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Deep Work | Matthew 14

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Welcome to Real Life . What has your attention? If I had a dollar for every time I got distracted. I wish I had some ice cream. –Anonymous “ Deep work is the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task,” says Cal Newport in his book by that title. In our ultra-connected, media-saturated culture, distraction-free can be hard to come by. Newport believes it’s worth the effort. Learning to focus deeply improves our concentration which enables us to master new skills. This results in a greater sense of gratification, meaning, and purpose. Deep work enriches our lives. Prayer is a work that requires deep focus. It’s not always easy to achieve. My phone dings. My husband has a question. My mind wanders to the next item on my to-do list. It takes determination to carve out distraction-free time with God. Although Jesus Christ did not carry a smartphone, his days were full of distractions. He lived, ate, and ministered with his disciples. Jesus had no office door to c

Jesus, My Savior | Luke 2

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Welcome to Real Life . Have you experienced the Christmas story? Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour which is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:10-11 A few years ago, my husband and I visited Yosemite for the first time. Before going, we viewed countless gorgeous photos of its monuments and vistas. But nothing could prepare us for the day we drove into the park. We kept pulling off to the side of the road with our jaws dropping. There was a vast difference between observing a photograph of Yosemite and experiencing the real thing. As a young woman, I knew the Christmas story of Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus born in Bethlehem’s manger. I knew about Jesus, but I didn’t know Him personally. I didn’t know that was possible. I loved singing Christmas carols. But I sang the words with little comprehension of their meaning. Bethlehem was like a beautiful photograph. Jesus, a Savior, was born. But he w

More Than Enough | Matthew 14

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Welcome to Real Life. How much is enough? My hobbies include eating and also thinking about the next time I will be eating. —Anonymous I’m not enough. I’m not strong enough, wise enough, holy enough. I wonder if the disciples felt this—all the time—in Jesus’ presence. And perhaps never more so than on the day they stood before five thousand hungry souls and Jesus said, “You give them something to eat.” Crowds had begun following Jesus everywhere. (Consider for a moment how exhausting that must have been!) On this particular day, Jesus withdrew to a remote location with his disciples. But the people found him. Not just a few, thousands showed up. When Jesus saw their faces, he didn’t grumble or sigh. His heart was moved with loving compassion. He welcomed them, taught them about God’s kingdom, and healed every sickness and disease. Later in the day, stomachs began growling. Unfortunately, Uber Eats did not deliver there. So, the disciples approached Jesus and said, “Lord, it’s late. Eve

Deconstructing Perfect | Matthew 5

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Welcome to Real Life . If I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing (1 Cor. 13:2). “I don’t always go the extra mile, but when I do it’s because I missed my exit.” —Anonymous On Antiques Roadshow , specialists appraise the antiques, fine art, and collectibles of ordinary people. When they re-air older episodes, they re-evaluate an item’s worth. Because surprisingly, some collectibles lose value with age. Today’s generation doesn’t want their parents’ Hummels. Jesus Christ shook up the religious community when he failed to value what they did. Repeatedly, he used the phrase, “You have heard that it was said… But I tell you...” Because as a religious community, we tend to pile on rules and expectations and practices that appear spiritual, but don’t always originate in the heart or word of God. It’s easy to veer off the path. We lose the plot. We strain at a gnat and swallow a camel. Thereby, Jesus was continually deconstructing man-made faith. Deconstruc

Blessed are the Poor in Spirit | Matthew 5

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Welcome to Real Life . My glass is not half-full or half-empty. It’s empty. Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where other people see nothing. –Camille Pissarro When Jesus climbed the mountainside to deliver his Sermon on the Mount, he didn’t just see a crowd. He saw Jacob and Rachel and Paul and Martha. He saw the deep longings and needs of individual hearts. He still does. He sees my face in the multitude. He sees yours, too. Jesus begins by addressing the small, the harassed and helpless, those typically overlooked. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. The Son of God launched his public ministry in Galilee. He chose a region far from Jerusalem—the center of religious power and authority. He taught, proclaimed the good news of the kingdom, and healed every disease and sickness. Thousands began following Jesus Christ, not just from Galilee, but from the Decapolis, Judea, the region across the Jordan, and even from Jerusalem. Mira

Faithful in Captivity | Jeremiah 29

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Welcome to Real Life . It (real life) is not always easy! It is a poverty of imagination that bankrupts hope. –Ann Voskamp, Waymaker I was a young wife, not yet twenty, when my husband abandoned me. I was devastated. All my hopes and dreams for the future had walked out the door. Then one day in church, I heard this promise and clung to it. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 The Lord made this promise to his people at a time when they were devastated. All their hopes and dreams—their homes, nation, house of worship—everything was gone. Israel had turned away from God and committed idolatry, even sacrificing their children to foreign Gods. [1] And so, God removed his protection and brought judgment. He allowed Babylon to destroy Jerusalem and lead his people away as captives. The Flight of the Prisoners  (1896) by James Tissot Though they cried out to God in their m

The Beginning of the End | The Book of Revelation

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Welcome to Real Life . It (real life) is getting scary!  Don't wake me for the end of the world unless it has very good special effects. –Roger Zelaznyr “Wow! These prices are crazy-high,” I commented to the woman standing in line with me at the cold-cut counter. “This inflation is scary.” “Yes, it is. It’s biblical you know,” she replied. No doubt, the last few years have been tumultuous with a pandemic, racial injustice, deep divisions in our nation and the church, an insurrection, war in Ukraine and the accompanying threat of nuclear war, mass shootings, and now runaway inflation. Is this biblical? Do these events signal the beginning of the end? Are these the labor pains that will give birth to the final seven years of life on this planet—the Great Tribulation? I happen to be reading Revelation right now. It’s not an easy read. In his final years, the apostle John was imprisoned for his faith on the isle of Patmos. There, not only does Jesus Christ reveal himself to John, he tr