul unable to contain his fear—he gives into the pressure and decides to do what Samuel alone was appointed to do.  He offers the sacrifice.  Desperate to seek the LORD’s favor, Saul offers the sacrifice (a sacred role reserved for God’s priests). But just as soon as Saul is finished offering the sacrifice, Samuel arrives. “What is this you have done? You have done a foolish thing” if Saul’s heart could sink any deeper—these were seriously not the words he needed at a time like this, but wait, there was more.

“You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time.  But now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him ruler of his people because you have not kept the Lord’s command.”

What a sorrowful day for Saul.  Could things get any worse?

Can you think of a time when things were going so well, and God’s favor seemed to overtake you at every turn? You were thriving, you were flourishing, you were prosperous and secure—but then things began to fall apart.  Samuel leaves Saul and heads to Gilgal.  The Bible never even mentions his input into the current attack and war Saul was facing. I cannot even begin to imagine the despondency.  It’s one thing for a man to forsake you—but can you fathom God withdrawing His precious Spirit and presence from you?! I sure cannot.

Those who have tasted the grace and glory of God know O’ too well what a terrifying glimpse of life without that grace might look like. And like King David, we all shudder and cling to the dust–on our faces, earnestly groaning—Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me (Psalm 51:11).

With the aid of God, we are still at best dependent and unfit for His service.  So without His aid, we are undone, we are unblessed, and we have no chance to stand against the evil that seeks to hound and overwhelm us on every side.

Glory is seldom abruptly stripped from a life, family or nation.  It is usually a slow fade.  To lose sight of the greatness of our sin and wretchedness, the brutality and price of Calvary—the precious blood God shed for our own redemption and the magnitude of the debt of gratitude we owe to a gracious God for such a redemption–is to lose at every front.

Let us examine our ways o’ glorious ones!  If you have known peace, joy, hope, and a blessed flourishing life—then let us keep in step with the Spirit of God who has so richly blessed each one of us, lest our glory fade and we come to know our unblessed nakedness without the Spirit of the LIVING GOD!

That is why Israel is unable to stand against her enemies; they turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction (Joshua 7:12)

cropped-marlene-maina-signature-black-and-white-jji.png Marlene Maina | 9.8.17

Family, Legacy, Prayer, Wisdom

Samuel: A Rare Clarity

To hear HIM wellThe Desire to Hear HIM Well

As I journey through first Samuel once more, a deep longing of desire overwhelmed me when I came to chapter nine.  Not only did I enjoy the story, it felt new! I was pulled in by the intimate detailed conversations between Saul and Samuel and their first meeting and introductory days near Mizpah. Was this story always this beautiful? The new beginnings for Saul, Samuel and a persistent Israel are quite captivating. Saul, who knew little to nothing about Samuel is unknowingly led by God (with the help of a servant) right to the proverbial doorsteps of a well-informed prophet who God had prepared in detail to anticipate his arrival.

The Bible tells us, Samuel was now old.  His sons (Joel & Abijah) who Samuel had appointed to lead Israel were reported to have turned aside after dishonest gain, accepting bribes and perverting justice—reminding us much of the sons of Eli, the high priest who tiny little Samuel had replaced. Which meant the old man Samuel had to continue in his role as prophet and judge over Israel until the LORD could find someone of the same spirit.

The backdrop of this scene is of course not good.  God’s heart is broken.  His people have rejected Him and asked for a king.  Samuel is grieved, but God insists he should listen to the people and do as they have asked.  It is in the midst of this grief where God permissively grants Israel’s request that something beautiful emerged out of the chapter for me personally—deeply endearing my heart to the God of Israel.

For one, He (God) cautions the people of what having a king might mean for their properties and their sons and daughters. When they insist to go forward, He does not begrudge them or treat them with resentment—even though he would be completely justified to withdraw His participation and presence from the entire thing. Instead, God remains loving and engaged.  He even guides Samuel through a VERY detailed process telling him that He would be guiding a young man to him the next day and what Samuel is to say to him.

Can I please point out that God’s character is SO deeply endearing to me?! He is impressive, above reproach and simply amazing!  He had judged the house of Eli and raised up Samuel.  He could dwell on the sin of the sons of Samuel or the collective stubbornness of the hearts of the house of Israel, or He could simply walk out of this and let Israel figure it out—but He doesn’t. Instead, He simply moves forward with the vessel that is willing, faithful and yielded to Him not being hindered by Samuel’s age, the people’s rejection of Him, or the omniscience He holds to know what Israel’s future was going to look like in just a few short years. He talks to Samuel, he asks him to anoint Saul with oil. Read the details.  Samuel is able to give Saul blow-by-blow details of what his journey back home would look like.  God even fills him with the Holy Spirit and literally–changes the man to equip him for the job, signifying that He dearly cares for His people even when we are walking outside of His ways. What a heart! This is beautiful; totally worth emulating!

I gleaned quite a few practical lessons from this passage today, but the deepest longing it awakened in my soul that brought me to my knees before heaven was the intimacy God shared with Samuel. Samuel did not have to guess or wonder what God was saying—he heard God clearly and consistently.  The instructions Samuel gave Saul were accurate and reliable.  They were the VERY words of God!  “You stay here for a little while” he had told Saul “so that I may give you a message from God”.  These words would make any 21st-century Christian cringe (because of how misused they have been), yet this was how Samuel had led Israel, and he would be the very same channel God would use to visit Jesse—regarding God’s own choice for King (David).  So I got on my knees this morning and I prayed earnestly “Lord, I desire to hear you exceptionally well.” Lead me, guide me, and grant me such intimate clear lines of communication with you, that I too like Samuel (in spite the wrong or evil that was going on with his family or his nation) will be able to hear you my LORD with a rare clarity—and speak reliable words that will lead your people to honor your great name.

 Marlene Maina  // 9.1.17

Uncategorized

About Me

It has been 25yrs since I knelt at the altar to receive Jesus as my Savior. No one could have prepared me for the climactic joys nor the deep trenches of sorrow that lay ahead of my journey.

The works of a Holy God: Sometimes in a classroom, sometimes a chisel in hand, the LORD of Hosts has patiently refined a cherished daughter He loves—paring and trimming down to diminish all that is unlike Him. Coring out of me the hopelessness that had snuffed out completely the light of day. HE, El Chanun (the Most Gracious God) has blessed my life with just the right burdens and troubles that have served HIS purpose to mold and lend me the vision to SEE!  A Savior, Merciful. Gracious. Holy.  A Warrior King. My Trusted Friend!

My story can be summarized very simply as the face, the shoes or simply the passing shadow—at one point or another of:  a broken teen, a grateful sister, a once homeless daughter, a chosen head-student, a lonely orphan, a supernatural encounter, a supplanted immigrant, a seminary graduate, a cherished bride, a thankful mom, an audacious disciple, a devoted employee, a joyful friend.  A heartbeat for the lost. A child of God!

And these are the 3 ways my husband Newton and I have managed to sum up the dreams, goals, and values for which our hearts now beat in this fleeting momentary life God has SO graciously given us:

  • To build our lives
  • To build our families, and…
  • To build the Kingdom of God

With Love & Prayers,

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Uncategorized

The Inner Life

~Oh to feel the nearness of God~

‘Above the noise of selfish strife we hear Thy voice, O Son of Man.’ (A.W. Tozer).

Eternal Sovereign Grace of Heaven!  We the sons and daughters of David, we yearn deeply to understand (if only) the outskirts of your ways.  A crowded world.  A broken world. But we respond. Deeper, upward, higher…

We cling to you, to hear you say “draw closer.

~Oh to feel the nearness of God~

Josiah’sKind // Marlene