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Jeremiah Johnston: Unleashing Peace

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
The Truth Network Radio
October 20, 2022 3:00 am

Jeremiah Johnston: Unleashing Peace

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

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October 20, 2022 3:00 am

Hungering for peace from God with no idea how to get there? Scholar and author Jeremiah Johnston points the way to uncovering shalom in every area of life.

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The mission from Jeremiah Johnston with creating Christian Thinkers Society is to teach Christians to become Thinkers and Thinkers to Become Christians.

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The peace of God will always come when I have a plan.

I've sat across from business people, highly successful. They can tell you their retirement accounts, their stock accounts, they have financial plans, but they don't have the peace plan. You know, the world has a prescription for peace that will absolutely destroy our lives.

Jesus has this prescription for peace in our lives that enriches it, and it's called Shalom. Welcome to Family Life Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm Ann Wilson. And I'm Dave Wilson, and you can find us at or on the Family Life app.

This is Family Life Today. So one of the most anxious moments of my life. You remember? You know where I'm going to go?

Yes, I totally know. I had pneumonia, go back after antibiotics to get another check x-ray just to make sure it's all clear. And the doctor, he's just an MD, says to me, you need to go see a pulmonary specialist. I'm like, what are you talking about? He goes, just give this guy a call.

So I call this guy and they get me in like the next day. And I drive in there and I'll never forget, I'm sitting on a doctor's table. And he pulls up my x-ray and he goes, hey, this isn't good news. You've got cancer. I go, what? He goes, there's spots all through your lungs.

I don't know if it's malignant. And I never forget, I looked at him, I go, I don't have cancer. He goes, oh, really? And I'm like, I feel great. You know, I'm playing basketball full court. I'm in great shape. He goes, well, I'm the doctor and you're the patient. And trust me, you have some form of cancer.

We need to find out. You need to drive home, talk to your wife and make a decision. So I'm driving home. And I wasn't with you because we didn't think it was that big of a deal. And we had little kids. I think we have an infant.

So we had three of our boys and they were all five and under. Yeah. And I'm driving home, halfway home, I'm like, I don't have cancer. And then the second half, I'm like, oh my goodness, I might have cancer.

You talk about anxiety. And as soon as I stepped in the door and saw Ann, I just start crying. I grabbed you.

Yeah. We fell in our little La-Z-Boy chair. And when you just started crying with me, and then I'll never forget. I was sitting on your lap and it gets unusual for you to cry like that. You remember the moment that you go, so what are we crying about? And I go, he just said, I have cancer. And you're like, oh, we start crying like double. Anyway, I mean, that was a moment because for two weeks we did not know. And obviously I'm sitting here. It was, and I'll never forget, a specialist said, did you ever live in San Bernardino?

I'm like, yeah, I went to seminary in San Bernardino. He goes, well, there's cases where people get spots in their lungs from the smog there. From the scar tissue. Anyway, that was pretty much the diagnosis, but to live with that kind of anxiety. I mean, here I am and it was only a couple of weeks, is what a lot of people live with daily. Yeah. And I think Dave too, I think back then life seemed a little simpler, even though that diagnosis, what they were saying was so traumatic. I'm thinking of the days we're living in now.

Oh yeah. Where so many have lost loved ones through the pandemic. You know, there's wars, there's rumors of wars.

There's so many things going on. And our kids are suffering with this, with anxiety, depression. We as parents are struggling with that. And so it's something I think we really need help with. Yeah.

I mean, everybody's looking for peace. Right. And so we've got Dr. Jeremiah Johnston in the Family Life Studio today. Welcome to Family Life Today. Dave and Ann, it's so great to be with you. I feel like we're fast friends already.

I do too. You're sitting over there. I mean, as you hear that story, what are you thinking?

You know what? I'm just, my heart goes out to you because we've all had those moments where we have to go beyond the bumper sticker theology and it's rubber meets the road. Christianity where, Lord, are you really there? Yeah. And you pray those prayers like Hezekiah prayed and others.

And like, I'm thinking about even Habakkuk right now. God, are you dead? Are you, you know, we all pray way too religiously by the way. And so we need to pray like the prophets and the psalmist prayed. Lord, are you really there in this moment? And that's the great thing for people listening to us right now. That's why Christianity is true. It meets us at our deepest, darkest moments in our most intense battles, our most intense questions.

And so that's why I wanted to write a book on shalom, on how we can experience the peace, the shalom of God, because we talk about it a lot and yet it seems so elusive, especially in those defining moments. Yeah. And so you travel around the country, you're president of Christian Thinkers.

There's more letters behind your name than anywhere, doctor, MA, PhD, MDiv. But you really help people answer the tough questions. And you're down here in Orlando with your wife and five kids.

That's right. So you're probably exhausted right now. You got triplet boys. We have triplets. So all you need to know about me, I'm the overstressed father of multiples.

I haven't slept in six years because the triplets are almost six. So, but no, it's a blessing to answer these questions because in my mind, for me, it's all about being a follower of Jesus. And if everything I say is true about the Bible and the scriptures and Jesus our Savior and God, the God of the Bible, He can take our most difficult questions.

And what's been amazing, Dave and Ann, and I've been doing this now for a minute. I've received thousands of questions. So we started Christian Thinkers over a decade ago, 12 years we've been taking questions from people, all different denominations, not just in the United States, in Canada and the United Kingdom as well. This is my number one question from believers. The whole question of anxiety, depression, mental illness, mental pain, as C.S. Lewis called it, he struggled with it.

J.B. Phillips struggled with it. And as a church, we have not done a good enough job answering this question. The Bible has so much to say about how we think and about what we feel and how we can process emotions. And I just wanted to get beyond the bumper sticker theology. And also, I've experienced newsflash anxiety in my own life.

We all have. Anxiety isn't dangerous. And I had heard some stuff even from pulpits that I would basically equate to spiritual malpractice about not really ministering and helping people with what the Bible actually says. You're not a second rate Christian if you've struggled with depression or anxiety. Medicine is a gift from God.

We need to establish a peace plan for our lives. And so as a Ph.D., I know a lot about a little, Dave. OK, so I know a lot about a little. The little I happen to know a lot about is the gospels and Jesus. And so Jesus lived in the Shalom of God. He is Shalom personified. We can't really understand the Christian life if we don't understand the one word that is the greatest descriptor of the Bible. And there's 760,000 words in the English Bible. And if you were to ask me, like, if we're never going to see each other at a train station someday, Jeremiah described the Bible to me in one word. It's the word Shalom. And I wanted to investigate that as a gospel scholar. And then I wanted to introduce or reintroduce believers in Jesus Christ to this term because it's so elusive. And yet as Christians, we need to live in a theology of Shalom every day for those anxious moments like you described. Yeah, you know, I've been preaching for 30 years.

I don't think I could tell you the understanding of that word. Right. So let's go. Absolutely.

Let's dive in. And you're not alone. I was there, too. And so many believers are there. And it's so much more than a greeting. Shalom is translated 70 different ways than the NIV Bible alone. Shalom, and I want to make sure we understand this Hebraic understanding, how Jesus would have understand Shalom.

It shows up 550 times in the Bible, this word Shalom. We can't understand joy. We can't understand the fruit of the Spirit.

We can't understand happiness in the Christian life, the Beatitudes. That word Asher in Hebrew means happy if we don't understand the foundational message of Shalom. And it's beautiful in the Hebraic sense. I love the Hebrew language because it's almost tangible.

It's visual. God wants to fill you with a flourishing in your life that even in those anxious moments, you can hold on knowing that God's already holding you. You can be filled with the Shalom of God, which is a flourishing, it's a restorative peace.

It literally means to lack nothing in the Hebrew language. And so we have this tension that we can receive a diagnosis or you can have an unexplained medical condition or be dealing with grief or loss. And yet it's the tension that I can still live in the Shalom and the peace of God. Now, we don't get there in the seconds.

We don't get there in the time of a podcast. But what I'm praying that these programs do is simply guide believers by the hand. You know, we often think of the Apostle Paul. Okay, he saw the Lord, we think at least seven times.

We can speculate. He saw the Lord seven times. He heard the voice of Jesus in 2 Corinthians 12, his very audible words.

Okay, we call that oracular form. And yet Paul was still a professional warrior. And we often... Why do you say he was a warrior? Like some people hear that and they're like, what? Yeah, and this is again, we have to take the stigma away. That's number one. And I thank God for you all being willing to do a broadcast like this.

We have to remove the stigma of anxiety. It's there. It was there in Paul's life. He's a professional warrior because in 2 Corinthians 2, literally verse 13, he says, he's intro-esque. God has opened this huge door of ministry for him. And yet he says, I have no peace of mind. Have you been there? I've been there. Lord, you've opened this incredible door for me and yet I have no peace of mind. And seven years later, he's in Philippi in a jail cell.

You couldn't say that he had this great door open to him. And yet he gives us the greatest anti-anxiety passage in all the Bible, Philippians 4, be anxious for nothing. He summarizes Shalom in 32 English words in Philippians 4, 8. So, I want to let people know too, transformation is a process. So, first off, it is God's will for you to live in Shalom. I don't have to question that. If you love Jesus, if you have peace with God through Jesus Christ, that's the first step, Romans 5-1, then it is time to experience the God of peace.

But that's where my book was needed, Dave and Ann, because it's like, okay, I get it. Now, how do I get to the peace? I know I'm a Christian. I know I follow Jesus as my Savior. I have peace with God through Jesus Christ, being justified by faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. But there wasn't a roadmap for me of how to build peace in my life. And that's where I wanted to investigate Shalom and help people get there.

Well, Jeremiah, what did that look like for you? Because I'm imagining this for a lot of people. Do you remember that game Kerplunk?

Yes, absolutely. You have the marbles in and you have all these little sticks that hold it in. It's a great analogy. I feel like we know in our heads that the Bible says, He will give us peace, we can experience that. But if you take those marbles out, it's hard for us sometimes to get it into, we're living it. We're experiencing this peace. We can hear it. We know it intellectually. But for you, what did that look like?

You know what the scripture says, but then how did you start living it out? I'm guessing that's your plan. Absolutely.

You're spot on. And that's such a great analogy because we've all been there again. I want to remove the stigma. We know that we sense that. And yet this is where as a church, and I appreciate your all's ministry so much in this radio broadcast, because there is so much skepticism out there. The skepticism is getting more sophisticated. And so we need to be more sophisticated in how we articulate our faith and how we experience it. And this whole question of peace is the number one question, as I mentioned, that I've been asked.

And so how did I get there? I realized that hope comes when I have a plan. The peace of God will always come when I have a plan. And what's amazing, Dave and Anne, is I've sat across from business people, highly successful. They can tell you their retirement accounts, their stock accounts, they have financial plans, but they don't have the peace plan.

And that is the great revival and outcome that is coming out of this book, is people are reading it in their email. I mean, they're saying, Jeremiah, I've just established a peace plan for my life. First, I have to understand biblically, I can live in the shalom of God. God wants me to flourish.

He wants me to lack nothing. Secondly, I realized Paul and others struggled with anxiety that debilitated them, so I'm not alone. Thirdly, I have to plan for the peace of God. And then I wanted to help people with the very practical steps of what it looks like to live in the peace of God every single day.

And so the first step seems so elemental, and yet it is probably the hardest. You have to start intentionally planning for peace in your life. So I'm going to say no to certain things for the bigger yes of God's peace in my life. Every person that's not a planner just said, oh no. I'm in that category. You know, I blow in, blow up, and blow out. So I mean, I'm here with my entourage today, my five kids and my amazing wife. Are you experiencing peace in the middle of a Disney world trip? You know what?

No, if I'm being honest, yes. And so, you know, this whole thing of unlocking the peace of God in our life through intentionally planning on it, and then also equipping believers with how we can then be agents of peace. And one of the most important questions we can also ask ourselves, am I bringing conflict or am I bringing peace in my community? You know, Matthew 5 19, Jesus said, blessed are the shalom makers, the peacemakers. And so even writing a book on peace, I'd ask myself, Lord, am I bringing conflict or peace in my family? And again, it's amazing how the world, you know, as I evaluate, like you said, the world today, wars, rumors of wars, so much turmoil. It reminds me of the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel. They said, you look for peace when there is no peace. You know, the world has a prescription for peace that will absolutely destroy our lives. Jesus has this prescription for peace in our lives that enriches it, and it's called shalom.

And so we have to get there. And so that's the beauty of this book, and I think that's why God is blessing it. You seem to land a lot on thinking.

Thinking. I've even watched you walk through Philippians 4, 6, and 7, which, you know, as a pastor, I've preached that many times. It's probably one of the verses we all memorize because we need it so much, and it's so practical. But what you did, I'd never seen done, is it's so easy to go Philippians 4, 6, and 7.

You know, don't worry about anything but everything but prayer and petition, let your requests be made known, and the peace of God, and end there. Which I'd love to hear your thoughts on that. But you then went to verse 8, where it talks about the mind, and connected what we think about to the peace we experience. Help us understand that.

Absolutely. Again, this is where it's so fun, and the Scriptures help us answer these difficult questions, Dave, and thank you for asking such great questions, both of you. So, the peace of God, according to the Christian life, according to shalom, is anchored by one word, thinking. It's an action word. It's a verb.

It's logizimai. It's taking into account all that is mine in Christ. The more I make myself aware of my beliefs, the more peace of God I'm going to have in my life. The more I'm aware of who God is, His plan for my life, and His plan is to bless me. As the four spiritual laws say right over here near this building, He has a great plan for my life. Living, now that doesn't mean it's perfection.

And by the way, perfection is not our goal. Freedom is. God wants to give us freedom. Shalom, an adjective I have for shalom is freedom. God wants to bring us freedom. But it is all anchored in thinking. I mentioned Philippians 4-8 a minute ago.

Depending on which English version, it's around 32 words or 39. There's only one verb, and it's thinking. Our peace will come when we think about certain things. And so, as a believer in Jesus Christ, I have to get really good at mental discipline if I'm going to live in the peace of God. Because today, we're going to touch our phones 2,000 times.

We're going to see 10,000 media messages every single day. So many of them are full of lies. And we have to be truth tellers to ourself. We have to speak truth to ourselves. The worst thing I can do, according to Psalm 42 and 43, is listen to my heart. My heart's desperately wicked and crazy.

Who can know it? I have to speak truth to my heart like the psalmist did in Psalm 42 and 43. Why are you downcast, my soul? Why are you disquieted within me?

Take hope in God. So, you know, every day, like Jerry Bridges said, we need to preach the gospel to ourselves. We need to remind ourselves of the truth of God's Word to get through the fiction of all the lies. But, you know, again, you all do this all the time.

You do this at an international level. You know how many Christians are just so bogged down and they're paralyzed by the lies. I mean, I've did that for years without even realizing what I was thinking about because I was in a habit and a pattern growing up, not in a Christian home, very performance oriented. Right. So, I continually told myself, you're no good at that. You'll never measure up at that.

You can't do that. Not even aware until I became a Christian. I started writing down the things you say to yourself throughout the day. So, I wrote those down and when I saw it, I thought, no wonder.

It's exactly what you're saying. Like, this is my pattern. And so, do you do that?

Have you gone through with people? Like, start taking note of what you're thinking. Absolutely. We have to keep better inventory of our thought life and what we focus on. Now, here's the thing. I can't help the crazy thoughts that come in my head. We'll have 6,000 thoughts today. That's what psychologists say. Sometimes I feel like I have 60,000 and so many of them are called intrusive thoughts. And the greatest thing you can do is just like a drunk guy in the corner screaming his head off at people who don't even know what he's doing is ignore them. When you want to start engaging with the crazy intrusive thoughts that come in your head, it's like poking an ant pile. It just gets worse.

You get a swarm of them on top of one. And so, you know, I don't call out to them. I don't even engage them. I just stay focused on the truth. And so, living in the peace of God for me is about bolting my life to truth, staying focused on the truth, practicing what you said, replacement therapy, replacing these lies for the truth of God and the truth of His word.

And then also, this is huge. At the end of the day, when we get those calls, Dave, or those appointments like you had, because I had a totally unplanned medical procedure myself recently, we have to live by faith in God's promises, not His explanations. So many of us, we want an explanation when God wants us to live on the promise. Okay, you got to unpack that a little bit. It's so hard to do too.

It is. And listen, I'm not speaking from perfection. I am speaking though from experience that no one faith explanations in the Bible.

They all faith God's promises. Habakkuk asked God for an explanation. When you read the 56 verses of the book of Habakkuk, we really get a window into his prayer journal. And he says, God, give me an answer. You know, God, are you alive?

Are you dead, God? God says, if I told you what I was doing, you couldn't even handle it, Habakkuk. Habakkuk asked God again to give him the reason why all this is happening. And God just starts to explain and Habakkuk passes out.

And then chapter three, Habakkuk gives us the greatest visual picture of what faith looks like in Habakkuk chapter three. Even though the barns are empty, even though there's no cows in the hills, God, I'm going to trust you, I'm going to faith your promises, not your explanations, because we don't live on explanations. You lived on the promise you'd be healed. You lived on the promise, you know, they probably couldn't explain to you exactly why and where and how cancer happened in your life.

But you lived on the promise that it was going to be taken care of. And that's what God wants us to do. And the really cool thing is, and I love this, there's 7,487 promises in God's Word.

Now there's 3,200 questions, which I love. I love the fact that we have two promises for every question in the Bible. God wants us to ask those questions.

But listen, He wants us to live in the promises. So how do we think our way out of the anxiety? Because, you know, I think I've done this, I'm guessing everybody's late in bed at night. You wake up at two or three in the morning.

Right. You have a feeling of dread. And thoughts start going, whether it's a bank account number. Wait, do you do this?

Oh my goodness. I feel like you're just snoozing away over there. I do this. I mean, we all do this. You got to be kidding me. You don't do it very often.

I don't roll around and wake her up. But, you know, last 18 months or so, I went through succession after 30 years of helping lead our church. There were all kinds of anxious thought about the future, about, you know, financially, everything.

It was hard to take every thought captive. 2 Corinthians 10, you know, I knew it. Yes. But you're right, I had to rest in, Shalom came when I said, you're with me, you've got me.

Right. I don't need to be nervous or anxious about it. I can trust you. Is that how simple it is?

Because then it would come back in five minutes. It sounds simple. It's actually profound when a believer can get to that place and say, Lord, I'm going to leave it in your hands. I'm going to trust you. And this is why I needed an entire chapter to unpack what I do when I can't feel my faith.

Yeah. Because so many of us, we want to feel our way out of our problems as Christians. That's the absolute worst place you can go is to try to feel your way out of a crisis.

You have to think your way out of a crisis or think your way out of a challenge or problem. That's what the Bible wants us to do. The scriptures to experience Shalom want us to focus on key truths every single day at every single moment. And sometimes, you know, we need to learn to believe the God we trust in. I mean, we need to learn to believe him and we need to learn to live in that trust.

And it's hard to do, but once you do that and you start experiencing that peace, that Shalom, it gets easier and it gets easier to do that. And so, again, it's everything, though, that the world doesn't want us to do. The world wants us to lose our mind. The world wants us to self-medicate, binge, not focus, check out, not be present.

The scriptures wants us to do the exact opposite in all those categories. And something that I want us to all prayerfully get to as well is how we can be more sensitive to all the people in our lives who are struggling with anxiety and depression. And I have an entire chapter dedicated to what it looks like to practice the ministry of presence, which is such an important, crucial key for all of us.

You know, the bar has been put down so low, especially in this post-pandemic world, that if we just won't be a jerk, people are going to know we're a Christian. But we have this great opportunity to practice the ministry of presence with people. And there's ways that we can do that as well. Give us some practical steps that we can take. We're listening to this. We're all tracking.

Like, now what does it look like? Even today, how can I start this process? Here's a very important question I'd ask myself, Ann, because if we would see lives change, our life first must be changed. And my life has been changed by the shalom of God. I'm living in the center of God's will for my life. I have challenges like everyone, but I have never been more excited about what God is doing in my life than I am right now. And I had to go through a deep valley to get here the last two years where I had to really decide if I believed in the shalom of God or not in the peace of God through the faith steps that Audrey and I were feeling led to take. And the most important question that we can answer is, who is helping us manage the anxiety, the uncertainty, and the stress in our life? So what I would like to ask people to prayerfully consider, will you live in the shalom of God? And secondly, will you bring a care team around yourself?

The Christian life has always been lived in community. And as Christian leaders, too much we can get isolated. And that's when the challenges come. And I have an established care team around me that has been transformational for my life. And I want to encourage everyone listening to me to right now begin writing down names of people that could be your care team, that needs to be your medical doctor, that should be a nutritionist. It should be a Christian counselor, a therapist, or psychologist, or psychiatrist. And, you know, we could go off on this, but you know, all these Christian counselors, you can't even hardly get an appointment right now, which is a great thing. But we need more people to go into Christian counseling and Christian therapy ministries because it's so needed. And so a great outcome of this book is, and again, living in the shalom of God is establishing a care team for your life, knowing that you don't have to live the Christian life alone. It's not meant to be lived that way.

But you know, you say, well, Christians don't gossip, they just share prayer requests, you know, again, there's so much stigma that just ignore all the Pharisees, move forward in the peace of God in your life, and then watch the shalom, the flourishing, that lacking nothing sense that God will bring into your life. And that's good counsel from Jeremiah Johnston on family life today. We'll hear some final reflections from Dave and Ann on the importance of leaning on others in just a minute. But first, Jeremiah Johnston has a book called Unleashing Peace, Experiencing God's Shalom in Your Pursuit of Happiness.

You can find a copy at And you know, we do need others. We need the body of Christ, a community of people to help us walk with God. Leaning on others when we're both weak and strong helps us live out a tangible picture of what it means to be connected in ways that make others wonder what is so different about Christians. And when you partner with Family Life and help to make every home a godly home, you're actively taking part in building the body of Christ. You're creating gospel community. So would you consider partnering with us at Family Life to see that gospel community continue to be formed? When you do, we'd love to send you a copy of Jackie Hill Perry's book Holier Than Thou. It's our thanks to you when you partner financially today with us. You can give online at or by calling 800-358-6329.

That's 800-F as in family, L as in life, and then the word today. All right, here's Dave and Anne with Jeremiah Johnston and some final reflections on the importance of being there for each other. Yeah, and I would add, if you're a man, you need a brother. Amen.

If you're a woman, you need a sister. Yes. That when you're anxious and you're waking up at two and you're not going back to sleep, you can be honest and say, dude, I'm struggling. Yes. I'm struggling with finding Shalom. They will help become your buddy, become your sister.

Just walk beside you and say, let's both go back to thinking rightly into the word of God. I have a good friend that at two in the morning, she would wake up. She had five children. Her husband was just in prison for some embezzlement.

She's raising her kids by herself. And in the morning, she'd wake up at two and she was so filled with anxiety. She'd pick up her phone, call her sister, and there was just silence on the phone. And she would just cry and her sister would say, I'm here for you. Amen.

I'm here for you. And then her sister would pray for her and then she'd go back to sleep. Yeah.

But she said for a year, that's the only thing I could do was to call my sister and cry. And she said that was some of the greatest ministry she'd ever experienced. Amen. It's that ministry of presence being there.

And you don't even have, you don't have to have a psychology degree to do that. That's great. So much amazing thoughts and wisdom from Jeremiah Johnston. But tomorrow on Family Life Today, David Ann Wilson will talk again with Jeremiah about leaving the cycle of bitterness and disharmony for peace. On behalf of David Ann Wilson, I'm Shelby Abbott. We'll see you back next time for another edition of Family Life Today. Family Life Today is a production of Family Life, a crew ministry, helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-11-20 17:47:12 / 2022-11-20 18:00:46 / 14

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