Friday, January 3, 2014

Inward Journey

The year 2014 is the year of Journey” was the proclamation I made at the end of 2013.  It was something that the Holy Spirit had revealed to me many months ago. 

I’m fully aware that we’re on a journey here on earth.

However, everything I’ve been studying, heard or watched seemed to be pointing to getting back on track so God could do things in my life that are greater than I could ask or think.

For those who want to take the journey on the road less traveled, we believe it will be a year of spiritual change, growth and opportunity.  It isn’t about mystics, cults, quests or “spirituality,” but drawing nearer to Jesus Christ so that His plan for our lives can be revealed and completed.

It’s not uncommon for people to look back on the year and take stock as to whether or not they had a successful one.  I’m among that lot and did the same, hoping I would have been farther along than I am in meeting some of my life goals.

When I was in my study time the Lord showed me that there were some things that needed tending to if I were to proceed further and reach new heights in all areas of my life.  This would require me to take a look at my inner thoughts, which are the basis of why and how I do things.  If my actions didn’t line up with God’s Word, I needed to know why they didn’t and what I could do to change my responses so they would.

I suppose it wasn’t a coincidence that He started with the letter “A” and continued through the entire alphabet with things that needed a bit of disciplining in my behavior.

Let me take you back a few days to where this all started ... Sunday night.

Angry Words
Angry words can lead to sin.
Things were going well and Christmas Day was totally relaxing, then came Thursday. No we didn’t miss Christmas, but carrying out that sense of calmness sort of “flew” out the window. 

As many of you know last weekend was a pretty big one for us preparing for activities which included a concert. By the time we got home I was really exhausted and just wanted to sleep.  No problem… my husband let me do so. 

Early evening I awoke to overhear a conversation my beloved had with my sister.  In it he was responding to what must have been a question as to how things went that morning.  “Good” he told her, and went into a little of the details.

Now you would have thought that was the proper response, and normally I would have said the same thing.  Not so. I could feel myself getting upset and started to shut down emotionally.  How could he say everything went OK when I could hardly sing the first few songs?

Let me explain. About fifteen minutes into the program, my husband clued me in that I was standing under the heater vent and that’s why my throat literally went dry.  I was guzzling down water (hoping not to burp) and it wasn’t helping.

He had to take over the introductions and “howdy’s”, which is usually what I do for him.  After I moved to another area my voice came back and we were able to continue like nothing happened.

So why was I disturbed about what he said?  Here comes another excuse …

That morning I woke up tired and really anxious (so much so I couldn’t eat anything).  Hoping to eat after the butterflies left, I packed a spoon and butternut squash to eat so I wouldn’t get woozy or lightheaded.

By the time we got to the location it got worse.  When I told my husband about my jitters he said it made him nervous, which he wasn’t and normally isn’t.  Great, now who is going to be the grown-up?

I was embarrassed about a situation I couldn’t control. To shorten the writing about this undisciplined action, our uneasiness carried on until 11:30 pm.  We weren’t fighting (we were too tired), but the mood wasn’t right.  What a way to end a day of worship.

I already knew that my inward journey was about to begin before the New Year started.

Exercising Against Anxiety & Anger Pangs
We must learn when and how to respond correctly.
You’ve heard of growing pains, well sometimes we have anxiety or anger “pangs” that really want to surface in situations we can’t control.
What does that make us?  Normal … normal creatures that have bursts of fleshy feelings like every person on earth has.

Dealing with anxiety, anger and disappointment is where our inward journey to God begins.  It’s one that ranks highly on most people’s list actually, even if that’s not their usual nature.  Generally I don’t get angry, but I can get ticked off when things get out of my control.  I do have an issue with getting anxious if something doesn’t go like I planned. Sound familiar?

Being able to get angry and sin not is really hard, but Jesus says it can be done in Ephesians 4:26.  One of my students once said to me jokingly, that she knew she had to forgive her husband, but wasn’t ready to let go of her anger.  Can you relate to that?
Christ also tells us in Philippians 4:6 that we aren’t to be anxious over anything.
Maybe you’re not like me, but most of the teacher’s I know tend to deal with this issue more than some others.  Anxiety can easily turn to anger if it isn’t stopped right away. Seems this is an area that needs work.

Learning to live a disciplined spiritual life takes practice and work like exercising, but thankfully we have the Word of God to help us. What I’d like to do in the first part of the year is share with you the things Christian’s sometime struggle with when trying not to act out on their anger or anxiety.

Here We Go, Again …
 In trying not to sin when we get angry or anxious, we have to make ourselves do things that we naturally don’t want to do as “flesh” beings. 

One way to do that is going back to the basics of exercising being still before the Lord.

When our soul is “born again” our flesh nature isn’t.   Understanding this, we must break our old flesh habits that keep us from achieving all God wants for us.  This is where spiritual exercising has to become so strong it overtakes our old way of thinking and doing things.

“Do not waste time arguing over godless ideas and old wives’ tales.  Instead, train yourself to be godly.  Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.” (1Timothy 4:7-8 NLT)

Exercising isn’t something on my top ten list of things to do, and I’d love to use this verse as an excuse not to do it. However, the apostle Paul wasn’t referring to our physical bodies needing a workout, but used a comparison to our spiritual body.  We all need to keep fit, but in the end all physical bodies expire.  The spirit body lives forever, and that’s why we need to focus on the spiritual things of this life and eternity.

A spiritually disciplined lifestyle leads to favor from God and mankind when we submit to His will.

Psalm 46:10 tells us to be still and know He is God.  We need to discipline our inner life so we can hear direction from the Lord.  Christians tend to skip through their life journey like kids learning very little about spiritual discipline, because we don’t pause long enough see anything through. 
Inward Starting Point ~ the Heart
It starts in the heart.

So what inward changes do we need to make on this journey we call life in overcoming anxiety, anger or discouragement?  Here are five things you can do starting now.

1)  Start off in the spirit of calmness. This year let’s avoid getting caught up in the pressures of life that causes us to get angry.  Begin the first few moments of the day by spending time with God in prayer and being still before Him.  Listen your way to a good day!  It may prevent you from getting into trouble.

“You (God) will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You, all whose thoughts are fixed on You.” (Isaiah 26:3 NLT)

2) Avoid being contentious at all costs. At times we have relationships that are contentious and we tend to act out in anger rather than see things the way God does.  Do a quick “God help” prayer before you say or do anything.

“Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.” (Colossians 4:2 NLT) 

When you sense something is about to fly out of control, ask the Lord to reveal to you why you’re feeling uncomfortable about the situation.  When we don’t pray we give up our power over the situation.

What’s causing you to get angry or what happened to trigger your anger?  Why are you suddenly feeling anxious or uneasy?

Recognizing these signs will help you change the way you respond, even if you are angry or anxious.  We can’t stop from having moments of anger or anxiety at times, but we can stop them from turning into sin by not acting on our feelings.

3) Make positive confessions followed with proper actions that will lead you to inner peace.  The Bible teaches us that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 
If we have a clean heart, good things will come out in our speaking that lead to God’s blessings.

This isn’t a “positive thinking” method I’m talking about, but a change of words that brings about outward positive results.  Acting on scripture in obedience pleases the Lord and keeps us at peace with Him.  It’s about strengthening our relationship with our Savior.

4) Don’t get discouraged over your progress.  Think back on how you used to respond to a situation similar to this and how far you have come since then.

The inward journey that we want to explore has to do with our relationship with Jesus Christ and learning to be more like Him.  Second Corinthians 4 verses16 -18 tells us not to give up and get discouraged along the route, because we are working toward a greater joy than the things here on earth.

We have to remind ourselves that this is a process and renewing of our mind is something we must do daily.  If you slip a bit, don’t go on a guilt trip.  Get back on the right path for your journey by disciplining yourself in what you’ve learned from the Word of God.

5) Ask God in prayer to give you a heart that wants to receive from Him and His Word.  Pray that your heart is trained and transformed. 

“Therefore, let all the godly pray to You while there is still time, that they may not drown in the floodwaters of judgment.” (Psalm 32:6 NLT)

Remember we are working from the inside out.  Inward to outward transformation, so it will take time.

As part of the inward journey changes, make a confession that starting now these are the steps I will make in taking control over and disciplining my anger and anxiety. 

I will have: A spirit of calmness; Avoid contention; Positive confessions; say I won’t quit; Pray to receive transformation.

If we are to receive the favor, blessings and mercy from God, we have to do our part. Challenges reveal who you really are, so remind yourself that you are doing better.  Take joy in knowing that God’s blessings are already on you to succeed.

None but Jesus by Hillsong with lyrics

Until next time, may God give you favor for the inward journey.

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Content and Image Copyright from Favored1. Do not copy.
Scripture reference was taken from the New King James Bible Version provide by GatewayBible
Image credit: GoogleImages Creative Common License.  Angry Words Image Credit Turning Point Ministries.