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Forever, You Love Me | A Psalm of Peggi Tustan

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Welcome to Real Life . When you think of God, what comes to mind? Lord, you are my refuge. When I am weak, when I am afraid, when I am insecure, I run to you. You are my safe place. I share the deepest secrets of my heart with you. I share my most difficult struggles with you. I confess my ugliest sin to you. When I feel unlovable, when I struggle to love myself, Still, you love me. You forgive me. You wash me. You restore me. You wrap me in the righteousness of your Son. You hear, you understand, you answer my cries. You go before me and behind me. You protect me from harm and evil. You keep me safe. You know every moment of my past. You see every moment of my future. You know me better than I know myself. And still, you love me. I do not have to pretend to be strong, or full of faith. You know the truth, because you know me. I do not have to strive to earn your love and approval. You love me as I am. Because you know me so well, you know what is best for me. Your plans for me are

With Us in the Fire | Daniel 3

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Welcome to Real Life.    "The difference between a good life and a bad life is how well you walk through the fire." –C.G. Jung Is God alone worthy of our worship and devotion, even when he doesn’t rescue us?  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had firsthand experience of not being rescued. They were held as captives in a foreign land. In 605 BC, God had allowed their King Jehoiakim and the land of Judah to be overthrown by the powerful King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. God did not step in and rescue them. And yet, in a pagan land far from home, God did not abandon them. In Babylon, King Nebuchadnezzar erected a golden image ninety feet tall. He was not satisfied to worship this idol alone. He demanded that every person in his kingdom bow before it. And because he was king, everyone did…well, almost everyone. These three Jewish men—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—refused to bow.  King Nebuchadnezzar was furious! He called these men forward and put them to the test. “If you don’t bo

Take This Cup | Luke 22

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Welcome to Real Life.  On the Mount of Olives, the All Powerful One needed strength. Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me. [1] It may be the most poignant prayer in the Bible. It is the night before the cross, the night of Jesus’ most intense spiritual battle, the night before all hell would break loose. Earlier in the evening, Jesus shared a last supper with his disciples. Afterwards, although he knew Judas would betray him, Jesus went as usual  to the Mount of Olives. [2]  He could have gone to an alternate location, a place where Judas did not expect him to go, a place where Judas could not find him. But he did not. When he arrived at the Mount of Olives, he withdrew a stone’s throw from his disciples. He knelt and prayed, “Father, if you are willing take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” Why is this prayer in the Bible? A good portion of Jesus’ life was spent in prayer. Most of these conversations have been hidden from our eyes. But not this one.

Live Fully!

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Welcome to Real Life. How do we live fully? “Dream as if you’ll live forever. Live as if you’ll die today.” –James Dean “I wish I had done more for God when I could, when I was strong and healthy,” my sister Theresa told me. She was in hospice care and contemplating the day she would stand before God and give an account of her life. Rather than contemplate this day of reckoning—some unknowable date in the future—we are more often encouraged to “Carpe diem!” [1]  Life is short, tomorrow is not promised, so make the most of this day. Book the flight. Laugh out loud. Eat dessert first. Don’t just live. Live fully! The Bible actually gives similar encouragement: Redeem the time. [2] Make the most of this day. But not by squeezing in as much pleasure as possible. Rather, fill this day with God and with good. Redeem the time because this life is fleeting. It is like a morning mist that disappears when the sun rises. [3] The longer I live, the quicker the years disappear. So, live fully e

White as Snow: God's Call to Holiness

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Welcome to Real Life . What does it mean to be holy? “True holiness is not achieved by what we do, but what we allow God to do in us.” –Mark Hart As we launch a New Year, I am pondering God’s call to holiness. It’s snowing. The whiteness is blinding after days of dull, dreary rain. Watching the snow, I sense God’s Spirit saying, “I am holy. I live in blinding light. I want you to be holy as well.” God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light , whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen. (1 Timothy 6:15-16 NIV emphasis mine)   Pure. Clean. Blinding light. God is holy. I am not. In fact, I’m far from it. A great gap exists between who I am and who God is calling me to be. Yet, He doesn’t give up on me. He still wants me to be holy. It almost seems unfair. Kindness, compassion, and maybe even love seem do-able. Holiness, however, feels out of my league—like an amateur ath

Christmas: God Invades the Ordinary

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Welcome to Real Life . Today is no ordinary day! “You can find something truly important in an ordinary minute.” –Mitch Albom On an ordinary day, in an ordinary home, to an ordinary young woman, God sent a messenger. “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” [1] With Gabriel’s greeting, Mary’s life was forever changed. Ordinary transformed into extraordinary! Our God delights in invading the ordinary! He chose to enter this world as a baby—just like you and me. He came to an unremarkable town. His birth was announced to working-class shepherds. He was born to a couple with no special status or importance…except in God’s eyes. I wonder why God choose Mary for this extraordinary assignment. Perhaps the answer lies in her response. For although she could not fathom how this miraculous event would occur, she told Gabriel, “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.” And so, it was. On that starry night in Bethlehem, only a few knew the truth. This was

Thanking God for Hard Gifts

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Welcome to Real Life . What are you thankful for? “Anything that causes us to need God is a blessing!” –Nancy DeMoss Wogelmuth In America, God has blessed us with prosperity. The more we have, however, the less we seem to appreciate it. Rather than thankfulness, prosperity often breeds a sense of entitlement and discontent. We continually desire more, better, and easier. In our land of plenty, thankfulness does not come naturally. It’s a heart attitude we must intentionally nurture and develop. “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NIV) I hope 2023 has been an incredible year for you. I hope your heart sings with gratitude as you pull up a chair to your Thanksgiving table. But if like me, 2023 had its share of challenges, let’s choose to thank God in all circumstances. Because although thankfulness doesn’t come naturally, paradoxically, it often arises after hardship. The bitter opens our eyes to a new appreciation f