Jesus Is Immanuel

I am Immanuel—God with you—and I am enough! When things in your life are flowing smoothly, it is easy to trust in My sufficiency. However, when you encounter rough patches—one after another after another—you may sometimes feel that My provision is inadequate. This is when your mind tends to go into high gear: obsessing about ways to make things better. There is nothing wrong with seeking solutions, but problem-solving can turn into an addiction: your mind spinning with so many plans and possibilities that you become confused and exhausted.

“To protect yourself from this mental exhaustion, you need to remind yourself that I am with you always, taking care of you. It is possible to rejoice in Me—to proclaim My sufficiency—even during the most difficult times. This is a supernatural work, empowered by My Spirit who lives in you. It is also a decision that you make—day by day and moment by moment. Choose to be joyful in Me, your Savior, for I am indeed enough!” —Jesus Christ (in Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling For Christmas)

(You can check out some more quotes from Sarah Young’s book by clicking here.)

Reversing The Distress Cycle

God wants you to live in a place where your heart has unshakable security and tranquility. The Hebrew word is shalom, and the Bible gives us a “Shalom Cycle” that keeps us centered and grounded in God’s peace. 

But the Shalom Cycle begins to break down when…

  • …gratitude is replaced by grumbling 
  • …trust in God’s future grace is replaced by unbelief
  • …taking our worries to God is replaced by self-reliance

Anxiety causes our mind to race through all sorts of “what if” scenarios. My friend Josh Schram points out, “There are no benefits at all to having anxieties!” 

The disciples of Jesus were in an anxiety-producing situation—they were in a boat going through stormy seas. Jesus was in the boat with them, but He was sound asleep. Instead of going to Jesus with their worries, the disciples tried to get themselves out of the situation. As they did, the “what ifs” began to mount. 

What if the boat sinks … What if we get smashed on the rocks … What if not everyone can swim … What if (gasp!) Jesus doesn’t make it out alive … What if … What if… WHAT IF?!?

Until finally they screamed at Jesus, “Don’t You even care?!” 

Sadly, their last thought was to go to Jesus, instead of making Him their first thought. 

But Jesus cared more than they knew. Years later, Peter—who was in this storm-tossed boat—wrote, “Casting all your cares—all your anxieties, all your worries, and all your concerns, once and for all—on Him, for He cares about you with deepest affection, and watches over you very carefully (1 Peter 5:7). 

Not—only your big concerns. 

Not—most of your concerns. 

But—ALL of your concerns; every single thing that robs you of even a moment’s peace. 

“Jesus, do You even care?” And Jesus responds with a loving, resounding, “YES! I care about every single thing that causes you anxiety, and worry, and care. Give them all to Me!” 

Paul wrote, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all he has done” (Philippians 4:6). 

If we allow the Shalom Cycle to break down, the inevitable result in the exact opposite: The Distress Cycle

 

The arrows are going the wrong way, and we’re being pulled farther and farther down. We need an about-face, a 180-degree-turn, a new direction. The Bible has a word for this: repentance. Instead of the wrong direction, turn around and go the right direction: 

  • Instead of anxiety—prayer
  • Instead of worry—worship
  • Instead of tests—testimonies 

“Jesus is more concerned about changing our hearts than about changing our circumstances. He uses our circumstances to change our hearts, IF we will trust Him.” —Josh Schram

What Is Shalom?

Shalom is the Hebrew word for peace. Some of the best definitions of shalom include ideas of completeness, soundness, and wholeness. One Jewish rabbi commented that when you say “Shalom” to someone, you’re really saying, “may you be full of well-being.” Or another way of thinking of shalom is—nothing missing, nothing broken. 

Some have tried to describe shalom as the absence of conflict, but that’s not quite accurate. On the verge of going into the Promised Land to fight their enemies, God commanded Aaron to speak a blessing of peace of the people (Numbers 6:24-26). And just before Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,” He said, “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9-10). 

Shalom is not controlled by outward circumstances. Shalom is a deep-seated, rock-solid, unshakable assurance that I am in God’s hand. 

Isaiah describes how we live in shalom like this—

You will guard him and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind—both its inclination and its character—is stayed on You, because he commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in You. (Isaiah 26:3)

How do we do keep our mind stayed on God? The Apostle Paul says, “We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Psychologists call this process metacognition: when we think about what we’re thinking about. It’s being aware of our anxious thoughts that are robbing us of shalom and then talking back to them. 

What often robs us of peace is listening to ourselves instead of talking to ourselves! 

Someone once asked evangelist Smith Wigglesworth, “Smith, how do you feel?” He replied, “I never ask Smith how I feel. I tell him how he feels!” Exactly right! 

Why do we make our thoughts obedient to Jesus? Because one of the titles given to Jesus before He was born was Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), and Jesus assures us that His peace is unlike anything we can ever find in earthly things (John 14:27, 16:33). 

God’s peace is always there, but our divided minds keep us from experiencing His peace. So Isaiah tells us to keep our mind steadfast on God’s goodness, and Paul says the same thing—Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. (Philippians 4:6-7)

I want to encourage you to practice what the Bible calls capturing your thoughts—or what psychologists call metacognition. Ask yourself, “Why am I thinking that?” Capture those thoughts and make them obedient to Christ. Don’t let your worrisome thoughts rob you of God’s shalom.

Join me this Sunday as we take a closer look at the “shalom cycle,” including the things that can derail it. 

Alien Anxiety

“A recent survey of primary care physicians in the United States revealed that at least one-third of office visits were prompted by some form of anxiety.” —Lanny Hunter & Victor Hunter 

The Greek word for anxiety means to be pulled in different directions. In the context of “Aliens and Strangers,” it means being pulled between Earth’s way and Heaven’s way. Other biblical definitions for anxiety that the Amplified Bible brings out include—

    • being perpetually uneasy…about your life (Matthew 6:25) 
    • a troubled mind unsettled, excited, worried, and in suspense (Luke 12:29) 
    • drawn in diverging directions, his interests are divided and he is distracted from his devotion to God (1 Corinthians 7:34) 

Unchecked anxiety can negatively impact our physical, emotional, mental, and even spiritual health, so it’s imperative—if we are going to live differently than Earthlings—that Christians handle their anxiety in an alien way. 

Peter gives us an alien response to our feelings of worry and anxiety—

Cast all your anxiety on [Jesus] because He cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7)

Notice that Peter doesn’t say, “Don’t be anxious,” but he does say, “Here’s what to do with your anxiety.” Being anxious is not a sin, but hanging on to your anxiety may cause you to behave in a sinful way. 

So what do we do with our anxiety? In a word cast it off—throw it somewhere else! The verse tense here means it’s something we must keep on doing, so Peter is really saying keep on casting your anxiety on Jesus. 

Why can we keep on casting our anxieties on Jesus? Because He cares for you. Jesus has taken charge of your care; He’s made it His goal that you aren’t missing out on the abundant life He paid for! This verb is in what’s called the indicative mood. That means it is something that has happened in the past, and it is happening now, and it will continue to happen forever and ever! 

Even if you cast an anxiety on Jesus 30 seconds earlier, you can do it again right now because that’s how much He cares for you! 

At the risk of oversimplifying it, here is the prescription for anxiety in four steps: 

  1. Recognize that you are anxious—admit it to yourself and to God. 
  2. Remind yourself that Jesus cares for you. 
  3. Reject your anxieties by counteracting your worry with God’s truth—I like to read something like Psalm 23.
  4. Repeat steps 1-3. 

“Your natural tendency when you’re feeling anxious is to focus on yourself and your problems. The more you do this, the more you forget about Me and all the help I can supply. This worldly focus only increases your anxiety! Let the discomfort you feel at such times alert you to your neglect of Me. Whisper My Name, and invite Me into your difficulties. … A problem-preoccupation makes you anxious. So I urge you to cast all your anxiety on Me—trusting that I care for you. You may have to do this thousands of times daily, but don’t give up! Each time you cast your worries and concerns on Me, you are redirecting your attention from problems to My loving presence.” —Sarah Young, in Jesus Always 

Join me next week as we continue our series called Aliens and Strangers. You can join me in person or watch via Facebook Live. 

The Power To Turn Worry Into Worship

Anxiety makes people feel overwhelmed. We over-burden ourselves with worries like…

  • Can I do it?
  • Am I good enough?
  • Do people really like me?
  • What if I fail?

Jesus said, “Which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?” Jesus went on to say that this type of worry and anxiety was exactly the opposite of what His followers should be doing: “People who don’t know God and the way He works fuss over these things.”

Instead, Jesus said, we are to turn our focus on Him: “Your Father already knows your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and He will give you everything you need.” (see Luke 12:22-31)

Instead of worrying … pray!

My friend Josh Schram said,

“When we worry, we communicate to God that we don’t really trust Him to take care of us.”

OUCH!

You might be saying, “If I’m supposed to pray every time I worry about something, I’d be praying all the time!” You know what? That’s actually a good thing because it’s exactly what the Bible instructs us to do—

Always be joyful. Never stop praying. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-17)

Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you. (1 Peter 5:7)

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. (Philippians 4:6)

“We have the power to turn our…

  • anxiety into prayer
  • worry into worship
  • struggles and trials into testimonies.” (Josh Schram)

Are you using that power God has given you? Don’t let worry cause you to feel overwhelmed. Keep turning your worries over to God again and again and again and again….

The Power In Rejoicing

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! … Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God (Philippians 4:4, 6).

Paul isn’t playing around here—when he says to rejoice, it’s not a suggestion or a good idea. He says REJOICE with the force of a commandment!

Even the Greek word for rejoice isn’t a mild “yea!” It carries with is the idea of big joy! It’s the kind of rejoicing that is…

  • exceedingly great!
  • overflowing!
  • bubbling up!
  • never ending!
  • continuously gushing!

Why would Paul make this kind of rejoicing a command? Because God is serious about pointing us to the only path that will guard our hearts and minds. When we are rejoicing, praying, and thanksgiving, then the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7).

Do you realize how much of our worrying is pointless? My friend Scott pointed out the following research:

  • 40% of the things we worry about will never even happen
  • 30% of the things we worry about happened in the past and cannot be changed
  • 12% of our worries are regarding health issues we don’t even have
  • 10% of our worries are about our friends and loved ones which are based on rumors

That means … only 8% of the things we worry about have any basis in reality!

Think about that—9 out of 10 things that consume our minds with worry aren’t even worth our time!

That’s why Paul commands rejoicing as a means to freedom and peace.

  • What should we worry about? Nothing! 
  • What should we pray about? Everything!
  • What should rejoice about? All things!  

This is the one and only path to transcendent peace! 

This is part two in our series The Antidote For Anxiety. Be sure to check out the video below, and also check out the first part of this series—Honk! Honk! Honk!

9 More Quotes From “Marching Off The Map”

Dr. Tim Elmore has given parents, teachers, coaches, and anyone else who works with students some excellent insights in his book Marching Off The Map. Here are a few more quotes from Dr. Elmore.

“The Latin root word for ‘educate’ is ‘ducere’ which means to ‘push out.’ … We should not put students in a passive mode as we teach. We must be inspirers of learning. We must help pull ambition out of them, not push information into them.”

“According to Dr. Michael Leahy, ‘Today’s typical high school student endures the same anxiety levels as a psychiatric patient did in the early 1950s.’ In any given year, about one in five will experience an anxiety attack. Why? Their world is overwhelming, cluttered with information coming at them at the rate of a thousand messages a day.”

“Thousands of Baby Boomers retire each day in America. They will leave leadership positions needing to be filled. Even if everyone in Generation X were a brilliant leader, there would not be enough of them to fill the vacancies left by the Boomers. The young adults among the Millennial Generation will be needed for leadership, ready or not.”

“Although our young adults are rich in potential—we don’t really expect them to perform responsible acts until a full decade later that we expected a century ago. I believe it’s detrimental both for our kids and our society. In many states, we give them the rights to adulthood at 18 or 21, like smoking, drinking or voting. We don’t, however, expect the responsibilities that accompanied those rights. It’s unhealthy. The rights and responsibilities should always go together.”

“Remember that children (in general) cannot comprehend an addictive behavior. Adults must lead them into healthy moderation, where they both understand and enjoy technology, but utilize it as a ‘servant.’ 

“Remember that children will choose ice cream over lima beans—and screens over the healthy alternatives for play. While there are some exceptions, adults must be the ones to lead them in their emotional development, and introduce behaviors and habits that produce maturity.

“Remember that children are drawn to entertainment, whether or not they learn something from it. … Adults must leverage what they’re magnetically drawn to and make it beneficial.”

“Wise leaders utilize vision that can see both backward and forward. They look back and learn from the past. They glean from past mistakes in order to avoid repeating them. Additionally, they seek what was helpful and timeless so they can carry those elements forward. They swing backward so they can swing forward well.”

“A culture that offers the young information and autonomy without requiring equal parts accountability and responsibility produces ‘unready’ adults.”

“Students are incentivized if they know why a topic is relevant before they learn. Students bond with an experience more than a lecture. Students comprehend information when it’s connected to a narrative. Students remember data when an image is utilized in their learning.”

“Effective teachers don’t say as much as possible. They actually say as little as needed—allowing students to get on with their learning.”

You can also check out my review of Marching Off The Map by clicking here. The first set of quotes (and an infographic) I shared from the book are here, and a set of quotes that Dr. Elmore shared in his book are here.

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