31 March 2014

2014 brackets: Elite Eight update

Well, my bracket is officially busted! The Big Ten had a big collapse yesterday. Instead of having three teams in the Final Four, the conference will have only one team. Grandpa, Chris and I each had Michigan State winning the whole tournament. We thought that was a pretty good choice until we saw the way they played yesterday. Since Grandma chose Florida as her national champion, it looks like she just about has this thing all wrapped up.

Here are the latest rankings (in order of ESPN points standing):

Jon (Grandpa Hromada)
2-6 in Elite Eight
41-27 overall

2-6 in Elite Eight
40-28 overall

Shirley (Grandma Hromada)
2-6 in Elite Eight
37-31 overall

1-7 in Elite Eight
37-31 overall

0-8 in Elite Eight
35-33 overall

1-7 in Elite Eight
26-42 overall

29 March 2014

2014 brackets: Sweet Sixteen update

Let's hear it for the Big Ten! I sure hope the remaining Big Ten teams keep up their winning ways. And for our own friendly tournament, it's really anyone's game...well except for Avery!

Here are the latest rankings (in order of ESPN points standing):

Jon (Grandpa Hromada)
4-8 in Sweet Sixteen
39-21 overall

4-8 in Sweet Sixteen
38-22 overall

3-9 in Sweet Sixteen
36-24 overall

Shirley (Grandma Hromada)
3-9 in Sweet Sixteen
35-25 overall

4-8 in Sweet Sixteen
35-25 overall

4-8 in Sweet Sixteen
25-35 overall

27 March 2014

25 March 2014

BSF 2013-2014: Matthew 25

I love how much we’ve been talking about Jesus’ second coming lately. While other believers and I can be excited about this coming event, unbelievers have reason to fear it. But you don’t have to fear this day. You can know for certain that you will go to heaven when Jesus returns to take His people home with Him.

In this chapter of Matthew, Jesus presents three parables that help us get ready for His return to earth. In the first parable. ten virgins are waiting for a bridegroom. This was a common tradition for this culture. All of the virgins take their lamps, wait a long time for the bridegroom, fall asleep, hear the cry, wake up, trim their lamps and meet the bridegroom.

But there is one major difference. The foolish virgins did not take oil for their lamps while the wise virgins were ready with their oil. The foolish virgins ask the wise ones for their oil. The wise ones refuse. Then the foolish virgins leave to buy oil and miss the opportunity to go to the banquet. When they knock on the closed door, the bridegroom says he does not know them. Since the wise virgins are ready with their oil, they go to the wedding banquet with the bridegroom.

The bridegroom is Jesus. The wise virgins represent believers. The foolish virgins represent unbelievers, people who profess by mouth they are Christians but never accept Jesus into their hearts. And the oil is a picture of the Holy Spirit.

Each of us must have a personal relationship with Jesus if we hope to go to the wedding feast in heaven. You cannot borrow someone else’s faith or indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The wise virgins could not give oil to the foolish virgins. God is the only one who can give the Holy Spirit to us. You cannot get into heaven just because you attend church, read the Bible or grow up in a Christian home. You must hear and respond to the Word of God by believing God’s Word and receiving Jesus as your Savior.

The next parable is about a master who entrusts talents to three servants – five talents to the first servant, two talents to the second servant and one talent to the third servant. A talent was a sum of money equal to about 20 years’ salary. The talents belong to the master not the servants. But the master gives them the responsibility to care for his talents.

The servant with five talents works to increase them to ten talents. The master praises the servant and rewards him with greater responsibilities. The servant with two talents works to increase them to four talents. The master praises the servant and rewards him with greater responsibilities. These two servants receive different talents, but both were faithful and both were rewarded the same way.

The servant with one talent is afraid and buries the talent. The master rebukes the servant, takes away the one talent and gives it to the first servant. The third servant is cast out into the darkness.

God holds me responsible for gaining wisdom throughout my life, for sharing the truth of His Word, for making disciples, for following Christ’s example, for taking care of God’s people and much more. God has entrusted me with many “talents,” such as His Word, experiences in the Christian life, time and spiritual gifts. Am I using these “talents” God has given me, or do I bury and hide them?

It’s not about how much God has given us but about how well we use what God has given us (“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” I Peter 4:10).

The final parable speaks about the judgment day. On this day, Jesus will separate all people like a shepherd separates sheep and goats. The sheep will be on the right, and the goats will be on the left.

God will commend the sheep and will accept them into His eternal kingdom because they cared for God by caring for the least of His brothers (Christians). God will curse the goats and throw them into eternal punishment because they did not care for God by not caring for the least of His brothers (Christians).

This is not how we earn our way to heaven. This is how we demonstrate our love for and faith in God. Heaven is prepared for those who trust in Christ. Hell is prepared for the devil, his angels and those who have not put their trust in Christ.

Things to Think About
  • Am I willing to share the truth of eternity with others?
  • Am I ready for Jesus like the five wise virgins were ready for the bridegroom?
  • Who in my life is not ready for Christ’s return? Will I pray and ask God to use me to help them prepare for that day?
  • What kind of a steward am I with God’s resources?
  • Am I being faithful with what God has given me? Will I ask God to help me invest His talents wisely as I wait for His return?
  • On the judgment day, will I be on the right or the left? There is no middle ground.

24 March 2014

2014 brackets: Second and Third Rounds update

What an exciting beginning to the tournament! Even though so many brackets were busted this weekend, I was glad to see a lot of underdogs win over some big schools. I'm especially excited about Freddie Hoiberg's success at Iowa State.

Here are the latest rankings (in order of ESPN points standing):

Jon (Grandpa Hromada)
25-7 in Second Round
10-6 in Third Round
35-13 overall
Grandpa has bragging rights for the time being. But will he keep possession of the trophy?

24-8 in Second Round
10-6 in Third Round
34-14 overall
I didn't make a bad showing. I still have all of my Final Four teams remaining.

Shirley (Grandma Hromada)
22-10 in Second Round
10-6 in Third Round
32-16 overall
Grandma has a good chance of winning the big trophy because she has the most points possible remaining in the contest.

25-7 in Second Round
8-8 in Third Round
33-15 overall
For him, Chris is having an off year. I might actually beat him for once!

21-11 in Second Round
10-6 in Third Round
31-17 overall
Karen made some great picks. Except she lost her championship team when Kansas lost. I hope she doesn't resent me because after she selected Kansas to win it all, I told her they had a good chance at the championship.

16-16 in Second Round
5-11 in Third Round
21-27 overall
Avery did pretty well in the Second Round. But after the Third Round, she has only one Final Four team remaining, and it isn't her championship team.

20 March 2014

19 March 2014

2014 brackets: Our picks

Welcome to Chris' favorite time of year! For him, the next several weeks will be filled with watching basketball games of every level and caliber...and eating pizza and wings! I'm sure Avery will join him for some of the games, especially the Pacer games.

As for the NCAA men's tournament, I think Chris simply will enjoy the spectacle this year since he doesn't really have a favorite team in the field.

Avery very willingly completed another bracket this year. We didn't do videos this time. It was only cute for the first few years! :o) Here is her bracket (click on the picture to see the larger image):

Chris' bracket

 Teresa's bracket

Avery's bracket

Once again, several members of the Clark and Hromada families are entered in a friendly bracket competition. My dad believes he will keep the trophy he earned last year. We'll see about that!

Good luck to everyone!

18 March 2014

BSF 2013-2014: Matthew 24

Have you ever anticipated a special event in your life? Perhaps your wedding or a job promotion or (like we are right now) the birth of a child? How did you wait for the event? Were you lazy and indifferent, or were you excited and did you prepare for the event?

In this passage, Jesus tells His disciples that they should prepare themselves for the most glorious event of all – His second coming. He tells His disciples (and us today!) not to be deceived and not to be alarmed about His second coming. We must keep watch, and we must keep working. Jesus will return again, and we need to be ready.

At the beginning of Matthew 24, Jesus prophesies that the temple in Jerusalem will be destroyed completely. Not one stone will be left unturned. Naturally, the disciples want to know when this will happen. In Luke 21:20, Jesus tells them the temple will be destroyed when they see Jerusalem surrounded by armies. This was fulfilled in 70 A.D. when the Roman armies, led by Titus, destroyed Jerusalem, including the temple. To fulfill prophecy, the people who fled to the mountains were saved, but the people who remained in the city were killed.

The disciples also want to know the sign of Jesus’ coming. He warns them not to be deceived by false messiahs and people who claim that Jesus has already come. Jesus tells the disciples that they will hear about wars and rumors of wars, and there will be natural disasters. But Jesus tells them not to be alarmed. We see so many of these signs today. That means that Jesus’ return is eminent.

Finally, the disciples ask about the sign of the end of the age. Jesus doesn’t specify what the sign will be, but He does tell us that His return will be visible to all people on the earth. We won’t be able to miss it!

Then Jesus gives more instructions to His followers who are waiting for His return. He tells us to be watchful, be ready and continue serving. We do not know when Jesus will return, so don’t believe anyone who tells you otherwise! We will be in the midst of our normal lives when Jesus returns. But until then, we should not be lazy. We must continue to share the Gospel and serve God and others until Jesus returns. We must be ready because He could come at any moment!

Things to Think About
  • Prophecy can be difficult to understand. Trust God when things don’t make sense.
  • Some things will remain a mystery. Focus on the fact that Jesus will return.
  • Do you believe Jesus will return?
  • If Jesus returned right now, what would your response be?
  • Are you anticipating Christ’s return? How often do you think about it?

17 March 2014

Bracket time!

It's tournament time again! We're all a little disappointed here in the Clark house because it's only the second time in 40 years that no Indiana teams are in the tourney. But we still have a few favorite teams with Indiana connections, like Steve Alford's Bruins at UCLA, The Mayor Fred Hoiberg's Cyclones at Iowa State and of course all of the Big Ten teams.

After you complete your bracket, join our "C2 Family Group" in the ESPN Tournament Challenge. The password is "clark." And check back soon to see our picks!

13 March 2014

11 March 2014

BSF 2013-2014: Matthew 22:15-23:39

Are you a hypocrite? No one would like to admit it, but I would venture to say there are areas where all of us don’t practice what we preach. There is a great danger in hypocrisy for a Christian because our two-faced lives can pull people away from God.

In this passage, Jesus confronts the religious leaders with their hypocrisy. They were unwilling to see their sin and change. What about you? What are the areas of hypocrisy in your life? Are you willing to change?

The religious leaders ask Jesus if the Jews should pay a tax. Jesus knows the leaders are trying to trap Jesus because there is not a good way to answer this question. If He said yes, the people could say Jesus was disloyal to God. If He said no, Jesus would be arrested for stirring up the people toward rebellion. Jesus sees the leaders’ hearts and exposes their evil intents.

He instructs His followers to “give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s” (Matthew 22:21). Christians today also must submit to earthly authorities unless they require us to sin against God. We should honor, love and pray for our government leaders. What a challenge in these times of political corruption and disappointment!

Next the Sadducees approach Jesus with a question. The Sadducees only believe in the first five books of the Bible. They don’t believe in the resurrection, yet they ask Jesus about a widow at the resurrection.

Jesus responds using proofs from Exodus, one of the first five books of the Bible. He knows the Sadducees’ hearts, and He exposes their lack of knowledge of the Scriptures and of God’s power. Jesus explains that the resurrection is true, and the Sadducees should believe it.

Then a teacher of the law asks Jesus which is the greatest commandment. Jesus responds by saying to love the Lord your God with all of your heart (purpose), all of your soul (emotions), all of your mind (thoughts) and all of your strength (physical energies). The second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself. All of the other commandments hang on these two.

Without a relationship with God, we cannot love others unconditionally the way God wants us to. If you truly love God, then you will love others.

Next it was Jesus’ turn to ask a question. He asks the Pharisees about the Messiah. The Pharisees know the Messiah was the son of David. But Jesus asks if David calls the Messiah Lord, how can He be David’s son? The Messiah is fully God and fully man. The Pharisees can’t recognize that Jesus is the promised Messiah.

The religious leaders were tasked with giving out the Word of God and also were required to obey it. But they did not obey God in these things. Jesus tells the people to follow the leaders’ teachings but not to follow their actions because they don’t practice what they preach.

Because of their sin, Jesus pronounces woes on the Pharisees. They are hypocrites and are not leading the people appropriately. The Pharisees are only concerned about the outward appearance, but Jesus is concerned about their hearts.

Things to Think About
  • God calls us to have a full devotion to Him. Am I only partially devoted to God?
  • How am I doing at loving others?
  • If I don’t love my brothers, I don’t really have God’s love in my heart.
  • Will my example lead others to Christ? Or am I a hypocrite like the Pharisees?
  • The religious leaders wanted to be seen by others. Am I bringing attention to God or to myself?
  • Where am I not practicing what I preach? Am I the same person everywhere I go?
  • If God was the only one to see what I do, would I still do it (Colossians 3:17)?

06 March 2014

04 March 2014

BSF 2013-2014: Matthew 21:18-22:14

In this portion of the book of Matthew, Jesus warns the religious teachers of their impending judgment. God had called them to direct the people to Jesus as the promised Messiah, but the religious leaders were not doing their job.

The Pharisees and the teachers of the law knew the Old Testament prophecies and should have recognized that Jesus was the promised Messiah. But instead they lived by rules and didn’t enjoy a true relationship with Jesus.

While walking with His disciples, Jesus sees a fig tree. This tree is covered in leaves. A fig tree’s fruit grows before the leaves. So when Jesus sees this fig tree’s leaves, he expects to see fruit. He uses the tree as an object lesson. The tree represents the religious leaders. They didn’t have any fruit to show they had a heart transformation. They were more concerned about what people saw on the outside than what God saw on the inside. Jesus cured the fig tree and it withered immediately.

Jesus’ disciples were amazed at this. Jesus encourages them to ask God for the impossible – specifically they were facing a mountain of opposition from the Jewish leaders.

Next the chief priests and elders question Jesus’ authority. Jesus asks them about John the Baptist’s authority – was it from God or man? The chief priests and elders can’t give an acceptable answer. God had given them the truth, but they did nothing with it. Then Jesus speaks in several parables to these teachers and elders.

The first parable is about two sons. A father asks his two sons to work in his vineyard. The first son says no but later changes his mind and obeys. The second son says yes but does not obey. The first son is a picture of someone who rebelled against God but later realized his sin against God and then repented. The second son intended to do right but never did. This son is a picture of the religious leaders in Jesus’ day as well as people in our day who say the right words but never follow through on faith in their actions.

Jesus moves on to another parable – the parable of the tenants. The landowner represents God. The vineyard represents the nation of Israel. The tenants represent the religious leaders. The landowner’s servants represent the Old Testament prophets and John the Baptist. The landowner’s son represents Jesus. The other tenants represent Jewish and Gentile believers.

God sent the prophets to Israel, but the people did not listen. God sent John the Baptist to Israel, but the people did not listen. Then God sent His Son to Israel, but still the people did not listen. God judges the murders of His prophets and His Son by taking away the responsibility of sharing Jesus from the religious leaders and giving the responsibility to believers.

Jesus isn’t done! He tells the parable of the wedding banquet. A king sends out the first invitation to a wedding banquet. This was like our save the date announcements. The people in the parable refused this invitation. The second invitation from the king asked the people to come now because the wedding banquet was ready. Again the people refused this invitation.

The people attack and kill the king’s servants who deliver the invitations. The king attacks the people’s city. Then the king tells his servants to invite the most unlikely people to come to the banquet. These people did not receive the original invitation. But they accepted the invitation and went to the banquet. These people represent the repentant sinners who turn toward God from their own sinful lives.

An uninvited guest sneaks in to the banquet. Traditionally, the host provided garments to the guests so people in the wrong attire would be very noticeable. In this parable, the king sees the man who is not dressed in the proper wedding clothes. The king questions the man. The man did not have anything to say in his defense. The king’s servants throw the man into the outer darkness.

God’s invitations to us today are the same as the king’s invitations in the parable. Now God is saying, “Come,” and He is inviting us to the future wedding banquet. Then when Jesus returns to earth, He will say, “The wedding banquet is ready! Come with me to celebrate.” Will you be ready to go with Jesus to the wedding banquet in heaven? If not, you will be like the uninvited guest in the parable. You will be cast into hell for all eternity.

Things to Think About
  • God requires authentic belief and active commitment to His Son.
  • How often do I tell God I will do something but never do it?
  • Do I have a true relationship with Christ, or do I just have religious practices that look good on the outside?
  • Which mountain am I asking God to move? Will I pray expectantly and not doubt?
  • Which fruit am I producing in my Christian life?
  • As Christians, our job is to make God known to the world. Am I faithfully doing this?

03 March 2014

The name game

I'm a little more than halfway through with this pregnancy. That means, we will meet Pez in about 18 weeks...give or take a few days. And we're going to need every part of those 18 weeks to name this little boy.

We struggled a bit when we chose Avery's name. But once we landed on Avery Joy, both Chris and I were very happy with it and knew it was the right name for our little girl.

But for some reason, boy names seem to be a little harder for us. We still love the boy name we selected for Avery/Cheeto, so that one is still on the list. But we're also looking at other options. It seems that Chris and I have agreed on a middle name for Pez. So we're just looking for a first name. We have a few strict requirements:

  • The first name cannot begin with an A. We want Avery and her brother to have distinct and different names.
  • The first name cannot be too plain or too unusual. We don't want a simple first name to go with our simple last name. And we certainly don't want a crazy and unusual first name that can't be spelled or pronounced. We're very middle of the road, and we think that Avery's name reflects that.
  • The first name cannot be shortened. While we have our own nicknames for Avery (AJ, Avery Bear, Boogernut, etc.), her name can't easily be shortened into other nicknames. We plan to repeat this with Pez.

This might be the most challenging task of this pregnancy!