Wednesday, December 14, 2011

When a Girl Says "I'm Fine"

At long last - A blog exposing the secret inner workings of the female brain, and answering that age-old question: Why do women say that they are “fine” when they aren't?

I'm sure that most of us have run into this phenomenon at some point or another: a female, either obviously distressed, or else refusing to talk about whatever is going on, is asked some question like this: “How are you doing?” “How is your day going?” “Are you okay?” The woman answers, “I'm fine.”

Then, sometimes, one of two things will happen. Either the guy thinks, “Oh, she's doing good then. Doesn't need any comfort or support” and wanders off to do something else, and finds out later that she was really sad – Or else the guy thinks to himself “Well that's an odd thing to say, because all my powers of observation point to the conclusion that she isn't fine.” We all know that this happens, but do you know why? As a female myself, I will divulge the two basic reasons for using that wording.

1 – We try to phrase things as positively as possible

If asked how I'm doing, I try to find the most positive adjective that could apply, and use that. If I'm at a content average, (which is usually what guys call “doing fine,”) I see that I am “good.” If I'm having a slightly above-average day, then it's “great.” On a very exceptional day, it might be “awesome!”

But suppose I'm not feeling as positive or content as I normally do... I hear “How are you doing?” I go through my list of words: Awesome? Nope. Excellent? Nope. Great? Nope. Good? Nope. Fine? Hmm.. . Yes, I'm not in tears yet; I am fine! And therefore I might respond “I'm fine,” since that's the most positive word I can think of to apply to the situation. If I'm doing even worse, and I feel that my world is falling apart around me, and someone asks, “How are you?” I might say, “Oh I'm alive,” or “I'm surviving,” or else “Oh, you know – this and that.”

You see, any of those responses should send up a red flag for the following reason: “If she is trying to phrase things as positively as possible, and the best she can say is 'alive,' then something is very, very wrong.” So, guys say “fine” when they feel “good.” Girls say “fine” when they can't even claim to be feeling good or okay.

2 – We are trying to convince ourselves that we are alright.

Sometimes, self-talk can be calming. “It's okay, everything is going to be fine, I'm going to get through this.” Therefore, if a girl feels absolutely dreadful, she may try to use self-talk to calm herself: “It's okay, I'm fine. I'm alright.” So someone asks, “How are you feeling?” She responds consistently with her self-talk: “I'm fine.”

As this point, of course, if the guy points out, “Well, um, you certainly don't look fine” then it will remind her of her feeling (the one she's trying to talk herself out of) that she's not fine, she's not okay, and will call back to her attention everything that's wrong.

And those are the two usual reasons. Either ends up with the same situation, in which the girl says that she is fine, and the guy sees that she is not fine under his understanding of the word “fine.”

Friday, December 9, 2011

Thoughts on Conditional Election

Conditional election: God chooses some people for salvation, and intentionally chooses those who meet some condition that He sets. Some christians hold to unconditional election, which I respect. I don't hold to it, myself, though. Like John Piper says, in his book “Future Grace,” conditional does not mean deserved. Grace in the life of a believer is spelled out to be conditional (God gives grace to the humble), but it's certainly not earned or deserved. And that's what I believe. I think that conditional Grace is unearned grace that God only gives out to some.

I would not say that God chose on His own, apart from any foreknowledge He has, because for me, God's knowledge, along with His power and Sovereignty, are all part of who God is – it's all unified. God is not apart from His knowledge, and therefore I don't think that God chooses apart from His knowledge anymore than He chooses apart from His Sovereignty. Rather, He chooses according to His knowledge, according to His Sovereignty, and according to His good pleasure.

“God chooses on His own.” I would agree with that sentiment. I also think that God choose conditionally, but since it is God who chooses the condition, God Himself is the foundation of all that He does. Some people think that if something is conditional, then the BASIS of salvation would be the person and not God. I see the merit of the idea, but I ultimately disagree with it. You see, if God had a compulsion to save everyone who had red hair, and if you had red hair, then He just couldn't help Himself and then saved you – then the basis of your salvation would be your hair, and not God. Or if God couldn't help Himself but to elect those who “pray a prayer,” then the basis of the salvation would be the prayer, and it would just kinda drag God into it, though His compulsion.

However, as we all know, it doesn't happen that way. If the condition of salvation was red hair, it wouldn't be because God is compelled, it would be because God, in His wisdom and according to His good pleasure decided that He prefers to only save those with red hair, and that it would give Him more glory that way. He would be picking the condition of salvation, but the BASIS of salvation would be in God's good pleasure – for God choose to save, He choose who to save, and He choose on which condition He would choose to save people.

That's how I see election. I do believe in conditional election, and I believe that the BASIS of salvation is God. It is not of man who wills (or else all Catholics would be saved, for they will to be saved) or man who runs (or else all the Mormons and Jews would be saved too, for they work hard), but of God who determines who to save.

And I don't believe that election is conditional just because I think it sounds nice. I believe it because every time I see salvation mentioned in the Bible, it is listed with a condition. Even in many non-salvation matters, God chooses to use conditions to deal with people. For instance:

Genesis 4:6

“So the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.”

Jeremiah 18:5-10

“Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying: 'O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter?' says the LORD. 'Look, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel!

The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it, if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it. And the instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it, if it does evil in My sight so that it does not obey My voice, then I will relent concerning the good with which I said I would benefit it.'”

[Side note: God's actions are not determined by the people doing this or that, rather, Jonah correctly speaks in regard to God's conditional mercy upon Ninevah by pointing to God's character and saying: “Ah, LORD, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm.”]

Numbers 21:9
“So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.”

It is not uncommon for God to deal with people according to conditions that He Himself, in His wisdom and good pleasure, sets. Jesus Himself, in fact, compared the salvation that He offered to the healing offered conditionally in the wilderness, to those who would look at it.

And then there's the commentary of Jacob and Esau, and how one was elect and the other was not – without regard to their works, whether good or bad. And that's exactly the point that Paul was making, he said: “nor having done any good or evil... [election is] not of works.” Paul says specifically that salvation is NOT conditional based on works, and that's exactly what the Jews there didn't want to hear, but they needed to hear it. He ends the chapter by saying that the condition God DID choose was faith: “Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. ”

And it all does come back to God's character too. We are told to imitate God's character through loving our neighbor as ourselves. If we see two men in a burning building, we are to try to rescue both if possible – not to save one unconditionally and leave the other. Even so, I do not see throughout the Bible that God's character is consistent with choosing to save some unconditionally, and not lifting a finger to even make salvation possible for the others. Now of course, I realize that for election to be conditional upon faith, people need to be able to have faith; or for election to be conditional upon ceasing to resist the grace of God, people need to be given by God the ability to cease to resist. We see this through Scripture as well, but that is another topic for another blog.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Three Responses To The Newborn King

The story of Christmas: an old message, but still not stale. After all, Jesus came once, and we are still looking forward to when He comes again.

The wise men, the ones always mentioned in the Christmas story, arrived at least a year after Jesus Christ was born, and here's an excerpt from the part of the tale when they arrived on the scene:

Matthew 2:1-11

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”

When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.

So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet:

‘ But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,

Are not the least among the rulers of Judah;

For out of you shall come a Ruler

Who will shepherd My people Israel.’”

Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.”

When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

This was in the past, but even today, each person makes a decision of how to react to Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. Notice the three different reactions to the revelation that Jesus is the Christ, and the coming King:

1) The chief priests and scribes knew all the facts, but didn't put two and two together that Jesus, the one who the wise men were seeking, was the promised Christ, who Herod was asking about. They told Herod where the Messiah would be born, without hesitation, and yet Bethlehem was less than a day's walk away and they never took the journey to see who all these leaders were making a fuss about or whether he was the Promised One. They had the facts, and didn't put them together – maybe they didn't want to put the facts together: Faced with inescapable evidence of His deity later, they still lived in blatant denial. They refused to understand that Jesus was King.

2) King Herod did put the facts together. After hearing about this newborn King, he researched this new King through the scribes and tried to tracked Him down through the wise men, because he took the Christ Child seriously. But he was not looking for a Savior; he wanted to be boss and king of his life and of his earthly kingdom, and didn't want anyone to threaten that reign. So when the wise men did not return, he simply ordered that all boys under the age of 2 in Bethlehem should be killed. He understood that Jesus was the King, but sought to end Him.

3) The wise men, on the other hand, they came, they asked, and they found. They put the facts together as much as they could, and asked for further facts and directions when they got to Israel. Upon finding the King, they worshiped Him, even before presenting their gifts to Him. They understood, and they worshiped Him.

So that's the story. And that's the choice.

It's not just a choice for those who are not yet Christ-followers, it's also a choice that we face every day. Do we live in denial of God's truths because we don't want to see? Do we see God's will, but try to rule our own lives instead? Or do we actively seek God's truth and His will for us, and then worship Christ as King through submitting to Him?

[Thanks to Charlie Eldred for the inspiration behind this post.]

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Parody of "White Christmas"

I'm dreaming of a nice household

Just like the one I used to know

Where the counter-tops glisten

And children listen

To every-thing they're told to do

I'm dreaming of a nice household

With every order that I give:

“May your day be merry and bright!

And may all your chores be done right.”