Predestination Is True, But Who?

3 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. 4 Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. 5 God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. 6 So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. 7 He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. 8 He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.

9 God has now revealed to us his mysterious plan regarding Christ, a plan to fulfill his own good pleasure. 10 And this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth. 11 Furthermore, because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for he chose us in advance, and he makes everything work out according to his plan.

12 God’s purpose was that we Jews who were the first to trust in Christ would bring praise and glory to God. 13 And now you Gentiles have also heard the truth, the Good News that God saves you. And when you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago. 14 The Spirit is God’s guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people. He did this so we would praise and glorify him.”

It is a point of contention in the church-and in nonbelievers alike-that God has possibly already predestined-chosen before hand-the people who will be “saved” and go to heaven. There are denominations built around this fact, and countless souls lost at the belief that it’s not really their decision anyway.
Now, I am no theologian. All I am is a young man who seeks the face of the Lord. But I believe God has given me a revelation about this.

First of all, let’s consider the nature of God Himself. If God is an all-loving God, as we like to claim Him to be (not saying He isn’t, just going by the definition that most people would prefer to believe) then why would He choose to send people to hell? By logical standards it doesn’t make sense. In Scriptures, it directly points to the fact that that God wishes all would come to repentance and know Him. For example:

“11 As surely as I live, says the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of wicked people. I only want them to turn from their wicked ways so they can live. Turn! Turn from your wickedness, O people of Israel! Why should you die?” (Ezekiel 33:11)

“I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. 2 Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. 3 This is good and pleases God our Savior,4 who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:1-4)

“8 But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day. 9 The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.” (2 Peter 3:8-9)

Our God is such a loving God that He gave us free will to make our own choices. But it’s this same love that yearns for every heart to know Him. Just as a father wishes to be loved by all his children, but knows it may not happen; so our Father wants us all to love Him, but knows that what He desires is our true, freewill love towards Him. The hard part is reconciling that just because God KNOWS what’s going to happen, doesn’t mean He ordained it to be. Our world is not as God wants it to be. Someday, it will be. However, with our free will, God knows that some will be saved and some not. He presents opportunities, chances to hear the Gospel,life changing events. And He is there when other people make bad decisions, to give people hope and life renewed through Christ.We choose our paths. Overall, it is His desire that we all have life.

So. Our God is a God who wants us all to be with Him. Who, then, is He talking about in these verses? Who are those that are chosen by God to be “holy and faultless”, whom he “chose in advance”?

My answer is this: The church. And not any specific denomination, not any religious order, but the Church of our living God-the body of Christ. It says that in the latter days, the real body of Christ-the bride of Christ-will rise up and begin to separate herself from the churches of this world. Looking at this passage, a line of thought hit me.
The words used here-we, us, our-they all denote a grouping of sorts. These words (biblically and otherwise) always refer to groupings of people. In the New Testament, more specifically, those who believe. In all of the Epistles, these are letters written to Churches. Paul uses “we” and “us” to refer to those who believe in the risen Lord.
A.k.a., the church.
Verse 23 of this same chapter says that “the church is His body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with Himself”. We (those who know Christ) are a part of that body-that  church. The church is referred to as a single entity in the Bible, and as the bride of Christ. We, as believers, are a part of that body. Christ gives an illustration that, just as the head and the arm and the finger and the belly button are all needed and are a part of the human body, so all believers are a part of Christ’s body. (Romans 12:3-5, 1 Cor. 12: 12-26). Therefore a use of “we” in reference to the body of Christ refers to all who are a part of the true church of Christ. Now, some might use this to say that those who believe were chosen-but again, that goes against the very nature of God.

I believe that God has predestined the church to this unity and glory, which lines up scripturally with the general principles of Christianity-those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and are saved will be with Him. Those same people are inherently then a part of the body of Christ, the church. What I do NOT believe is that individual people are to be saved. God would never do something to contradict Himself. He has called the church to be His bride (Rev. 19:7-9, Eph. 5: 25-27) and has set her apart. Now, God knows what people are going to become a part of His body, but He did not call specific people to join Him. The call to come to Jesus has been placed in all of our lives. We have the choice to ignore it or not. So when God is referring to those predestined for salvation, it is those who are a part of His church, His body-because anyone belonging to Christ is saved. There is no limit placed on this; there is no specific number or list of names. It’s simply those who are a part of Christ’s bride who will be with Him.

If anyone has any additional thoughts, please let me know. These were just my musings, as inspired by the living Word of God. God bless!

Watching Your Words, Day 4: Stand Up Straight, Don’t Push Others Down

   There is quite a difference between being assertive with people, and not. As I talked about in my last blog, I am definitely a more passive-aggressive person, and this is quite problematic. I have determined, looking back over the years, that I keep a lot of stuff inside. And all that stuff that I keep inside, it comes out in other ways. For a while, football helped. Poetry. But it was inevitable that it would come out in the things that I say. Because things that need to be said, need to be said. 
     I have never been sarcastic, up until a few years ago. I was never very good with words-not quick witted. But I did notice opportunities a lot, and I slowly just started saying things more and more. For the most part it was funny-it was joking with friends, messing around..the usual. As I got in this habit, however, it became a part of who I was. I didn’t fully realize this until I got into the relationship that I’m in now; and when I got into college. Going into college, it was a chance for me to redefine myself-but I found I was STILL scared to tell people how I really felt. SO it came out in the best way I knew how-sarcasm.
     This affected how I communicated with my girlfriend. Because I am not the most adept at just saying how I feel, when I didn’t agree with something she would say my response came out sarcastic. This time, though, it wasn’t funny-it was hurtful. My developed quick wit was now an offensive weapon in which I hurt people and tried to express how I felt. I didn’t realize it at first. I notice, however, that the use of sarcasm in my relationship is hurting my credibility as the man in that relationship. It does not help me when I try and actually make a point, for her to believe me, knowing my past attempts to handle situations have not turned out so well. When I was sarcastic, it hurts her, and then the discussions don’t go anywhere because she’s hurt, and more issues are brought up. Things go much better when I am more civil and open to working things out. 
     In terms of college, I simply need to speak my mind more. It’s gotten to the point where I would get depressed because people would be doing things I don’t appreciate. I, however, would never speak up and say that those things upset me. I was creating my own problem. It came out, then, in the form of sarcasm. I could say I was kidding, even though I really wasn’t. It’s not healthy, and it left me feeling empty and unresolved inside. I almost wanted to transfer because it was so bad-but again, it was partially my own doing. 

How does one go about fixing this? 

I’m going to try and be more assertive in my speech and actions. It’s something that I know I can be good at-and that I am good at-I”m just too shy, too scared to let it become a part of my daily routine. But I know it’s what I need to do. Being assertive means that I can present my case in a more clear, direct, and honest way-without being mean. I can also say how I feel about the actions of others without hurting their feelings too. I would like to just be a normally assertive person. It would let me stand up for myself, and also not be so hurtful in having discussions with others. 

vocabulary:

credibility: the extent to which your partner believes in your competence, trustworthiness, and likability.
assertiveness: The skill of sending messages that declare and defend personal rights and expectations in a clear, direct, and honest manner while at the same time respecting the preferences and rights of others

Watching Your Words, Day 3: Scrubbing My Mouth with Biblical Soap

Image

     You know, arguments are some of the most stressful things-especially in a relationship. But, while they can be negative, sometimes things do need to be talked out. There are ways to “argue” that aren’t arguing. Discussions can be civil. The one thing I have discovered, however, is that whenever a serious discussion is taking place it is IMPERATIVE that one watches what they are saying. I personally know I need to watch this. While I am not someone who is very verbally aggressive, I have always had a..knack, for lack of a better word…to know exactly what I could say that would hurt someone. I exhibit much more passive-aggressive behavior, where if I am truly mad I won’t yell-but rather, make more subtle comments or jokes that I know are hurtful. My sarcasm is a killer in arguments; it is not helpful at all.
     Now, it took me a very long time to realize that I even do this. Most of the time in a discussion or argument, I genuinely want to try and work things out. I argue with argumentativeness, not verbal aggression. But I do know that I have a bit of a temper-and when things continue to go in circles, or if there are points being made that I see as being wrong, I let the sparks fly a little bit. This is wrong! So lately I’ve been trying to work on controlling my anger-and my tongue. Look at what James 3:6-12 says about our tongue.
“And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. 7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers,these things ought not to be so. 11 Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.” (ESV). 
The tongue, according to the Bible, is inherently wicked-like the rest of the physical, worldly nature of man. We both praise people and curse them with the same mouth, and this just does not seem right. To take it even deeper, Luke shows us an interesting point:
“45 The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45, ESV).
It would appear that it’s not just the tongue itself that is the issue. Rather, it’s a matter of what’s in our heart. What does this mean for me?
     Honestly, it means that sarcasm and bitterness have some root in my heart. As much as I would like to think otherwise, it’s true. Because if it wasn’t, what cause would I have to say such things? Lately I have been really trying to watch the things that I say. I have been employing STEMS! Just recently, in a few discussions between me and my girlfriend, I’ve had to stop myself from saying sly sarcastic remarks. I think about how hurtful that actually does sound. I try and evaluate a better way to say what I want to, without being mean. The part I need to work on is making the alternative statement. For now, I just stop and let the comment go, and continue on with the conversation. This prompts her to ask what I was going to say, at which point I just let her know that it was a negative comment that was uncalled for. So I’m dealing with the actual, physical problem of not saying mean things.
     But what about the deeper issue? Why do I have a sarcastic mindset in the first place?
     I try and deal with this by just being more positive, focusing more on God and on happy things. Philippians 4: 8 says that “8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (ESV). I am trying to keep my mind on things that are good and pure-and this not only helps the things I say, but it helps my mood in general to be more amiable. Then, a discussion doesn’t even have to become an argument. Keeping your mind on things that are good and pure and nice and holy will keep your tongue speaking the same! It’s working for mine!

Vocabulary:

verbal aggression: sending messages that attack another person’s self-esteem or express personal hostility for perceived violations of rights or expectations.

passive-aggressive behavior: messages that indirectly express hostility. Like sarcasm.

argumentativeness: defending our own ideas or attacking the reasoning of others…WHILE according them respect.

Watching Your Words, Day 2: Things Not Said

I Can't Speak

I am realizing more and more that, sometimes, it’s what you DON’T say that affects people the most. While my plan was to focus on what I was saying, I now see that the silence within a conversation speaks just as loudly as the words that are said. In therapy I had an interesting talk with my psychologist as to why it is that I don’t tell people the things that are really on my mind. There are plenty of times where, even though I may feel strongly about something, I let it slide. Why?
Well, my problems with self-disclosure as a whole stem from the fact that, really, I don’t want to be rejected by people. I have had a past in which, on telling people about myself, I have been hurt and ostracized. It was painful. The issue is more specifically in my privacy-the fact that I withhold information so that I can’t be hurt. For a long time I hated telling people about myself, or really being myself, because of this long-ingrained fear that nobody will understand me.  I never have had a problem with other people telling my “secrets”, but that’s because I never told anyone my secrets in the first place. I have a huge issue with privacy.
The issue, however, went a bit deeper-I realized that I don’t like talking to people about myself because I never had a real role model to talk to in the first place. My dad wasn’t a man who I ever felt comfortable talking to about my problems. I was always afraid of his response-usually an angry one. Therefore, because I never had that deep connection with the one person who I should have been able to go to, it changed how I looked at everyone I could have potentially been close to. I am always weighing out the risk-benefit analysis, seeing if disclosing information will either benefit me more or hurt me. Because of my mindset, I usually think it will hurt me.

Nowadays, I am trying to get away from that. I am more open to talk to people, but there are still a lot of things that I feel are better off kept to myself. I’m okay though.

Vocabulary:

self-disclosure: verbally sharing personal ideas and feelings with others.
privacy: The opposite of disclosure, withholding confidential or secret information to enhance autonomy and/or minimize vulnerability.
risk-benefit analysis: Weighing what advantages we might gain by disclosing private information or maintaining private information against the dangers.

Watching Your Words: Day 1, Sticks and Stones

Image

  One of the biggest problems that people in general have is “foot in mouth” syndrome. When we say things that are hurtful when they aren’t intended. This causes the majority of the conflicts of my life, specifically-pseudoconflicts that could easily be resolved if I could speak my thoughts into words better. How does one fix this problem? 
Thinking. 
     The root of the problem isn’t even in the physical words being said. It’s the thought being put into those words. A lot of times, the thought in my head sounds okay. Then, when I say it out loud, it comes across wrong. It’s been this way for so long, and I’m finally starting to realize why. Things I think make sense to me-they work with my logic, my emotion, my ideas. I don’t translate these ideas to how other people would hear them or interpret them, because I’m hearing them in my head from my point of view. So, to counter with this-I’m going to slow down and think. 
     I am going to start employing a technique called owning-which starts off statements saying “I”, which takes ownership of the statement. That way, I can honestly express my feelings instead of making assumptions about others and saying “you” all the time. Making those aggressive assumptions causing people to become defensive and less likely to understand the real meaning behind my statements.  I’m also going to start employing more comforting messages. A lot of times my statements come across as being judgmental when in fact that I’m trying to be helpful. Giving comforting messages allows me to still give constructive criticism, but in a positive manner that will come across much better. 

 

Vocabulary: 

psuedoconflict: disagreement that is caused by a perceptual difference between partners and is easily resolved.
owning: the disclosure skill which uses “i” statements to credit yourself for your own ideas and feelings. 
comforting messages: active/constructive feedback whose goal is to alleviate or lessen the emotional distress felt by some else.

Watching Your Words: Day 0 (Communication Plan)

The last blog for my communication class is here. This time, I’m going to focus on the other side of communicating-talking. While listening has gotten much better for me, I now am going to look at how I talk to people. I know that a lot of the things I say can hurt people, even if I don’t mean to.

The Problem: The things I say have a tendency to be misconstrued or they are hurtful. I have a lot of sarcastic, dry humor I’d like to get rid of as well.

The Goal: To better be aware of the things that I say-to have a better understanding of how to talk to people, and to remove the sarcasm from my conversational style.

The Plan: The plan will be based on the acronym STEMS.
1)STOP whenever I’m about to say something that may be offensive/taken wrong/sarcastic
2)THINK about how what I”m about to say could be taken.
3)EVALUATE a better way to say what I’m about to say
4)MAKE new statement
5)SEE if the choice I made was a better choice!

Also, I made this up myself. If you want to use it, go ahead. I am not responsible for the results, unless they work well. Then it was my idea.

The Measuring Stick: If I’m still having multiple problems at the end of this session, I’ll know I haven’t improved. If, however, my problems lessen, I’ll know things are getting better!

Thank you all for coming along with me on this journey. I hope it’s been as helpful for you as it has been for me!

What Did You Say? Improving Your Listening Skills, Day 0-2: The Conclusion

     Image

     So this is it. This is the end of the blog. The results, however, will have a lasting affect. I have learned so much about how to listen more effectively. I do believe I achieved the goal I set for myself, which was “To become a better listener-to employ active listening skills more frequently, and to have a better memory of conversations.”
     First, I am definitely a better listener. I employ my active listening skills in conversations as much as possible. Now, this isn’t to say that I’m perfect now, because I’m not. But I am much more attentive now. I am aware of myself and my actions, my verbal responses, my nonverbal behaviors. It’s always in the back of my head. Second, I think I do have a better memory of conversations. Because I’m paying closer attention to conversations I’m in, I retain more of what I hear. I think it’s the conscious effort of BEING in the conversation that allows me to remember it better. 
     I definitely want to retain and refine these skills. This isn’t something that’s just been done for a class. This is something I take seriously! It’s been a problem with me for far too long, and the skills I’ve learned here have given me a giant step forward in resolving some issues. From my last blog, I said that I needed to listen better to people.. I have definitely achieved that!

I think something that I’ve discovered that I need to work on now is the other side of this-my speaking. I know this was a goal in my first blog, but now I’m going to specifically look on what kinds of things do I disclose to people, misinterpreting information, getting my own points across. Then, I’ll have bettered myself in an overall rounded fashion-speaking and listening. After all, this is a skill I’ll be using the rest of my life. 

Thank you all for reading along!