Thursday, October 4, 2018

Through the Year With Jimmy Carter - A Wonderful Daily Meditation

A Shocking Revelation 

Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters — yes, even their own life — such a person cannot be my disciple.”

LUKE 14:25 – 26 
I cannot “hate” my wife and four children, our twelve grandchildren, our six great-grandchildren, or the memory of my mother and father. So what can Jesus mean in this verse? In the original Greek, the word translated “hate” is miseo, which could mean “to love less,” or to put in a secondary position.

Christ is saying that his followers must put their faith in him above family obligations or natural feelings of love for their closest kin. While this is easier to accept than “hate,” it’s still a difficult and even disturbing requirement. We must put every priority in life below our commitment to Christ. Our top priority must be to follow him, to keep his commandments, and to emulate his actions. That is a profound but greatly beneficial directive. 

It gets even more profound and unsettling when Christ says his disciples must also choose to carry their cross and follow him. Ordinarily we think of carrying a cross as enduring some kind of trial. If we have a debilitating disease, we might say, “This disease is my cross to bear.” Sometimes we treat it as a self-congratulatory thing: “I’m being courageous in the face of difficult setbacks.” But that isn’t what Jesus has in mind. 

In those days, when Romans gave a sentence of crucifixion, they required the condemned to carry his cross to the place of execution, thus giving the impression that the condemned both acknowledged and accepted the justice of the sentence. Christ is saying, then, that we must associate with him and acknowledge the justness of his demands. We choose to follow him and identify with him — regardless of the cost. 
God, I’m grateful that even disturbing lessons from your Word are designed to make a permanent and positive impact on my life. Teach me, in practical ways, what it means to put you first in everything I do, and then give me strength to identify with you even in situations where doing so might cost me dearly. I ask these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.

As I've been so affected by the present chaos with our president, I have found I've turned to other presidents to seek and learn from men who have held the position while at the same time, keeping their basic beliefs and morality. This daily meditation by President Jimmy Carter has been a wonderful choice for exactly what I was seeking. 

Combining sometimes thoughts on his time during the presidency, or just a statement on a selected scripture for thought and prayer, Carter has given his readers a time to rejoice with the Lord without dealing with our own daily thoughts...turning only to Him for guidance and a time of learning.

When I read the meditation, a Shocking Revelation, which talks about choosing God above all others, including family, Carter's discussion on the word "hate" was especially enlightening for we find ourselves in the nation being torn apart, where even religion has become part of the political scene and so closely entwined with their beliefs, that I have been dismayed at Who exactly we are Following and why there is such a wide divergence in the opinions held by many.

Follow Me was always a special song that I used as a solo for church services. It helped me to understand what it means to Follow Him. As did the specific meditation and prayer that was provided for one day as I'm walking through the year with Jimmy Carter. I haven't finished the book but have read enough to know it is both a powerful statement of President Carter's faith and beliefs, but also provides a daily teaching moment for readers that will help in understanding our life as today's Christian... 

I'm sharing about another meditation because of the discussions now taking place in Washington. We must all acknowledge, if only to ourselves, that we are not free of sin, and when challenged, sometimes it takes a wrong turn for some of us...But He is always there to guide us through His Holy Spirit if we but stop to listen...

A Sin of the Heart

“I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
MATTHEW 5:28 On his deathbed, my brother called in one of his good buddies from Plains and said, “Everybody knows that I have only a few days to live. I don’t want to die with something on my conscience. I have to tell you, in complete candor, that your wife and I have had an affair for the last three years.” 
His friend’s face dropped. The man gulped a couple of times — and then Billy laughed and said, “No, I’m just joking.” That was Billy. In real life, of course, adultery is no laughing matter. In fact, I almost lost the presidential election because of it. As a Sunday school teacher, I felt qualified to explain what Christ had in mind when he spoke about adultery. I said he was setting an example that would force all of us to recognize our sinfulness. My mistake was that I explained this to magazine reporters, who published my edited remarks as an admission that I was constantly unfaithful to my wife by thinking sexually about other women. 
Once the magazine came out, it was too late for me to correct their misimpressions. In fact, these verses prevent those of us who have remained loyal to our spouse from claiming that we’ve upheld the standards of Christ — which are nothing less than perfection. 
If we want to claim for ourselves a righteous moral standing, then Jesus insists that we meet his perfect standards. None of us can do so, of course. We all fall woefully short — and that is the point. 
Jesus died on the cross because of our status as sinners in need of forgiveness. Only through faith in him, who led a perfect life, can we be reconciled with a holy God. That keeps us from bragging, even to ourselves. 
Dear Lord, thank you for the teaching of Jesus Christ, which shows me that all people, myself included, fall short of your standard of perfection. Remind me of this truth to prevent my becoming smug or self-satisfied in my religion. Give me compassion for those who stumble and the grace to treat them as equals in your sight. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
If you are looking for a small book to challenge you daily about your faith, and help teach you a lesson in a short, meaningful fashion, then this book may not be what you are looking for. And, if you have concerns about what is going on in America right now, seeking the words of a former U.S. can't hurt to see what he went through in politics and worked to live in his faith! Highly recommended!


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