Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Tuesday's Top Ten [Advice for Graduates]

Most graduates fresh out of high school are offered lots of advice and most reluctantly listen. For those of you who are willing to listen (high school or college graduates) here's some advice I wish was given to me...

1. Contrary to what the world tells you, do not follow your heart. Jeremiah quotes God in 17:9 the truth about our hearts, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?" Therefore, think. Use that brain God gave you to patiently sift through your emotions, search Scripture for truth, and pray. 

2. Know your chief goal in life. For Christians that goal is to do one thing: live for the glory of God.

The world will tell you to live for your own glory. Your glory is temporal and worthless compared to your Almighty Creator's. He holds the stars in His hand (and knows them all by name) (Psalm 147:4-5), He knows each and every hair on your head (Luke 12:7, He also gives you your very breath (Job 12:10). And due to the fact that He holds your very life in His hand, live it for Him!

3. This relates to #2, but it's important to know: exalt God's name and His Word, for those are the two things He exalts above all things (Psalm 138:2). Therefore you should as well.

4. Live well, die well. Life is not just about the journey. Although the journey is important, it is mostly about the destination. This also relates to #2, but live your life with an eternal perspective in mind. Someday you will die. Because of that undeniable fact, live a life that glorifies God so that on the day you meet Him face to face your faith becomes seeing and He tells you (as you place your crown at Jesus' feet), "Well done my good and faithful servant."

5. God does not waste pain. Life is hard. It is full of mistakes, conviction, discipline, heartache, pain, temptation, suffering, &etc. Learn, grow, change and be thankful... God is using whatever it is that you're going through so that you experience more of Him.

6. Yes, life is full of hardship, but it is also full of joy! Therefore, rejoice always!

7. He must increase, you must decrease. He = Jesus. What an amazing statement to live! John the Baptist made this comment when his disciples left him to follow Jesus. Rather than being jealous, John was thrilled because his disciples were following God, which is exactly what he wanted for them! This should be every Christian's credo. More of Jesus. Less of me. More of Jesus. Less of me.

8. Love Jesus. Love others. Love yourself. In that order. You will receive the most JOY in life when you love Jesus and others more than you love yourself. Again, this is contrary to what the world will tell you. The world will tell you to love yourself above all else because no one can love you like you love you. Let's think about that for a second. Did you die for your sins? Nope. You're a dirty, rotten, stinking, sinner. Period. You deserve to die for those sins (Romans 6:23). BUT while you were still a sinner, Christ died for you (Romans 5:8)! There is nothing more selfless than someone giving their life for yours. You can offer nothing in return for that gift, except your life. In pure and utter thanksgiving for that sacrifice you did not deserve, live as He lived: selflessly. Hold Him in highest esteem. Love Him! Love others as He loves you as you love you. Think about that. How do you love you? You live in a way that will make yourself happy, right? You eat when you're hungry. You shower when you're dirty. You wear your favorite clothes. You take time to do what you enjoy. You need to take care of yourself. Now, with that knowledge comes responsibility. For Jesus says that you are to treat others better than you treat yourself! The new commandment is this: "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another." (John 13:34) That is incredibly hard to do and you will fail, daily. So bask in what Jesus accomplished on the cross and give thanks for his saving grace!

9. Give thanks daily. For you did not deserve Jesus' sacrifice on the cross. That in and of itself should put have you giving thanks daily - for He saved you from eternal damnation! Now, do you have running water? Clothes to wear? Shoes on your feet? Food to eat? A diploma in your hand? You are blessed! Give thanks to the one who has given it to you. "Who has first given to me, that I should repay him? Whatever is under the whole heaven is mine." (God speaking to Job in Job 41:11.) If that isn't reason enough, here's 10 more.

9. Preach the gospel to yourself daily. When you think of what Jesus accomplished on the cross you'll want to glorify Him with all you say and do, you'll want to spend time in Scripture learning about Him, you'll want to exalt His name and His word, you'll want to live for Him because He died for you, you'll want His name to increase, you'll better understand how God is using your pain, you'll better understand what it means to put others before yourself because Jesus did that for you, you'll stand in thanksgiving for this one act and everything else will become incredibly blessings. Jesus is our perfect example on how to live - selflessly - remind yourself of that selfless act every day. You need HIM every hour of every day!

10. Know Scripture. Seriously. If you know God's Word you will not be swayed by false teaching or worldly values that mean diddly squat eternally. Stand firm in the Bible. Read it daily. Go to a bible teaching church. Learn. Grow. Increase your knowledge. Never be satisfied or think you "know it all". You will spend an eternity learning about God and never know enough. Don't believe me? Read the very last paragraph in John (John 21:25). He is infinitely bigger than we can possibly imagine. The more you know the bigger He becomes. He needs to increase in your life, and you need to decrease. (remember #7?) The only way He becomes bigger is by learning what He has said about Himself in His Word. Peter claims in his second letter that the prophetic word is more valuable than seeing the transfiguration (Matthew 17) and if an eyewitness to an experience such as that makes a claim that big, well we'd better take it seriously. (Read 2 Peter 16-21.)

As if that list isn't hard enough, I'm adding one more! Find a discipleship relationship. Someone to teach you and hold you accountable. That was Jesus last statement on this earth, take it seriously (Matthew 28:19).

Make every effort to live life for His glory. When that is your focus your words and your actions reflect your faith in Christ. It will not be easy and it won't always be fun, but it is eternally valuable. This life is so incredibly short compared to eternity, don't waste the time He is giving you!

To God Alone Be the Glory

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Comfort in the Face of Death

I've heard many things of death. It robs. It creeps up; strikes out of no where. Synonyms range from termination to a crossing over. I've seen it defined as a permanent end or a new beginning. None of those offer peace or understanding. Those statements leave us in a state of dread for our death-day. We all know it's coming! Everyone reading this will be dead 100 years from now. And I do know all of us fear it. We don't know the day or the hour or the how we will die, but we know we will die. Yet, death surprises us and that is what surprises me.

There's been many events as of late that have me thinking of life and death. It began with the death of a high school classmate and has continued with more ISIS murders and now I'm reading news on the passing of Christina Grimmie. My Facebook newsfeed is overflowing with the heartache death brings.

I'm finding myself asking, how can I give comfort in the face of death? What hope can I offer?

Truthfully there's not a lot I can do to relieve the heartache. BUT I can offer truth's to give comfort, irradicate fear and offer hope. I've gone to these truths many times in my life... When I wanted to understand the passing of many high school friends barely living past their graduation, one never even making it. Or when I nearly died myself. Or when I think of all the death my own mother has experienced from the passing of her mother at a very young age, younger than I am now, to the death of her baby brother in his early twenties. Countless times I've wondered, why?

Truthfully, I cannot answer why. So what comfort is there? Can there be peace? Understanding? Hope?

I believe so.

I believe our hope is found in what God says about death in His Word.

First things first. We are all sinners. If you want to know how grotesquely we have sinned against God read the 10 commandments and realize that by breaking even one of the ten we deserve to die (Romans 6:23, "For the wages of sin is death..."). Sin keeps us from God's presence. We cannot enter His holiness with our impurity and lawlessness. We need a Savior. We need someone to die in our place. Jesus Christ did that. He endured the wrath of God for our sin when He died on the cross an defeated death when He rose on the 3rd day! Hallelujah for the hope we have in Christ and what He accomplished on the cross! That is the gospel and is the only hope we have in the face of impending death, because HE is the only source of life.

Despite knowing that if we believe in Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection we will be saved (Romans 10:9) we still find little peace and understanding and comfort in a life seemingly lived too short. When I reflect on my three friends who did not live past the age of 18 I find myself in heartache for the live they never experienced... and I can get myself all sorts of worked up when I think of a father who left behind a wife and a two year old or a young mother who left behind her grieving husband and children or a new graduate who will never fulfill his dreams. I took life for granted and nearly lost it when my first baby was a mere 10 days old. Ever since then I have scoured the Bible for the truth behind death and I cannot help but think... who will be the first to die in my siblings? from my sorority pledge class? from my own little family of 4? If I'm not careful I live in fear and dread and worry for the pain I know I'll feel.

Like I said, I believe, despite the inevitable pain and heartache, there can be hope and peace because of what I know about God through His Word. Those that believe in the gospel will be saved. But I also know that I worship a God who holds the stars in His hand and knows them all by name (Psalm 147:4-5). He knows the hairs on our head (Luke 12:7). He commands lightening to strike where it strikes (Job 36:32-33). Knowing these truths and many, many, countless others, I am put in a state of awe. I worship an Almighty, powerful God who is worthy of my utmost trust. If He has the stars in His hand and knows them all by name, if he knows the number of hairs on each of our heads, if He covers His hands with lightning and commands it to strike the mark, if He defeated death, I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt I can trust Him with my life, my breath, and that of my loved ones. 

Understanding His might and power gives me rest. Knowing my very breath is credited to Him, gives me peace and comfort. Trusting HIM gives me peace. Especially when I read passages like,

"In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind." (Job 12:10)

"... [mans] days are determined, and the number of his months is with you, and you have appointed his limits that he cannot pass..." (Job 14:5)

He holds the stars in His hand and He also holds my breath. He has determined my days, set a limit that I cannot pass. Knowledge of HIM gives peace and understanding in the midst of death even when we cannot answer why. 

I hope that comforts you like it does me. And I earnestly desire the gospel comes alive for you when you realize that by Jesus' defeating death - you will live! 

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Spilling the Beans [January - May 2016 Edition]

It has been entirely too long since I've spilled the Beans. January was crazy because I had my brother's kiddos and that allowed for nothing else. Whew. Four kids all under the age of 5 kept me hopping for 6 weeks! Then February came around and my sister had her baby. Before I knew it, it's March and spring was right around the corner! Yay! Then summer set in along with all the craziness summer weather allows. As a result of all our craziness, I didn't do a very good job these last few months of keeping track of her funnies.

Here are the highlights...

For Christmas she asked for a Belle dress and an Elsa blanklet (blanket). Because a Belle dress was the one gift she wouldn't stop talking about receiving, we saved it for last. I so so so so so so wish I would've recorded her opening it. For months before Christmas she coined Quigley as her Beast. Adorable, right? When she opened her gift she gasped and said, "Beast! My dress!"
Poor Beast had to be dressed up too!
For Valentine's her daddy got her a Superman dress. Tutu, cape, and all. She insists that she's not Supergirl or Superwoman. Nope. She's Superman. Also, after receiving it, she wore it three.days.straight. We also had a Superman themed playdate with a friend that included super snacks and rescuing a damsel in distress (her Belle doll). She ran around the house yelling, "This looks like a job for Superman!" before getting the outfit, since receiving this gift I hear that phrase all.the.time.

Wagon Wheel came on the radio while driving down the road and she began yelling, "MY SONG! Mommy, Daddy! This is MY song!"

The day my niece and nephew went back home to their daddy Bean was really sad and she told me, "But. I don't want to miss them."

She pretends to have a pet "osupus" (octopus). She holds her hand out and pretends to hold him.

When she gets in the water she automatically grows a mermaid tail. She splashes around in the bathtub or pool and asks if I can see it.

She told me that her daddy was big and strong enough to touch the sky.

One of my Facebook posts: Kyle and I spell things when we don't want our children to know what we are saying. Welp. That's over. Today I asked Kyle if he wanted some h-o-t t-e-a. Bean exclaimed, "I want some too!" So I asked her what she wanted. Her expression was so incredulous as she spelled, "t-e-a!" That's what happens when you have smart kids.

She's so incredibly smart! Thanks to her cousin who has become obsessed with planes, she too loves point to the sky and counting the planes. On one particular occasion she explained that two planes made an x in the sky!

She tries dressing Ele-Monster occasionally. This particular time I heard lots of screaming and an exasperated Ele emerged from the playroom with a dress around her neck. Brielle sighed, "I think she wants you to put a dress on her." Wellllllll, I don't think she wanted it on at all.
We went to the zoo in Omaha (amazing, despite the rain) and Brielle loved, loved, loved the bats. She's obsessed with this book about a baby bat that gets separated from his mother called Stellaluna and she stood there staring at them. She cried when we told her it was time to move on. 
You can't see the bats in the picture, but if you look closely you can see hanging fruit and they were eating when we walked through the exhibit.

She loves helping me water the flowers. I noticed that she was picking the flowers and watering the stem directly. LOL! I had to explain to her that's not how it worked.

Pictures of her adorableness...

Notice she has two crowns on! Hehe. 
Dressing up in her daddy's stuff.