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 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 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

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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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