Creative Biblical content at the intersection of life and faith.

Election? (Just Ask)

What is the doctrine of election? Is it Biblical?

The doctrine of election speaks simply of God’s choosing.  While God may choose people to do or be certain things (ie. David as King 2 Sam. 6:21), the greater act of God’s election is His choosing of a people for salvation.  
Election is definitely a Biblical doctrine that can be readily found in both Old and New Testaments.  While the word “election” may not be used or rendered to English in every case, the act of God’s electing is apparent, especially in the Old Testament.  In the Old Testament Israel is the most prominent example (Deut. 7:6).  We also see the heritage of election traced back to the patriarchs in Genesis as God chose Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to be the family of blessing for the whole earth (Gen. 12, 15, 17, Isa. 41:8).  In the New Testament we see Jesus introduced as the “chosen” of God (Luke 9:35, 1 Peter 2:4,6).  Interestingly, the word “chosen”, in most cases, is a translation of the Greek word “electos.”  In the New Testament those chosen by God for His salvation are referred to as “the elect (Matt. 24:22, Rom. 8:33).”    
Election is a Biblical doctrine that if misconstrued can do serious damage to our understanding the nature of God, salvation, and the nature of the church.  Where most of the theological debate is centered is not as much on “election” but on the knowledge of God.  What does it mean that someone is predestined?  How did God know?  Did He know the choices they would make or did God destine them for His choosing?  Another strain of the debate here is that if God has chosen or elected some for salvation does that necessarily mean that He has chosen others for destruction?  But you didn’t ask, so I did not want to bring us into all of this :)!
Wherever one falls on these issues there is no debate that election is certainly a Biblical doctrine.  Thanks for asking.
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Bible Versions - The Bad Ones (Just Ask)

Question:  Are there any "bad" versions/translations of the bible? (KJV, NIV, etc.) 
Why does Ridgecrest use ESV?
When it comes to Bible versions there is a wide range of understanding from totally oblivious to militant.  Before I became a serious student of the Bible I was firmly in the oblivious category thinking that the different labels we used to designate Bibles KJV, NIV, NASB were simply brand names.  KJV was to the Bible what NIKE was to shoes.  You have the gold standard KJV=NIKE and then you have the rest NIV or NASB = Reebok or Adidas.
In my journey from oblivious to being someone people asks about Bible versions I have met the militant.  The militant would include people who believe that since the KJV was good enough for Paul, it should be good enough for the rest of us :).  Personally, I find those who argue passionately for the KJV as the only preserved Word of God to be misguided and divisive.  If the KJV is your personal favorite that is one thing, but to say it is the only version of the Bible ordained by God opens up a pandora’s box of ignorance and errors.  
I said all that to say this - I will try to answer your question concisely without getting into the entire debate over versions or the entire dynamic of how we bring a text from Hebrew and Greek into the language of the people which is, in our case, English (which is its own massive yet fascinating discussion).  Yet in doing so, please understand there is much more that should be said and there is also a wrath I expect from the militants to which I will not be able to respond adequately on this forum. 
In answer to your question, yes, there are “bad” translations of the Bible.  I would say this is the case for two reasons:

1.     There are versions that are poorly translated.  This may be so for the following reasons.
  1. The translators did a poor job handling the original languages. AND/OR
  2. The end product is difficult to understand for a contemporary audience.  The point of translating the Bible is so that people can understand it.  When the people fail to understand a translation we have failed to achieve the purpose of translation.
2.      There are versions that are theologically misguided. It is impossible for one to perform the task of translation without bringing to the table his or her own experiences and presuppositions.  This does not mean that every version of the Bible is then necessarily corrupt, but it does mean that if we are to render a faithful translation of the text that it should be done with careful critique and the checks and balances of the church at large.  This being the case we should be careful of:
    1. Versions that are strictly denominational in nature, as it may be a version that simply seeks to affirm a particular set of beliefs or theological leanings.
    2. Versions that seek to attract a particular cultural sub-group such as teenage girls or people who love rap music.  I have seen some examples of this and the end result is nothing but unholy gobbeldygook (itself a word that needs no translation).   
    3. Versions that have a decided theological agenda whether it be to give us an image of “god” more palatable to modern culture, a certain philosophy, psychology, or political agenda  or perhaps a version that seeks to remove negative language references such as sin, wrath, or judgement.  This is nothing short of carving images and the end is pagan idolatry.
With this said what I seek in a Bible translation is one that is readable, understandable, and faithful.  I want to know that a large group of scholars have applied a great deal of work to it with an even greater degree of oversight and accountability.  These are the reasons I am currently using the ESV (English Standard Version).  That is not to say that I believe that the ESV is the “best” in all points, but I do believe it satisfies the criteria as well as the best few and far better than most.  For a good article on the ESV translation follow this link:  http://www.esv.org/esv/translation/about/  
Ridgecrest as a church has not chosen the ESV as the “official” Bible version of the congregation, but it is the version that I have chosen to use week to week in the pulpit.  As a result many of our people have also purchased the ESV and many of our teachers choose to teach from the ESV (which is not required of them).  Personally, this is a choice I made in 2008 after studying the ESV for a year.  Prior to that time, I preached from the New King James Version (NKJV).  
If I could make one ringing endorsement for the ESV it is the ESV Study Bible.  I am not a “study Bible” guy.  I find them cumbersome yet lacking.  The Bible is a big book.  Adding notes to it makes it mammoth.  Thus it is difficult to say a lot with a little (which seems to also be my trouble with this blog).  The end result then, for most study Bibles, is a mammoth Bible with lots of notes that say little to nothing at all.  What I love about the ESV Study Bible is that every note and article seems to be precise and the end result is a set of concise notes along with the text that are capable of helping anyone become a serious Bible student.  
Thanks for your questions.  Keep them coming.  
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Hypocrites and Tornadoes (Just Ask)

Question:  I am dealing with people in my family not wanting anything to do with church because of hypocrites. I need help in this area.  What can I do?
The word hypocrite comes from a Greek word that means “an actor on a stage.”  It describes someone who is able to play a role in a certain context, but who lives a very different life “off stage.”  This is certainly true of many people in the church.  The Bible is honest about their existence.  We also know that Jesus did not shy away from using the word in His confrontation with the scribes and Pharisees (Matt. 23).  We certainly have warrant to use our common sense and discernment to recognize people who are hypocritical.  They are not difficult to spot.
The existence of hypocrites in the church, however, does not give one warrant to reject the church.  Some would say that they can follow Christ without the church.  This concept is foreign to the New Testament.  Biblically it can be argued that one cannot follow Christ without the church.  Therefore, it may sound more noble to reject the church because of its hypocrites, but it is really foolish.  
Not going to church because there are hypocrites is like saying you will never again eat bananas because there are brown spots.  Yet exposing the illogical and foolish nature of the argument may only add to your frustration or sorrow in dealing with your family over this issue.  The best you can do is to continue to proclaim the gospel to your family and live it out before them.  Don’t be a hypocrite!  In the end it is important for your family to know that the hypocrite and those who despise them are all in the same boat, sinners in desperate need of Jesus.    Those of us who are not hypocrites are merely more honest sinners than they.  Jesus died for all - the honest sinners and the hypocrites alike.
Question:  What is Ridgecrest (the church I serve as pastor) doing as a whole to help the victims of the tornado?  I know other local churches have groups together and designed teams to go and volunteer; what is RBC doing?
This has certainly been a surreal week in our community.  13 homes in our church family have suffered minor damage to total destruction.  One family in our church suffered injury and has spent the week in the hospital.  Since the storms members of the pastoral staff, deacon body, and membership at large have been extremely active in our community helping families remove trees and salvage belongings.
This weekend there will be several opportunities to serve.  If you will contact the church office This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. we can share with you some specific work sites where you may volunteer.  We are also encouraging our people to partner with other works, churches, and organizations in our area.  Responding to a storm of this magnitude is a team effort.  No one can do it all alone.  Below are a few listings and opportunities that have been passed along to me.
The Birmingham Baptist Association - sending out teams daily, contact:  http://bbaonline.org/
ClayRidge Baptist in Clay is looking for volunteers to carry meals into Centerpoint on Friday and Saturday.  They especially need men to help through the weekend to help make delivery more secure.  There are also debris cleanup crews meeting and leaving from the church parking lot.  
The following note comes from Jae Skinner, one of our members and a teacher at Erwin Elementary:
Hey! If you don't have to work, we need HELP AT ERWIN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL moving classrooms for the Centerpoint teachers. If you can come help, please do! I (Jae) will be there at 8:00. Call me 966-7133 and I will get you plugged in somewhere. Trying to get the school ready for kiddos so they can get back to a normal routine!
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Just Ask from Ed

Question from Edvard in Montreal: 
I have two questions:
1)  What podcasts would you recommend and why?
2)  If I only had to read 5 books, which ones would you recommend?

1)  Podcasts and Why?
There are multitudes of great podcasts particularly in the Christian genre.  My subscriptions are limited to preaching and theological teaching.  I have yet to find a “conversational” or “show” type podcasts that keeps my interest.  I love to preach and love to hear others preach well.
My other criteria would include variety and thought.  I tire easily to listening to the same three or four guys over and over.  I also enjoy great preachers and teachers who are great thinkers.  A lot of bad preaching is covered by pithy sayings and passionate presentations, so I do appreciate those who pay attention to faithful interpretation.  That said, here is my list:
I subscribe to three seminary podcasts (this gives me great variety):
Southern Seminary in Louisville, KY:  http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast//id305918399
New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary:  http://www.nobts.edu/chapel/podcast/default.html
Here are my “thinker” podcasts:
2)  5 books you must read (in no particular order):
·         Is God a Moral Monster, Making Sense of the Old Testament God – Paul Copan
·         Knowing God – J.I. Packer
·         Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire – Jim Cymbala
·         The Pleasures of God – John Piper
·         Any one or all of the following:
o   Mere Christianity – C.S.Lewis
o   Simply Christian – N.T. Wright
o   The Case for Christ – Lee Strobel
Bonjour Ed!  Great to hear from you bro.
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?Just Ask?

I wanted to add a new feature to the FeelMyFaith this year that I hope will enhance the blog.  The new series is simply called, “Just Ask.”  Just Ask will provide a way in which you can help drive the content on FeelMyFaith.  If you have a question about the Bible, theology, Christianity, the church, current events, or my take on certain issues, you can enter your question in the side column form and I will receive it via email.  Each week I will select a few questions and respond.  You can follow Just Ask by clicking on the Just Ask label, also located in the side column.  I hope to hear from you soon and look forward to the conversation.
BB, Gal. 2:20
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Promises, Principles, Proverbs, and Prophecies

When interpreting and applying Scripture, it is important to distinguish between promises, principles, proverbs, and prophecies.  The common error is to count most all the Biblical statements regarding what God says He will do, provide, or how He will respond as promises.  For instance, Psalm 37:25 says, “I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread.”  By considering this statement as a promise one may draw the conclusion that God has promised that the righteous will never go hungry or be left to beg for provision of any kind.  Yet when we survey the historical and present experience of many devoted followers of Christ, we quickly realize that many of them have indeed been hungry.  Paul expressed in Phil. 4:12 that he has experienced need and hunger.  In this case Paul does not mention God’s provision, rather he mentions that he responded by learning the principle of contentment. Most glaring for us is that on the cross, the righteous Son of God asked a poignant question of God, “Why have you forsaken me?”  In desperate circumstances it is not uncommon for God’s people to feel forsaken.
We see then that if Psalm 37:25 is considered a promise of God, and we know God’s promises do not fail (Josh 21:45, 1 Kings 8:56, Titus 1:2), how do we reconcile Biblical text with experience?  If we do not make a distinction here between what is a promise and what is not, our faith in the text stands in jeopardy.  It is important then, for us to exercise a faithful hermeneutic, to rightly handle the Word of God (2 Tim. 2:15) by distinguishing between promises, principles, proverbs, and prophecies.
A promise is a declaration of God that grants to its recipients the right of expectation.  God does not fail to keep His promises because of His righteous character.  Instead of saying that the promises of God do not fail, we could say rightly that God’s promises cannot fail as it would betray God’s nature.  A failed promise is like a squared circle; it simply cannot be.  However we should also distinguish between promises that are conditional (conditioned upon certain responses by God’s people – if you will, then I will . . .), personal instead of universal (as God has promised certain things to certain people or nations that do not universally apply to all people or nations), and circumstantial rather than universal (promises that apply to a certain time or situation, but not necessarily to all times or situations).
We should also be careful to note that not all of God’s promises are positive.  Many people apply an immature hermeneutic to Scripture by wanting only to focus on promises that would seem to prosper them rather than judge them.  God has promised to forgive sin, conditioned upon repentance (1 John 1:9), but He has also promised wrath upon those who do not “obey” the gospel (2 Thess. 1:8-9).  God’s promises are not always positive.
 Principles are rules, axioms, or doctrines that we take from Scripture and apply to the habits of life.  If promises are what God says He will do, principles are what God says we should do.    When it comes to principles we should investigate 3 aspects of a principle for proper application.  When was the principle given, to whom, and why?  Investigating these 3 aspects will help us determine what the principle is and to what extent it should be applied.  For example, 1 Timothy 2:9 calls for women to adorn themselves with modesty, not with braided hair, gold, pearls, or costly attire.  Some would take this verse as a command and call for Christian women in 2011 to wear burlap and to put their hair up in a bun.  The result is often a judgmental reaction to a woman who wears jewelry, has a trendy haircut, and enjoys fashionable clothes.  Personally, I married a hottie and I would like to avoid burlap and buns at all cost!
When interpreting principles we must discern the principle and the extent of its application by considering the 3 aspects mentioned above.  By nature, many of Paul’s epistles, or letters, are personally addressed and specifically applied.  Universal application of them becomes problematic in many respects.  Without a historical/cultural/contextual understanding of Paul’s audience we may become a cult of legalistic prudes rather than a people liberated by Christ.  The principle of 1 Timothy 2:9 is modesty.  Had Paul written to Timothy, an American pastor in 2011 he may not have mentioned jewelry and hair at all.  He may have addressed current fashion trends such as how tight or how short should a Christ follower’s clothing be?  Yet not matter the time or the culture, the principle is the same, modesty for the sake of Christ. 
Overall, we should say that throughout the text there is generally always a principle to be applied, no matter how archaic or oddly cultural a Biblical statement may be.  Although I am not living Leviticus in the sense that I am slaughtering rams for my morning devotion, I am called to be holy and distinct from the surrounding culture.  In the case of Psalm 37:25, from which our discussion is spawned, there is indeed a principle here.  We are called to righteousness and God is good in caring for His own.
Failure to distinguish promises from proverbs is perhaps the greatest hermeneutical error committed against the Biblical text.  While promises are declarations that give one the right of expectation, proverbs are OBSERVATIONS that give one a SENSE of GENERAL expectation.  While a promise carries a sense of “Thus says the Lord”, proverbs have more of a tone of “This is the way life works.”  In geometry it can be said that a while a square is a rectangle, a rectangle may not necessarily be a square.  In the same way it can be said of proverbs and promises, a promise is a proverb, but a proverb many not necessarily be a promise.  Proverbs are so because God has ordained the moral laws of the universe to work according to certain patterns.  If a man plays with fire, he will be burned.  Yet we go to the circus and watch the .0001% of us who can play with fire safely and think it’s cool.  This is where the disclaimer is generally added, “Don’t try this at home.”  Why?  Because the other 99.9999% of us will become a human torch if we try this at home.  Such is the nature of proverbs.
In the case of Psalm 37:25 the author makes it clear that the righteous not begging for bread has been his personal observation.  This does not mean there are not other righteous people who are hungry in the world at the time the author made the statement.  Yet it is amazing how, when righteousness prevails in a people, a culture, a nation, a family, a life – there is adequate provision and God’s will is accomplished in that poverty is eliminated (Deut. 15:4).
There is a great deal of misunderstanding of the nature of prophecies.  Most believe prophecies to be Nostradomas-esque statements that supernaturally predict the future.  While there are these types of statements in the Bible, the general definition of prophecy is concerned more with “forth” telling rather than “fore” telling.  Forth-telling carries the equation God’s will in God’s Word + human reaction = future consequence.  Prophecy is the Newton’s apple of the Bible.  If I jump from a tall tree it will not go well for me; bank on it!
Prophecy is not abstract, fanciful, comic book metaphors.  While there are these sorts of apocalyptic images in Scripture, generally prophecy is the forth-telling of how God’s covenant promises will play out in human history.  For those who participate in the covenant promises of God, there will be victory.  For those who rebel against God’s covenant promises, like a man who jumps from a tall tree, it will not go well.  Why, because by declaration of God’s Word, it is the nature of things.  Prophecy is not the creation of a new scenario, it is the playing out of what already is.
In this sense we can say of Psalm 37:25 that it is not necessarily prophetic in the sense of, if you are hungry, get righteous and you will get bread.  This is the inherit mistake of those who preach a prosperity gospel and mislead the people.  If there is any prophetic element to Psalm 37:25 it is that when sin is eradicated and God rules the universe in righteousness there will be no hunger amongst His people.  Yet we should also say that while this message may be present in Psalm 37:25 there are countless other Biblical texts that would communicate this idea more clearly (Isa. 49:8-26; 61; 65:17-25). 
If we are not to be led astray or lose faith when it seems that the statements of Scripture do not meet expectation and experience we must rightly handle God’s Word and discern the difference between promise, principle, proverb, and prophecy.  Is what God has said to a certain people, in a certain circumstance also true for you or generally true for your world?  Is there a principle to be observed?  Is there a prophecy to be heeded?  In any case God’s Word is not to be treated like a lottery ticket, but rather as an invitation to participate in God’s righteous covenant.
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