Thursday, January 29, 2015

Prescription for Peace Part 3, Worry

Robin, Courtesy of
Overhead in a Tree One Day

Said the robin to the sparrow,
     "I should really like to know
Why these anxious human beings
     Rush about and worry so."

Sparrow, Courtesy of

Said the sparrow to the robin,
     "I think that it must be
They have no Heavenly Father
     Such as cares for you and me."
              --The Prairie Pastor

The majority of the American population worries about many things--the economy, jobs, health, you name it. In fact, worry is the number one health priority in the United States. Hospitals are full of people who worried themselves into physical and mental illness.

Doctors tell us that worry affects the entire body and actually causes diseases of the nervous system, digestive system, the glands, and the heart. In short, worry is not only a sin against God by demonstrating a lack of faith, it is also a sin against ourselves. Worry kills.

It's been said that "worry is interest paid on trouble before it is due." Many of the things we worry about never happen.

There are two things we should not worry about:
  1. Things we cannot do anything about. In that case worry is useless.
  2. Things we can help. Instead, we need to get busy and do what we can.
Worry never does any good. In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus describes the futility of worrying. In fact, He says worry is equated with having "little faith." Worry about food, clothes, and housing dominates the thoughts of unbelievers. Since "your Heavenly Father already knows all your needs," we are to "seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need."

"Oh, I'm not worried; I'm just concerned," you say. How can you tell the difference?
  • A worried person sees a problem.
  • A concerned person solves a problem.
Sometimes, I even catch myself worrying as I pray. Instead of praying about my concern and entrusting it to God to work it out, I find myself picking up my burden and carrying it on my shoulders again, repeating my request over and over. I'm not saying to ask once and never repeat it again. I'm talking about worrying over it instead of thanking God for the answer that is on the way.

I read of one person, J. Arthur Rank, who came up with a practical way to keep from worrying. He designated Wednesday as worry day. Whenever he was tempted to worry about something, he wrote it down and stuck the note is his "worry box." On worry day, he read all the notes. Often, he found that what he had been worried about had either been resolved or hadn't even happened.

Corrie ten Boom, who survived a Nazi concentration camp where she was imprisoned for aiding the Jews, said, "Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow. It empties today of its strength."

Worry is a sure way to ruin a perfectly good present by imagining calamities that may never come. Jesus rose again and is seated at the right hand of God the Father to take care of our present. God's prescription for worry is to seek His kingdom first. Do what you can to prevent trouble, and trust Him to take of the rest.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Prescription for Peace Part 2 Guilt

Guilt and regret about the past will prevent us from ever knowing peace.

Some years ago, I saw a bumper sticker that read, "God forgives. Let Him." Did you know that there are two kinds of guilt?
  • Real guilt  caused by unconfessed sin in our lives. 
  • False guilt when we have confessed our sin and asked for God's forgiveness but do not forgive ourselves. 
The only solution to real guilt is to ask God to forgive us. The past cannot be changed, but you can be washed as clean as snow in the blood of Jesus. He has promised that if we confess our sins, He will forgive us (see 1 John 1:9).

False guilt plagues us when we don't comprehend the vastness of God's love and mercy, or we believe our sins are too grievous to be forgiven. We are essentially saying that Jesus' death on the cross is not sufficient to provide forgiveness of our sins.

When I was five years old, I invited Jesus into my life to be my personal Friend. At that young age, I didn't understand just how much God enjoys His relationship with us as His children.

During my early years, my parents operated a children's home, As their eldest child, I can't count the times I heard, "AnnaLee, you've got to set a good example for the others." That was too heavy a load for me to carry.

My mother was a godly, loving mother, but she was a perfectionist. Like any good mother, she always taught me how to do everything "right"--to her satisfaction. Since I loved and admired her, I wanted to be like her. Living up to her expectations wasn't easy! I soon began to feel that I could never please her, even though I tried to be perfect.

Without additional adult help, the children's home kept Mother very busy. She didn't have time for one-on-one with me. I remember when I was in first grade, I asked her to curl my hair for a special event. She said she didn't have time. Yet, she always made time to fix my little sister's hair. I believed she didn't love me as much, that I needed to be perfect to make her love me. I decided that if I got straight As and went to college, she would love me. (Of course, she always loved me. Years later, when I told her what I had thought, she cried.)

Unfortunately, I grew to believe that God expected me to be perfect too. No matter how hard I tried, though, I made mistakes. I was cranky. I fought with my sister. I got jealous. I complained about chores. I would ask God to forgive me, but I imagined Him checking His records and saying sternly, "You've sure done a lot of bad things. I'll forgive you this time. Just don't you ever do it again."

But I was a child. Of course, I failed--again and again. I carried a lot of guilt--false guilt.

Bobby (at two months) and me
When I grew up and became a mother, I really enjoyed watching my son learn to sit up, walk, talk, feed himself. Oh, he fell down many times as he learned to walk.  Did I love him less? Of course not! Did I kick him when he fell down? No! I reached out and helped him get up and try again. When he spilled food on his clothes or milk on the floor, I cleaned him up. I smiled when he talked about his "airbow" (elbow) or asked for more "spusgetti" (spaghetti). I was very proud of his progress, even though he wasn't doing anything perfectly.

Around that time, I read a little book titled, Guilt and Freedom, by Bruce Narramore and Bill Counts, and I realized that God, our Heavenly Father, enjoys His children just as much as we enjoy ours and is even more patient with us as we learn and grow spiritually. When we are trying to obey Him and make mistakes, He is quick to forgive us the moment we confess it and ask His forgiveness. That understanding set me free from the false guilt I had carried so long.

When we forgive, we still remember the injury. but God is not like us. When we repent and turn from our sinful ways, our sins are covered by the blood of Jesus and erased from God's sight, never to be remembered against us again (Isaiah 43:25). Our sins are expunged from the record just as though we had never done it. The slate is wiped clean. We enjoy freedom from guilt and have fellowship with God.

God forgives. Are you forgiving yourself?

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Prescription for Peace Part 1

At the beginning of a new year, a clean canvas stretches out in front of us just waiting for us to pick up our paintbrush and add that first stroke of color. We are eager to start. We make New Year's resolutions.

Courtesy of
Yet, we hesitate to touch the brush to the paint. Which color do we use first? That vast white unknown seems daunting. Memories of all the failed attempts and past mistakes cause our hand to tremble. Fear of imagined future disasters (which, by the way, may never come) paralyze us.

We long for peace, but peace is elusive.

We can't read far into the Apostle Paul's writings (especially Romans 7) before we realize that he too struggled to find peace. "I am all too human," Paul lamented. "I want to do what is right, but I can't."

Then, in Philippians 4:6-9 (NLT), we find Paul's prescription for peace:

"Don't worry about anything. Instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me--everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you."

It's all in our thought life!

But thoughts seem to just pop up out of nowhere, don't they? Not really. Remember that old computer adage, "Garbage in, garbage out"? Jesus said that "whatever is in your heart [your thoughts] determines what you say" (Matthew 12:34) and do. When we feed our minds on the unholy, the unclean, and the perverted, our thoughts, words, and deeds will be evil too. So the first step in controlling our thoughts is to stop feeding on garbage. Instead, feast on things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy.

What do we do when those evil thoughts from our past sinful life come to mind?

I've heard it said that "the birds can fly over your head, but you don't have to let them make a nest in your hair." Likewise, when peace-shattering thoughts come into our minds, we don't have to latch onto them and entertain them.

When I was a girl, I heard an advertising jingle for a particular brand of beer on the radio. It was a catchy tune. It sang itself over and over in my head. I couldn't seem to get free of it--until I began to quote a Scripture verse or sing a hymn. I soon realized that I couldn't think two things at the same time. I could replace unwanted thoughts with the Word of God or a spiritual song.

How can we control our thoughts? Through prayer and thanksgiving, by refusing to worry, by fixing our minds on God's Word and putting into practice what He says.

In my next blog posts, I will discuss three areas of our thought life that can rob us of peace:
  • Guilt 
  • Worry
  • Fear