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Overwhelmed But Not Overcome

July 28th, 2017

Emotions provide color and beauty to life.

 “I will cry to You, When my heart is overwhelmed.”  Psalm 61:2 NKJV.

My thoughts and comments today are about being, “Overwhelmed But Not Overcome.”

Feelings enrich your experience of life. But there are times when feelings are confusing, even overwhelming. In such times, you can find comfort and companionship from Jesus. “In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 NIV. Feelings are real but they are not always right. You have to deal with them but you do not have to believe them. There will be times when you may wish you didn’t have so many feelings to contend with. But I would not want to be without emotions, nor should you. Emotions also provide color and beauty to your life experience.

Jesus felt crushing emotions and dealt with them, as when He agonized over Jerusalem’s rejection. Luke 13:34-35 NIV. Or as He wept in Gethsemane’s garden when He foresaw the suffering of the cross. Luke 22:42 NIV. There is good news for such times. “[Jesus] understands our weaknesses, for He faced all of the same temptations we do, yet He did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it.” Hebrews 4:15-16 NLT.

At such times, easy answers won’t comfort you nor will empty platitudes that urge you to ignore or deny your feelings make feelings go away. I have learned that feelings are real, whether positive or negative, and you must reckon with them. Denying troubling feelings only amplifies their power. They won’t just go away because you wish they would. You should deal with them. You do not have to submit to them. Your feelings are real, but not always based in reality. Ofttimes, it is better to doubt them than believe them. Don’t become a slave to your emotions.

Embrace and enjoy healthy emotions; God gave them for your blessing. But what can you do with the unhealthy ones – like anger, fear, discouragement, worry, doubt, frustration, jealousy, or distress? God always has the answer. “Everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.” 1 John 5:4 NIV. First, do not indulge feeling guilty for honest emotions, nor continue entertaining unhealthy emotions either. Bring them out in the open. Without shame, place them in God’s presence where the Holy Spirit can help you handle every emotion. That’s what Jesus did in His agony, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow . . Father, please take this suffering away from Me. Yet I want Your will, not mine.” Mark 14:34 NIV/36 NLT. You can fully trust God in such moments, if you will.

To understand feelings, you must examine their origins. Sometimes, only God can expose the source of your feelings. When emotions overrule your will, bad feelings prompt bad choices. The Holy Spirit within you will always give you the power and wisdom to make right choices, if you ask. Remove the hurry and you reduce the worry.

More than circumstances, busy schedules are the root cause of feeling overwhelmed. You feel overwhelmed when stuff pushes God to the outer edges of your life. When you are overwhelmed: make time to recuperate physically, mentally, relationally, emotionally, and spiritually. Take time to rest. You must prioritize the necessary time. Take time to share your need for prayer with a friend. Take time to quiet your heart in God’s presence. “I am content and at peace, as a child lies quietly in its mother’s arms, so my heart is quiet within me.” Psalm 131:2 TEV. Take time to pray, asking God for help and healing. Take time to listen, until you hear a fresh, invigorating word from God.

Feeling the emotions of circumstances beyond his strength, David determined, “I will cry to You for help, for my heart is overwhelmed. Lead me to the towering Rock of safety, for You are my safe refuge.” Psalm 61:2 NLT.

Today, I pray for you to choose daily to live by strong faith and not strong feelings.

Christian Communications 2017-0579

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New Life

January 1st, 2016

“We too may live a new life.” Romans 6:4 NIV.

Your choices today shape your life tomorrow.

My thoughts and comments today are about “new life.”

A New Year always seems a brief but welcome invitation to a fresh start. In the change of calendar, an opportunity is presented to change what has been and what can be. The Apostle Paul told the Christians in Rome that their faith in Christ provided the possibility and power that, “we too may live a new life.” Read Romans 6:4-11 NIV. In my spiritual journey, the beginning of a year has often been pivotal.

When just ten years old, I made a life-long decision to know and serve Jesus. In a New Year’s Revival in my father’s church, Mrs. Rice, a Sunday School teacher, asked to pray with me. In the first days of 1952, I committed my young life to Jesus and found the “new life” the Bible promises.

Years later as an adult and pastor in San Jose, California, and in the first minutes of January 1975, an elderly church member, Mrs. Eaton, was going home from the New Year’s Eve service when she asked her husband to turn around and return to the church. God had given her a message for me. Everyone but the janitor and I were already gone as she walked down the center aisle of that semi-darkened church, straight toward me. She told me how God had spoken to her, took my hands in hers, looked deep into my eyes, and said, “Pastor Allen, God asked me to tell you, ‘He loves you, and He is not finished with you.’” With that, she turned and left me alone with God.

Everything changed inside my heart. Apart from God, she could not have known what I had told no one. With the New Year, I would seek a career in business. That would have been a tragic mistake, forever altering the direction of my life and diminishing the destiny of our family. When I think of our children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren today, I am grateful for the mercies and faithfulness of God. In those earliest minutes of a New Year, God’s personal word to me of His care and calling continues to shape my life and our family today. Again, I found a fresh measure of “new life” in Christ.

Only God could have known that in the spring of that same year, the invitation to pastor Trinity Church here in San Antonio would be extended to me, where Gayle and I continued to serve joyfully for more than 36 years. God’s faithfulness in those first moments of a new year protected me and our family from an error of judgment that would have changed everything about our lives since. Remember. The choices you make today shape your future as well as the future of others. Choose prayerfully and carefully. Being in the right place at the right time doing the right thing is more consequential than you can foresee.

The world anticipates this New Year in hope of things being better, their lives being different than they were. A change of calendar changes nothing without a significant, spiritual change in your heart. You will not embrace new life fully until you are sick and tired of who you’ve been. The problem is that things once done are not easily undone. You alone cannot alter the past; the good news is that with God’s help, you can. “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal . .” Read Philippians 3:13-14 NIV.

Real change is not cosmetic; it requires a different course and transformed character. My friend and mentor, Kenny, always reminded me and others, “You won’t have a New Year without becoming a new you.” These earliest, beginning moments of a new year offer an opportune time to lay old things aside and begin anew, experiencing a fresh start and lasting change. What do you need to change for you to be new again?

The church and every Christ-follower can celebrate the New Year, grateful to God that He has taken away the old mistakes and sins of your past, and given forgiveness and a fresh start in Christ. “If anyone is in Christ Jesus, he is a new creation; the old has gone; the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV. You can embrace God’s promise and power for “new life” any time you are ready and willing.

God’s Word gives good advice for your transition into the New Year, “Lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfector of faith . .” Hebrews 12:1-2 NAS. I bid farewell to the year just past, grateful for God’s faithfulness and provision; I embrace this new year anticipating God’s gracious providence and wondrous possibilities.

Today, I pray for you to release anything that hurts or hinders your spiritual progress.

Christian Communications

Family picture Nov 2015 EDIT

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Love Spoken Out Loud

May 26th, 2015

“God will not forget the love you have shown Him as you have helped His people.” Hebrews 6:10 NKJV.

Love is best seen in everyday kindnesses more than grand gestures.

My thoughts and comments today are about “love spoken out loud.”

There is much in our world that poses as love. Everything that claims to be love or looks like love isn’t necessarily love. Sometimes, it is just a temporary emotion, as evidenced by the accelerating frequency of infidelity or divorce. Emotions neither prove love, nor produce love; instead, emotions are merely a by-product of love.

Love is both a choice and a learned response. You choose to love others because you have been selflessly loved. That could explain why a loving family begins with the sure and sincere love of parents for each other. Children learn to be loving by experiencing secure love surrounding them. As beloved children and later as adults, we learn to be loving husbands or wives, loving parents, and loving friends.

Love can be hard to define but easy to recognize. More than once, God is described in the simplest of terms, “God is love.” Read 1 John 4:7-12/15 NIV. That being true, where else but the Bible could you find the accurate description of love? “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 NIV. Love never fails; people fail to love.

For me, a few simple words define love. “Love, to be authentic, must be practical and observable.” Our friend, Betty, is a remarkable, loving lady who has a unique ministry. She gives cakes for people’s special occasions. She probably could make any kind but her specialties are German Chocolate or Coconut cakes, and she bakes those exquisitely. Recently, when she found it was my stepfather’s 94th birthday, she baked a Coconut cake, his favorite. My wife eloquently described Betty’s kindness as, “Love spoken out loud.” Maybe love looks like baking a cake, even when he is not your grandpa.

Love is best seen in everyday kindnesses more than grand gestures. Maybe love is doing more than could be expected or required, or offering help without needing to be asked, or sacrificing for someone without need for notice or regard for reward. This rings true. “What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say to the contrary.” Ralph Waldo Emerson.

I have been considering a simple question; what does love for God really look like? The answer was simpler than I assumed. “God is not unjust; He will not forget your work and the love you have shown Him as you have helped His people and continue to help them.” Hebrews 6:10 NIV. Your unforgettable “work and the love you have shown Him,” is witnessed in a lifestyle of helping others in ways, small and large; that is, “love spoken out loud.”

Today, I pray for you that your life will accurately express your love for God.

EDL pix love expressed

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Simple Choices

March 27th, 2015

“If anyone would come after Me, he must . . follow Me.” Mark 8:34 NIV.

Religion is complicated; spirituality is simple.

My thoughts and comments today are about “simple choices.”

A healthy, robust spiritual life is possible for you. Certainly, that requires intention, attention, and priority. Spiritual life is not for the casual soul; it is achieved purposefully. Spirituality is not as difficult as some people often make it out to be. Some assume, or have been wrongly taught, that spiritual life is about religious rules, regulations to learn, duties to perform, strict laws to obey, or religious protocols to be observed.

Religion is complicated; spirituality is simple. The prophet, Isaiah, described the simplicity of spirituality for the sincere seeker, “Whoever walks the road [called the Highway of Holiness], although a fool, shall not go astray.” Isaiah 35:8. It is not about your intelligence; it is about your obedience.

In the New Testament, people frequently asked to be Jesus’ disciple. On other occasions, Jesus invited people to be His disciples. Either way the choice remained theirs to make, just like your invitation to be His disciple is always yours to accept or decline. Following Jesus’ baptism by John, Jesus began calling for men to be His disciples. Some readily did so; others reluctantly declined.

Jesus’ invitation was simple; still is. “’Come, follow Me,’ Jesus said.” Read Mark 1:16-20 NIV. Their response to His invitation was immediate. “At once they left their nets and followed Him.” In Jesus’ company, less and less of your old life compares with the new life you receive. Read Psalm 16:11/2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV. Godly choices aren’t simple to make; they are simple when made.

Jesus wrapped profound and eternal truth in everyday stories, comparing one’s discovery of the Kingdom with a man finding buried treasure in a field and a merchant finding an incomparable pearl, and both selling all they had to possess what they once never imagined could be theirs. Read Matthew 13:44-46 NIV. When you follow Jesus, He gives you a life beyond all you could previously imagine or hope to obtain. See Romans 15:5-6 NIV. Jesus alone is the answer to every question and fulfillment of each desire.

If you are following Jesus, your life can be an example and encouragement to others who want to follow Him, as Paul encouraged the Christians at Corinth, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 11:1 NIV. Seeing a practical model of someone who is faithfully following Jesus helps tremendously. I am thankful for every Godly friend and spiritual mentor – Kenny, Campbell, Des, Don, Andrew, Rick, too many more to name really – who provided me with living examples and personal encouragement of being a Christ-follower. I continue to learn how to follow Jesus by watching them follow Him.

Jesus wrapped profound and eternal truth in everyday stories, comparing one’s discovery of the Kingdom with a man finding buried treasure in a field and a merchant finding an incomparable pearl, and both selling all they had to possess what they once never imagined could be theirs. Read Matthew 13:44-46 NIV. When you follow Jesus, He gives you a life beyond all you could previously imagine or hope to obtain. Jesus alone is the answer to every question and the fulfillment of every desire.

Yes, there are sacrifices to make; there are things to abandon; there are new loyalties and a cross to embrace. “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me and for the Gospel will save it.” Read Mark 8:34-38 NIV.

If you are following Jesus with a whole heart, He has much more ahead for you than what you ever leave behind. At the heart of spiritual life is your response to Jesus’ simple invitation to follow Him. “Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Read Matthew 6:31-33 NIV.

Today, my prayer for you is, “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 15:5-6 NIV.

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Reputation and Character

March 14th, 2014

“Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve.” Joshua 24:15 NIV.

Choices are made in a moment yet reach far into your future, shaping destiny.

My thoughts and comments today are about “reputation and character.”

When you are young, you can’t wait until you can make all of your own choices, with no one telling you what you can or can’t do. If and when you reach that goal, the problem begins. You make your own choices, but soon discover that every choice has consequences. Some you know when you make them; others you discover much later. Choices are important. Make them wisely.

Many are small; some much larger than they might first appear. Choices are made in a moment yet reach far into your future, shaping destiny. Someone observed, “Our lives are like icebergs. Only 15 percent is visible; that’s reputation. The rest, our character, rests below the surface, hidden.” Reputation is what people think of you because of what you appear to be; character is what both you and God know that you are.

Character is how you handle failures with honesty and successes with humility. You know people possessing Godly character and people lacking it. Somehow you can tell the difference. You may not realize what that difference is but that difference is character, what the Bible calls integrity. Outer charisma never substitutes for inner character. A person with character remains what they appear to be, conduct themselves as they should, and do what reflects true character, whatever the immediate and external pressure to do otherwise.

Every small choice that you make along the way prepares you to make the tough choices when needed. Right choices, when it would be less costly to do otherwise, develop and reveal character. Joseph demonstrated character in spite of temptation. See Genesis 39:7-12 NIV. Daniel demonstrated character in spite of persecution and threats. See Daniel 6:10-15 NKJV. ”Guard my life and rescue me; let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you. May integrity and uprightness protect me, because my hope is in You.” Psalm 25:20-21 NIV.

You are the product of your choices, the big ones and the apparently small ones, the obvious ones and the difficult ones with which you struggle. You build inner strength each time you make the right choice. Every time you don’t, you sacrifice some bit of your self-respect. Whether anyone would ever know of your choice doesn’t really matter; you will know you chose to do what was consistent with your character. “The integrity of the upright will guide them, but the crookedness of the treacherous will destroy them.” Proverbs 11:3 NAS.

Blaming circumstances or others for what you are or do lacks character. Circumstances and the actions of others are well beyond your control, but your character is your choice alone. Blame is an excuse and as inaccurate as faulting a mirror for your looks. Developing character and retaining integrity are always your choice. Make that choice on every occasion in every situation.

Joshua knew where real character begins and how it is sustained, “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve . . but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15. The far reaching decision that affects character is your choice to obey the Lord only and always. “As for me, You uphold me in my integrity, and set me before Your face forever.” Psalm 41:12 NKJV.

My prayer for you today is that you make wise and Godly choices, no matter the option.

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