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In early July I started posting statements about current events that almost all of us believe. My thought was this – while we disagree on much, it can be helpful to be reminded what we almost all agree on.

It has at times been difficult to find statements about what is going on in American that we can all concur with, and sometimes the agreed upon statements are so weak that it might be slightly distressing, but I was pleased with how many fairly strong statements I could come up with.

I’ll keep it going.

I’m posting them on Facebook and on Twitter.

I’d be interested in your thoughts and comments and suggestions and disagreements, but before you send corrections, you might want to look at my notes below.

Some Thoughts and Explanations of the “What 95% Of Us Believe.”

Axiom 1: Sometimes the 95% is wrong.
Given how many times in history a universally excepted idea has been shown to be incorrect, it would be foolish to think that for the first time in history, we have everything right.

Axiom 2. Many or most will believe a much stronger wording of the What95%Believes statement.
… But sometimes in order to meet the 95% threshold, I have to tone down the wording.
Part of my reason for writing these statements is to point out the unfortunateness of this. You might (correctly) call this a sad statement about our society (“We should all believe that more strongly!”), but don’t state that I’m incorrect if I haven’t posted it.

Axiom 3: While we may agree on the What95%Believes statement, we may strongly disagree about the implications of the statement.

You and another person might agree to a statement, but you might not agree to how this should affect our lives. People might agree to the statement, “It’s unfortunate that there are homeless people” but the actions people take as a result of believing this range from paying for a person’s lodging for a long time to nothing.

Doing nothing doesn’t imply that you don’t believe the statement.

Axiom 4: You might agree with the What95%Thinks statement, but be of the opinion that it should not be stated.
… and you might be wise in that assessment. For example, you might think that a parent shouldn’t have let their child play in the street, but the time when you’re consoling them in the hospital isn’t a good time to point this out.

Other times the hard statement should be overtly stated.

Axiom 5: It’s Never 100%

There might be very popular ideas, but there is always someone who disagrees with it. Almost everyone agrees with “You shouldn’t murder”, but (at least in practice) murderers disagree with this.

A Word About Scope
When I Say “What 95% of us Believe” – by “Us” I mean (1) people who have heard about the issue in the post and understand its basics, and (2) are Americans, with some definition of the word “American”.

And Three Disclaimers:
1. If at first glance you think you (or others) might disagree with one of the statements, ask yourself if there is a way of thinking about the statement that you could buy into.

2. When I say “95 percent”, I really mean “a very large majority”. The actual number may be 98, or 92, or 89.

3. I have statistics to back none of these “large majority” conjectures.

For the Christian, there is a subtext of joy under every passage of Scripture.

Taking action to work towards Reality X, and encouraging others to do likewise, is not the same as saying, “I don’t believe in God’s sovereignty over Reality X.”

It is good to ask this question often: “Is this what God wants me to be doing right now?”

The questions “Do I have enough money?” and “Am I spending money wisely?” are two different questions which might have two different answers.

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Okay, so let’s say you’ve been to your state fair quite a few times, and you’ve enjoyed it and heard people say good things about it, but you’d like to know how it stacks up to other state fairs,  because you’ve only been to your own.

So you google “Best State Fairs” and find a few sites. So you look at one from Country Living that lists their five favorites: Minnesota, Iowa, Texas, New York and Alaska.

And you’re glad to see your own State Fair there, but you think, maybe this is just the opinion of few writers (or maybe just one.)

So you look at another, and another and you start to get interested, because you keep seeing the same few state fairs. And maybe you’d like evidence that your state’s is better than the one in the famous musical that says “Our state fair is a great state fair. Don’t miss it, don’t even be late!”

So, you start keeping track: which sites are in which sites list of Best State Fairs.

You find 15 lists. And, eschewing the click-bait, you end up with this chart (ordered by most listed to least listed – see full chart here.)

MN IA TX OH NY CA AZ WI KY AK IN WA NC OR OK Big E GA IL FL KA SD MI WY ND DE NM NE MO CO
Site 14 13 13 12 12 11 11 9 7 5 5 5 5 4 4 4 2 2 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
New York Post 7 1 1 1 1 1 1
Country Living 5 1 1 1 1 1
Travel Channel 11 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Bustle 10 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Huffington 10 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Fodors 10 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Forbes 9 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Ask.com 10 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Family Vacation Critic 12 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
World Web 10 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Smart Asset 10 1 1 1 1 2 1 1 1 1
Vacations Made Easy 20 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Samantha Brown 8 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
USA Today Ten Best 10 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
American Profile 8 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1

 

The first thing you’re happy to note is that your state fair is listed the most times, once more than the State Fair from Fame and Song.

You also note:

— 30 State Fairs are listed at least once.
— 11 are only listed only once.
— 7 are listed at least ten times.
— The single site that doesn’t list Minnesota is odd to the point of being disregardable! Delaware? Really? And two State Fairs are from Oklahoma? And honestly you wonder if they put Iowa there out of some kind of irrational reverence to Rodgers and Hammerstein.

As you compile all of the data, you note, with some dismay, that one of the list that doesn’t choose Iowa has a link that no longer works, but you hope that anyone analyzing the data will believe you that the link really did work at one point. You know, since you’ve gone through all this effort.

In any case, you’re pleased that your hope that yours is in fact the best state fair was not unfounded. And you look forward to the next time you can enjoy cheese curds, talent shows and trolley rides there again.

Authors, it’s your job to make me want to read what you’re writing.

Earlier this week, Pastor John posted an article – A Beginner’s Guide to Free Will which I think is very helpful. The second half of this article should be read by anyone before they get into a discussion or argument about Free Will.

In it, he gives three definitions of Free Will, one of which he thinks exists for all people, one of which exists only for Christians, and one of which he thinks does not exist for anyone.

If you talk to someone about Free Will, you should have mutual agreement about which type you’re talking about.

Just like if you’re ever talking to someone about Luck, you should agree about which type you’re talking about.

You can praise God without using the word ‘Praise’.

You should really take a walk on this lovely summer day.

The next time you feel a person (or group of people) is being unreasonable, think about this: Is it possible that you’re not really considering the issue from their point of view?

How To Visualize Your Prediction of How The General Election Will Affect Our Country’s Future

[As the reader, please just stipulate for the sake of this post that I am excellent at creating visual graphics.]

In this essay I will be presenting of a visualization of what I think about the presidential election and how it will affect America. Also how Donald Trump is different. I’m asking you to consider whether or not you agree. I think it’s likely that you will, assuming you’re a normal, well-adjusted voter.

Here we go.

Like most people, I’m a bit disillusioned about the political process. Generally speaking, I don’t hold out a lot of hope that any president will make that big of a difference in the grand scheme of the course of the nation.

So, for example, as a voter who generally chooses Republicans on my ballots, I do so with the hope that the Republican will win and the expectation that if he does, things will get better. But, and this is important, not necessarily a lot better.

So as you might imagine, like most sane conservatives, I was looking forward to Ted Cruz (or, you know, Rubio, or Kashich) getting the GOP nomination, and then the presidency. And assuming this happened, this is how I had pictured that future, probabilistically speaking.

Cruz

Looking at the picture you’ll see that I, like all humans, don’t know the future, and I can only make guesses. Perhaps Cruz would have been amazing and great strides of progress would have happened in the U.S. of A. Or perhaps he would have done poorly and things would have gotten worse. But I was laying odds that things would get better – probably slightly to moderately better.

But it looks like that isn’t going to happen now; Cruz is out of the picture and perhaps we’ll have Hillary Clinton as our next Commander In Chief. Here’s my guess as to how that might work out.

Clinton

So you can see that I had similar uncertainty, but I was expecting things to get moderately, or at least minimally worse in our great land.

Nota bene, if you primarily vote Democrat, you could just switch the colors (blue to red and red to blue) and the names and they would be pretty close to what you think.*

I mean, right? Wouldn’t you agree? I’m guessing yes – looking into the next four years, the normal, slightly cynical voters picture something like these pictures. And not just for this election, but as they picture the country with every presidential candidate since they’ve been old enough to vote. Every four years.

But … Trump. What do we do with Trump? What do we think will happen with Trump as our president?
How about this?

Trump

Yes, the outlook is different. It’s not going to be a little better or a little worse. The results are going to be more extreme. Much more extreme. There are a couple issues that are important to me that I agree with him on (at least as he states it now) and if he stands by those long-held convictions**, things might be golden. But I fear it’s much more likely that earth shattering, ground shaking insanity might emanate from a Trump White House and spring forth from sea to shining sea. (Yes, if you’re wondering, I did choose the color by taking a pixel sample of his hair)

What will happen? In 2018, will we be looking back fondly at the days of legislative gridlock? Will small and midsized nations be attacking us out of principle? Will comedians stop making jokes because the situation is simply not funny anymore? Will Donald ‘build a wall’ around our country’s heart so thick that we can’t be hurt by anyone, even those who love us most, and make Megyn Kelly pay for it?***

The question – Who knows what our status will be after four years of Trump? And sir, the answer: No one – least of all Trump, I fear. Thus I visualize the odds going off the chart towards the bad. But like I say, I’m not God. I don’t know the future.

Time will tell, my friends. Only time will tell.

* And yes, I did just google, “What does ‘nota bene’ mean?”
** Scare italics.

[So regarding guessing your thoughts about these matters, how’d I do? Was I close?]

All3

 

Headline from local paper this week: “Lyme disease on the uptick in Minnesota”.

I’m imagining the editor thinking, “See what I did there?”

Yep. We see it.

If you want to help your friend in his twenties, say something nice about him in front of the girl he likes.

If you want to help your friend in his forties, say something nice about him in front of his teenager.

1. If you don’t interact with people on Facebook, you’re not really on Facebook.

2. It’s okay to not be on Facebook.

 

 

Right now is a good time to ask yourself – would you rather be very rich and talented or happy and at peace?

conscience

A couple summers ago, our church heard a sermon from a guest speaker, Andy Naselli, a pastor and a professor at Bethlehem Seminary. He spoke on the topic of the conscience and what the Bible has to say about it. I admit, I was surprised that the Bible had anything to say about the conscience and found the sermon helpful, enlightening and intriguing.

This week, Andy released a book on this subject (with co-author J.D. Crowley) and, given the importance of this topic, I now find myself surprised that no one has written a book like this before. Why not?

It comes down to this: In any given Christian church, any given Christian family, or any given pair of Christian people, individuals find themselves regularly differing on what is right and wrong on any number of topics.

If you think of anyone you know – no matter how close your worldview and theology is to that person’s – I’m guessing you can easily think of an ethical matter where you disagree.

Ethical matters such as –
What kind of secular music should you listen to, if any?
How much alcohol should you drink?
How should you spend your money?
How much time should you spend on Facebook? Should you work on a Sunday? Which words are swear words that no Christian should ever utter? And on and on and on. And many of them regarding subjects that the Bible doesn’t directly touch on.

You listen to your conscience about how to decide what is wrong. Your Christian brother or sister listens to their conscience. Your consciences are certain to disagree at time. Sometimes we can live and let live with that disagreement between each other. But sometimes those disagreements cause conflict. And anger. And division. In your church and family.

Wouldn’t you like to know what the Bible has to say about how to handle those disagreements? Wouldn’t it be nice to have a resource which includes a full survey of all the Bible has to say about the conscience?

You can. Read the book!

Here are some other topics addressed in this important and necessary book:
• How should you interact with your own conscience?
• How is interacting with other cultures, especially when bringing the gospel to these cultures, affected by cultural differences in consciences?
• How are unbelievers affected by their consciences and how should you interact with them?
• What does Paul mean by “strong” and “weak” Christians and how should they relate with each other?
• What does it mean for a conscience to be seared, or clear, or defiled, or perfected, or purified or missing?

I encourage you to get a copy, read it and use it in pursuit of God’s glory and the good of others.

By the way, with the Facebook question, the correct answer is ‘no more than 11.75 minutes a day.’

gambling

As I’ve been communicating with people about Luck, as a result of conversations I’ve had about my three previous posts, no fewer than four people have mentioned the Vern Poythress book Chance and the Sovereignty of God.

So by the time I’d put up the third post, I’d read the first 100+ pages (I’ve since read more), and I’ll say this – It’s a Biblical, smart, helpful, informative and necessary book that I almost completely agree with.

I’ll also point out this: Mr. Poythress believes in chance. I should qualify- In the beginning of chapter nine he shows the two definitions of chance from Merriam-Webster’s dictionary:

1 a : something that happens unpredictably without discernible human intention or observable cause b : the assumed impersonal purposeless determiner of unaccountable happenings : luck.

He confirms his belief in the first definition: “The examples that we have previously discussed, from the Bible and from modern life, conform to this description”

But he rejects the second: “This definition includes the assumption that some events are “impersonal” and “purposeless” in an absolute sense. In other words, the definition implies that God is not involved and that he is not in control. Chance in this sense does not exist.” He later calls this Chance with a capital ‘C’.

I agree with all this. Indeed, I tried (and apparently failed) to make this clear in my previous posts.

But then he says something that I think is overly broad – “There is no such thing as luck.”

He doesn’t explain this statement or give any defense of it.* But he says this, I think, because he assumes, wrongly, that the meaning of luck associated with Capital C Chance is the only kind of luck and that it’s the only way that people refer to luck.

It’s regrettable that he didn’t look at the first definition of luck in that same dictionary, which is “the things that happen to a person because of chance : the accidental way things happen without being planned”.

This is luck associated with the first definition of chance – the one he agrees with. And I think this is what people mean when they say they were lucky. I would encourage anyone to check this out the next time they hear someone say they were lucky.

Specifically, ask them “By lucky, do you mean an assumed impersonal purposeless determiner of unaccountable happenings caused you the fortunate thing to happen, or do you refer to the accidental way things happened without being planned?”

I’m pretty sure they’ll more readily agree to the latter.

It comes down to this – as I said in my last luck post, you shouldn’t use Luck as a predictor or something you can manipulate. But if by luck, you mean the way lower-case-C chance (which Dr. Poythress says is a biblically reasonable concept) plays out in a person’s life, then you’re fine.

* Although later in Chapter 14, he discusses the misuse of luck and chance by means of gambling, superstition, and good luck charms. Again, I agree with his premise that these practices are foolish and often sinful.

Luck Post Intro
Luck 2 – Biblical Evidence
Luck 3 – Disclaimers and Final Thoughts

SAM_1517

Four short stories illustrating the checks the New Testament puts into place to prevent a slippery slope.

Story Number 1

A Christian in the young church in Corinth has finally been able to convince his friend, Jonas, to come to a church meeting. The friend has been expressing dissatisfaction with the Roman gods and temples. They arrive and find out that a letter has been sent to their church by the Apostle Paul, a founder of the church, and a portion of it will be read aloud.  Jonas is very interested to see what this leader has to say. He’s listening and finding the expressed theology to be very intriguing and compelling, especially as the content turns to sexual purity and marriage.

He hears –

For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does.”

And he thinks, “Yes, very good. That’s as it should be. Theonica will hear this message when I get home to her. She’ll have to -”

But then he hears the reader say –

“Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.”

Jonas does not explain himself to his friend as he stands up and quickly excuses himself, even as the reader continues to finish the passage. It should be obvious. By Jove, my body is not my wife’s! That’s ridiculous. She is merely a woman, after all.

He didn’t go back.

Story 2

Evelyn, a twenty-year old woman greets her friend Ruth at the door and invites the older woman into the small bedroom in the community home she lives in. It is a religious community, where it is Evelyn’s work to do laundry ten hours a day, six days a week. The older man who leads their sect demands obedience and subservience, but Evelyn states with a weak smile that she is happy. Ruth notices a blue crescent moon tattooed on Evelyn’s wrist and the young woman covers it up quickly with her sleeve.

They speak at length, sitting on Evelyn’s bed, but Ruth mostly listens and asks questions. After some time, Ruth finally pulls out a writing and says, “My brother Timothy, who is a pastor, received this letter from a wise church-planter named Paul a few days ago. He has let me read it and I asked him if I could bring it and read a small part of it to you. Would that be okay?”

The younger woman nods hesitantly and then listens as Ruth reads –

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.

A few minutes later, with Ruth’s help, Evelyn started packing.

Story 3

The Jewish basket weaver has a surprisingly good sitting place to hear the new teacher as he preaches about the Kingdom of God from the top of a hill, but his heart is closed. He doesn’t want to hear about the meek and merciful, and he’s not interested in how great his sin is.

And then he hears –

But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart,”

– and he thinks, “That is nonsense. I have not committed adultery! One of two things are true – either God is fine with me looking on the form of a woman to my own pleasure, assuming I don’t touch her, or the woman should cover herself so that her form is not visible. If it is right there in front of me, God will not hold me responsible when I look, no matter what my thoughts are. A just God will hold her, and her alone, responsible for the thoughts her body provokes.”

He slipped down the hill and away from the foolish rabbi.

Story 4

The man holds in his hands a scroll copied from a letter from one of the Son of God’s own disciples. It is an honor for him, new to the church and the faith, to be able to take these writings home and read it in the days between Sabbaths. So he is reading. The words move and motivate him. And then he reads –

Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.

And he stops reading. He feels a stabbing in his soul. He puts his face in his hand and he weeps.

Yesterday he hit his wife. She had something insufficiently honoring to him and he had put his hand across her face. It was his right as Husband.

Today he hasn’t had the courage to look at her fully, but he is afraid there’s a bruise on her cheek. He feels the weight of his error.

He steps into the other room and finds her, the one he loves, and she sees that he has been crying. He repents before her and God and states (truthfully) that he will never touch her violently again. They cry together. She forgives him. God forgives him.

He took her hand and together they went back and found the scroll and continued reading it together.

===

Egalitarian or Skeptic, do not fear that following the New Testament’s teaching about the differences between men and women will lead to the mistreatment of women. God has seen to it that this won’t happen for the one who is truly seeking His Word to know His Will.

Young man, old man and husband, God has written for us how we are to treat women in and before Marriage, which is an ancient picture of our relationship with God. If we defy His Will in these matters, we defy His Gospel.

Rom 8

If you’re trying to stop a tank, using a weapon that only dents the outside won’t work against the machine or those it’s carrying. A man wielding a BB gun might chip the paint or put a ding in the metal, but the guys inside the tank will only care if you blow a hole in it or stop it from functioning.

 

 

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