Meditations from a Hammock by Carol

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The Clothing of a Humble Heart

October 30, 2016

And all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.
1 Peter 5:5b
Though all of the Bible is the Word of God (the Sword of the Spirit), there are parts of scripture that speak louder (and pierce deeper) than others. There are some phrases that hook into my memory and bear more weight of conviction than others.
The above verse is one of those and the following meditation is my effort to glean the most out of this meaningful phrase, to be transformed by it, and to be cleansed by it.
And all of you“:  Peter was specifically addressing pastors/shepherds of believers regarding their behavior towards the ones they lead. He was also addressing the flock/followers/the ones being led.  So, no matter where we are on the ” totem pole” this verse applies to us.  ALL of us are the “all.”  No matter how much position and prestige we think we might have, this verse applies to us; and no matter how irksome it might feel to be “under” someone, this verse applies to us.
Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another” : I found the following snippet of commentary from Adam Clarke very enlightening.
“Be clothed with humility – To be clothed with a thing or person is a Greek mode of speech for being that thing or person with which a man is said to be clothed. Be ye truly humble; and let your outward garb and conduct be a proof of the humility of your hearts. Εγκομβωμα , from the original word εγκομβωσασθε , signifies often an outward ornamental garment…But it also signifies the outward garment worn by servants, slaves, girls, and shepherds, which was rather intended to be the guard of the other garments than an ornament to those thus dressed…as the apostle calls upon them to be subject to each other, he desires them to put on humility, as the encomboma or servant‘s dress, that they may appear to be such as were ready to serve; and that he cannot refer to this article of clothing as an ornament the next words sufficiently prove: God resisteth the Proud, and giveth grace to the Humble – the proud, with all their ornaments, God resists; while those who are clothed with the humble garment he adorns.”
Apparently, Peter sees the need to remind us all to clothe ourselves with the quality of humility. Why? Because, too often, we have amazing grace amnesia! We too quickly forget what wealth of love and mercy has been lavished on us by the Father! We don’t really believe or like to admit the phrase of a well-known hymn: “prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.” We get smug and comfortable in our salvation. We begin clamoring for a notable place in the Kingdom, like some of the disciples did when Jesus was with them on earth.
My heart was pierced and I was made to bleed tears as I read and sang these words from “Before the Throne” inwardly today. The truths of this song are what will motivate us to take off the ornamental robes of self importance and clothe ourselves with humble servants’ garments.
“When Satan tempts me to despair

And tells me of the guilt within
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end to all my sin
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free
For God the just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me
To look on Him and pardon me”

When we are convinced of that how can we remain prideful?!
I love these lines from a book by Scott Sauls called,  “Befriend: Create Belonging in an Age of Judgment, Isolation and Fear”:
 
“At the final judgment, Jesus the King will separate the sheep and the goats, the true believers and the religious posers. The true believers, having lived inside the King’s immense love and experienced firsthand his generous welcome and hospitality, will have become hospitable lovers themselves.”
If that is not happening in an increasing way, then Peter has another exhortation for us:
But concerning the one who lacks such things – he is blind. That is to say, he is nearsighted, since he has forgotten about the cleansing of his past sins.” (2 Peter 1:9)
Because God“:
God is the great Equalizer of all people! Before Him we all kneel; we all quiver in our boots. We all experience grace and goodness.  Before Him, our Creator, we are all the same flesh and blood; we all return to dust. We ALL bear His image. We all are in need of a Perfect substitutionary Lamb Who takes away the sins of the world.
Opposes the proud“:  of course God opposes the proud! Why should any of us believe ourselves to be better, deserve more or think of others as less, especially when we all stand in stark contrast to a Holy and loving God?!!
Therefore, if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort provided by love, any fellowship in the Spirit, any affection or mercy,  complete my joy and be of the same mind, by having the same love, being united in spirit, and having one purpose.  Instead of being motivated by selfish ambition or vanity, each of you should, in humility, be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself.  Each of you should be concerned not only about your own interests, but about the interests of others as well.”
Philippians 2:1-4
 
But gives grace to the humble“:  oh man! I want that grace! I need it so badly! I need God’s enabling power, not a stiff arm from Him! And because of my immense need of grace, by grace I will clothe myself with humility. I will put myself in the position of servant. I will not think of myself more highly than I ought. I will remember my great sin atoned for by a great Savior. I will remember “that Day” on which we will all stand before God, stripped of every earthly title or entitlement (whether earned or stolen). I will remember Jesus…
 
 who though he existed in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped,  but emptied himself by taking on the form of a slave, by looking like other men, and by sharing in human nature.  He humbled himself, by becoming obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross!  As a result God exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name,  so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow – in heaven and on earth and under the earth –  and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.”
Philippians 2:6-11 
 
…and ask for grace to clothe myself with that kind of humility.

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Good Grief

By Carol Lee

August 5, 2016

Psalm 42

“1 As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.
2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? 3 My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?” 4 These things I remember, as I pour out my soul:
how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God
with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival. 5 Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation 6 and my God. My soul is cast down within me;
therefore I remember you from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,
from Mount Mizar. 7 Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me. 8 By day the Lord commands his steadfast love,
and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life. 9 I say to God, my rock: “Why have you forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” 10 As with a deadly wound in my bones, my adversaries taunt me,
while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?” 11 Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.

One of the things I love about the Psalms is the gut-level honesty of thoughts and feelings which the psalmists express BEFORE the Lord. They ask a lot of “why, Lord” questions! And I love that this is included in the scriptures.

In my thinking, this inclusions implies that God accepts the bemoaning of His people when those words are uttered TO Him and in His presence. He has a relationship with His people that makes room for their doubts and honest feelings. Psalm 51 states that God “desires truth in the inward parts.” Part of embracing such truth is acknowledging the reality of our grief, anger and disappointments. Anyway, God is not taken by surprise…he already knows what we are thinking.

I say this to anyone who may be grieving: scripture acknowledges the reality of grief  and gives you “permission” to be sad, disappointed, angry and frustrated as you utter those feelings to the Lord in prayer. You will notice that by the end of each Psalm, the writer comes around to hope and victory that comes from the Lord, but the feelings and thoughts we deem “negative” are as much a part of the prayer as everything else. (See Psalm 10, 22, 42, 43, 44, 74, 79, 88). I truly believe that as you express those feelings honestly before the Lord it will be healing to you and you will also rise from your grief and disappointments with grace from the God of all comfort.

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.

Meditations From a Hammock: Lasting Beauty

August 3, 2016
By Carol Lee
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1 Peter 3:3-4
3 Let your beauty not be external – the braiding of hair and wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes – 4 but the inner person of the heart, the lasting beauty of a gentle and tranquil spirit, which is precious in God’s sight.“There is NOT a time I read this verse that I don’t feel, at least a “prick” of conscience, if not a full blow!  It always gives me pause and causes me to run my internal “malware” to detect viral motives.  If I am honest, this malware always flashes the warning sign for the presence of faulty motives!I am guilty of relying on externals to be or feel beautiful or to receive approval.  This is especially true as I round the corner towards 57…which is painfully close to….glump…60…which sounds very old to me! Hahahaha! And, as you can imagine, the older you get the less you have to work with!!!When we first moved to the Moyo area in Uganda, we rode bodabodas (motorcycle taxis) to and from town as we did not have a vehicle. On one occasion, I went to town without makeup on.  The next time the same bodaboda driver came to pick me up and asked me where that other lady was…”you know, that older lady…is she your mother?!” (Hey, dude!…seriously?…that WAS ME!) Hahahaha!Sad to say, it’s not just the aging process which has fostered my vanity. Reliance upon external beauty has been my modus operandi for the greatest part of my life. I suppose that it’s quite “natural” for someone to nurture that which provides the greatest positive feedback, but, sadly, such a practice can distract a person from developing other excellent, more satisfying, valuable and beneficial characteristics and abilities. And I have leaned a lot on enhanced external qualities rather than refined inward characteristics.  It seems to be the default mode that requires a great deal of mental and spiritual energy to overcome.External beauty is fleeting and fades with time…or it can be lost in the flash of a tragic moment. Internal beauty continues to grow with nurture and effort. External beauty is defined by cultures and personal preferences.  Inner beauty and grace cuts across it all. The competition is fierce and there will always be someone who “beats you out.”  Inner beauty is welcoming and bids others to enter the fellowship because it is not jealous and its satisfaction is derived from the commendation and fear of the Lord.

Ultimately, I don’t believe that it’s intrinsically wrong for a woman to expend effort on her external appearance (I am quite sure every husband/boyfriend will agree) and I certainly don’t think Peter is condemning all external adorning of oneself.  However, I do think he is bringing attention to our priorities: fleeting, corruptible, self-promoting values vs. a lasting, ever-brightening, God-reflecting focus which seeks the good of others and receives the commendation of the Lord, Himself.

Here is how Matthew Henry comments on the verse:

The part to be adorned: The hidden man of the heart; that is, the soul; the hidden, the inner man. Take care to adorn and beautify your souls rather than your bodies. Secondly, The ornament prescribed. It must, in general, be something not corruptible, that beautifies the soul, that is, the graces and virtues of God’s Holy Spirit. The ornaments of the body are destroyed by the moth, and perish in the using; but the grace of God, the longer we wear it, the brighter and better it is.

Proverbs 31:
“30 Charm is deceitful and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord will be praised. 31 Give her credit for what she has accomplished, and let her works praise her in the city gates.”

Meditations From a Hammock:  Ever An Infant In Need Of Milk

August 2, 2016

By Carol Lee

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1 Peter 2:
And yearn like newborn infants for pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up to salvation, 3 if you have experienced the Lord’s kindness.
If ever I have learned something it’s that, even after being a disciple and lover of Jesus for as long as I can remember, I am as much a newborn infant in need of pure, spiritual milk today as I was when I was spiritually born.
Newborns are dependent, needy, hungry, fragile, requiring nurture and protection.  The times I have had the most peace and experienced the Lord’s grace the most have been when I have recognized most profoundly my need of the Him and have been the most dependent on Him.
Though I have grown ( and SHOULD) tremendously through the years in my knowledge and experience of and love for the Lord, I have had many seasons of trying to walk independently of Him, of having a poor appetite for His word (my spiritual milk), of rejecting His nurture and protection for my life by walking in my own ways which put me and others at great risk.  Graciously, the Lord brings me back around to this simple fact: I am weak and needy, spiritually malnourished at times; I am ever an infant in need of milk. I need protection (mostly from myself!); I need  nurture from the Lord in His presence. I need the spiritual milk of His word.
Today was a special experience of coming back to that profound awareness of my need and Jesus’ supply. Yup! That’s me….a big baby! Thank you, Father, for your loving care!
“A new life requires suitable food. They, being newly born, must desire the milk of the word. Infants desire common milk, and their desires towards it are fervent and frequent, arising from an impatient sense of hunger, and accompanied with the best endeavours of which the infant is capable. Such must Christians’ desires be for the word of God: and that for this end, that they may grow thereby, that we may improve in grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour.”  ****Matthew Henry****
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Meditations From a Hammock:  Workers or Builders?!!!

By Carol Lee

The following story has been told in many different ways, but it’s message is stirring and clear anyway.

I enjoy the story about the traveler in the middle ages who happened upon a large work site in the center of a village. He had been traveling for many days, and he was eager to talk to anyone who would engage with him.

He walked up to a worker at the site and asked, “Sir, may I ask what you are doing?”

The worker scowled a bit and said tersely, “I am cutting stones.”

The traveler decided he would find little conversation there, so he moved on to another worker. When he asked the same question, the worker paused for a moment and explained that he was cutting stones so he could support his family.

He had a wonderful wife and two small children who depended on him to provide them with food and shelter. They chatted about the project and the village for a few minutes, and the worker turned back to his large pile of stone.

The traveler moved to a third worker and asked the same question: “Sir, may I ask what you are doing?”

The worker put down his tools, stood quite tall, looked the traveler in the eye and said with a warm smile, “I am building a cathedral. It will be the tallest and most magnificent structure for miles around. Its beauty will delight people for centuries to come. The stone I am now working on will go near the front door where people will enter for shelter and kinship.  I will probably not see the final product, but I know my work is part of something very important.

(https://lynboyer.net/mission-vision/are-you-chipping-at-stones-or-building-a-cathedral.html)

It’s along this same vein that the Apostle Peter stirs up the recipients of his letters to struggling Christians. He helps them to “do battle” against lesser things by giving them a vision of greater things. He seems to understand that our motivation to overcome “fleshly desires that do battle against the soul” is most effectively generated when we see the bigger, more glorious picture, when we see what we are  and are becoming. Our life as Christians is not a mere defensive posture against sin, but a vision-filled, intentional mindset of becoming what the Lord has purposed us to be.

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he gave us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 that is, into an inheritance imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. It is reserved in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are protected through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 This brings you great joy, although you may have to suffer for a short time in various trials.1 Peter 1

13 Therefore, get your minds ready for action by being fully sober, and set your hope completely on the grace that will be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed.”  1Peter 1

4 So as you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but chosen and priceless in God’s sight, 5 you yourselves, as living stones, are built up as a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood and to offer spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2

So, today, as you work out your salvation with fear and trembling, don’t merely see yourselves as “chipping away at stones” or being “9 to 5” Christians, but put your tools down for a minute, stand up straight and tall and remember that you are part of building a cathedral, a spiritual house that spans the ages, a living temple of God! Be sure that every effort made to overcome sin and to be obedient is a hewn stone upon stone  that will rise up to become a magnificent cathedral of praise to our grace-overflowing God and will yield an eternity of joy and awe and complete restoration for the ones who take refuge in the Lord!

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Meditations From a Hammock:  The Goal of the Gospel is Love

by Carol Lee

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1 Peter 1: 22
You have purified your souls BY obeying the truth IN ORDER TO show sincere mutual love. SO love one another earnestly from a pure heart.
It is truly amazing how I can read the Bible over and over and yet, in one moment, a portion of it takes on new life and meaning, softens my heart, opens my eyes, convicts me of how I have “missed the mark.” The word of God is truly “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword.”  Hebrews 4:12
How did I miss this….that the goal of the Gospel is love…loving God with all my heart, mind, soul and strength AND loving my neighbor as I love myself?  “32 The expert in the law said to him, “That is true, Teacher; you are right to say that he is one, and there is no one else besides him. 33 And to love him with all your heart, with all your mind, and with all your strength and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” Mark 12:32-33
I mean, yeah, I “know” these things…these verses are are part of my knowledge base. However, this particular verse in Peter jumped off the page and made me take notice of it. The Holy Spirit made me hold the truth up to myself, like a dress I am trying on for size, only to find that I wasn’t fitting into it very well!
So I am examining myself this morning. Are my efforts, actions and words leading to a greater love for the Lord…and other people? Is my desire and priority to be changed by the word of God AND my desire to obey the word of God SO THAT I will love God with all of my heart, soul, mind and strength and SO THAT my love for others will be sincere, mutual, earnest and from the heart? Or, by my obedience, am I trying to earn points with God…or prove myself superior to others? When I “love others” is it truly for their good or do I have ulterior motives or expectations?
Holy Spirit, I am pleading with You today for your assisting grace in my obedience SO THAT my goal will be to love God exuberantly and love people sincerely…so that the world will know the love of God through Christ Jesus and your people will be a beautiful display of that love on earth.
Matthew Henry:

The Spirit of God is the great agent in the purification of man’s soul. The Spirit convinces the soul of its impurities, furnishes those virtues and graces that both adorn and purify, such as faith (Acts 15:9), hope (1 John 3:3), the fear of God (Psalm 34:9), and the love of Jesus Christ. The Spirit excites our endeavours, and makes them successful. The aid of the Spirit does not supersede our own industry; these people purified their own souls, but it was through the Spirit. (4.) The souls of Christians must be purified before they can so much as love one another unfeignedly. There are such lusts and partialities in man’s nature that without divine grace we can neither love God nor one another as we ought to do; there is no charity but out of a pure heart. (5.) It is the duty of all Christians sincerely and fervently to love one another. Our affection to one another must be sincere and real, and it must be fervent, constant, and extensive.

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Meditations from a Hammock:  The Best is Yet to Come

July 30, 2016

By Carol Lee

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I was reading in 1 Peter 1 this morning and my eyes (and the eyes of my heart) did a double take back to some verses I passed over more lightly yesterday:

1 Peter 1:3-9
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he gave us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 that is, into an inheritance imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. It is reserved in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are protected through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 This brings you great joy, although you may have to suffer for a short time in various trials. 7 Such trials show the proven character of your faith, which is much more valuable than gold – gold that is tested by fire, even though it is passing away – and will bring praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 You have not seen him, but you love him. You do not see him now but you believe in him, and so you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, 9 because you are attaining the goal of your faith – the salvation of your souls.

This idea is not original to me…I have heard it said numerous times: “We are a microwave generation…we want something good and we want it now!” Immediate gratification. We want our “best life now.” No pointing fingers at anyone else…In this department I am the chief of sinners!

But these verses from Peter really caution me. They remind me how I have often come perilously close to shipwrecking in my faith…and how I have watched others shipwreck theirs….all because I lost sight of a greater delight while yearning for a lesser one.

While our life in Christ NOW gives us a foretaste of heaven, IT IS NOT HEAVEN!!!  While the Kingdom of Heaven has come, it has not fully been revealed and is not fully expressed! That is yet to come! I am remembering the following verses this morning:

2 Corinthians 1:21-22
21 But it is God who establishes us together with you in Christ and who anointed us, 22 who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a DOWN PAYMENT.

A down payment is only a portion of which the full remainder is paid at a later date!!!

Ephesians 1:13-14
And when you heard the word of truth (the gospel of your salvation) – when you believed in Christ – you were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit, who is the DOWN PAYMENT of our inheritance, until the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of his glory.

What we have NOW in Christ is only a DOWN PAYMENT of what is to come! This life is only a foretaste of the glory and joy to be revealed!

Why is this so crucial to understand? Because our expectations have everything to do with our happiness. If we EXPECT to have  every joy, benefit and blessing in this life we will be sure to experience the deepest disappointments which will become a springboard to unbelief.

But, if we remind ourselves in our darkest moments and deepest disappointments as well as in the midst of our greatest earthly joys, that the “best life” is yet to come, we have put our “living hope” in the right place. When we experience trials we will endure, knowing that they are light and momentary afflictions. When we experience earthly joys, we will caution ourselves that greater joys are yet to come and we should not camp out around our current joys but prepare ourselves for a more stable and permanent joy. (This is not to say we don’t rejoice exceedingly with great joy when we are happy – it’s only to say that we can’t count on happy times to be a constant.)

This, I believe, is how Peter was trying to encourage Christians who had been scattered because of persecution. We have a living hope (a hope is something not realized yet), an inheritance (something which is acquired after a death takes place), ready to be revealed (not yet fully revealed), kept in heaven (future grace and glory) and trials and tested genuineness of faith (trials reveal to us whether our hope is in this world or firmly anchored in the one to come!).

Hang on to your hats, people! THE BEST IS YET TO COME!!!

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