Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Thoughts on Study Questions from Acts Ch10 on 1/13



My Sunday school class/Life Group is studying the book of Acts. I posted these questions this Monday and encouraged you to jot your thoughts down.
It's Wednesday. This post consists of some comments from the class discussion.

If you’d like a PDF file of the questions, email me at crd.author@gmail.com

Chapter 10:9-23a

How does the voice respond to Peter?
Don't argue with God... unless you're going to let Him win!

What significance do you think there is to Peter seeing the vision 3 times?
Peter was a slow learner--Jesus asked him about his love 3x.
The Law required more than one witness.
15 One witness is not enough to convict anyone accused of any crime or offense they may have committed. A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.
It's how many times he denied Christ.

What is Peter's mental state after the third vision?
Perplexed.
Confused.

Who shows up? 
The three men sent by Cornelius.

Are they invited in?

Not immediately.

Why aren’t they invited in?
They are Gentiles.

Why does Peter go down off the roof?
The VOICE tells him to "put feet to your knowledge!"

What does Peter do when he gets down?
Invites the Gentiles in. Provides food and lodging.

23b-33
When do they head to Caesarea? 
The next day.

What is implied by this?
The trip is important.
This episode took 3-4 days from Cornelius' vision to the trip back from Simon the Tanners home.

What is Cornelius doing?
Praying
Expecting
Waiting for God's answer

 We got this far this week. 

23b-33

How does this show the depth of Cornelius' faith?
Why would Cornelius "fall at [Peter's] feet"?
How does Peter respond to this act of Cornelius?
What does Peter do then?
How does he explain this non-Jewish action?
What is Peter's question to the group?
Cornelius' answer is straight-forward. He adds one thing, what? Why do you think he adds this?
34-48
How does Peter's sermon here differ from his previous sermons?
What happens before the end of the sermon?
Who came with Peter? What is their reaction?
What is Peter's reaction?
How does Peter’s reaction fit into Jesus command of Acts 1?
Chapter 11
1-18
When Peter returns to Jerusalem, he is on the hot seat. Why?
Describe a possible parallel situation that might happen in our church in this century.
Compare Peter's account to the brothers in Jerusalem to Luke's account in Chapter 10. What is different?
Why do you think that it’s different?
What happens to the objections of the Jerusalem believers?
19-26
How does the church get its start in Antioch?
Who might these “evangelists” be?
Who is given "first shot" at the Gospel by the evangelists?
Who are "the Greeks"?
What is the secret of the evangelist's success?
Why is Barnabas sent to Antioch?
What is the effect of his visit?
Where else does he go? Why?
How long do Saul and Barnabas "pastor" the church at Antioch?
What significant terminology arises from this church?
27-30
Who is Agabus?
What does he do?
About what year is this?

What is the Antioch church response to this?

This week's Expressions of Faith is Christians

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Sunday, January 13, 2019

Almanac. Why my California ballot is soooo large. Part 1. Background

This sample ballot is from California's 2016 Presidential Election. The number of propositions on the ballot is representative of the problem that exists in this state. In what has become all too easy access to placing measures (propositions) on the ballot, elected officials are neglecting their duties as representatives of the people.
Disclaimer
This was originally going to be a two-part series on California's love affair with ballot propositions. However, as I began thinking/writing, I decided to expand the focus. As of 1/8/2019, I predict a total of four parts to this series. 
Parts one and two will look at democracy and America. Part three will tackle the evolution of the career politician. Only part four will deal directly with the ballot size portion of the title. One part will post on every other Tuesday starting today, January 15.

Background
Types of Democracy is from   https://resources.saylor.org/wwwresources/archived/site/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/POLSC221-4.1.5-TypesDem-FINAL.pdf  There is some editing in format but none in content.
Types of Democracy

The democratic form of government is an institutional configuration that allows for popular participation through the electoral process. According to political scientist Robert Dahl, the democratic ideal is based on two principles: political participation and political contestation. Political participation requires that all the people who are eligible to vote can vote. Elections must be free, fair, and competitive. Once the votes have been cast and the winner announced, power must be peacefully transferred from one individual to another. These criteria are to be replicated on a local, state, and national level. A more robust conceptualization of democracy emphasizes what Dahl refers to as political contestation. Contestation refers to the ability of people to express their discontent through freedom of the speech and press. People should have the ability to meet and discuss their views on political issues without fear of persecution from the state. Democratic regimes that guarantee both electoral freedoms and civil rights are referred to as liberal democracies. 

In the subfield of Comparative Politics, there is a rich body of literature dealing specifically with the intricacies of the democratic form of government. These scholarly works draw distinctions between democratic regimes based on representative government, the institutional balance of power, and the electoral procedure. There are many shades of democracy, each of which has its own benefits and disadvantages. Types of Democracy The broadest differentiation that scholars make between democracies is based on the nature of representative government. There are two categories: direct democracy and representative democracy. We can identify examples of both in the world today. 

Direct Democracy 
Direct democracy places all power in the hands of the individual. When political decisions must be made, all members of a polity gather together and individuals cast a vote. In theory, this sounds like the ideal form of government. There are no intermediaries. Each person is treated as an equal, and each person is given a chance to directly influence the policymaking process. In practice, however, this system is hard to implement. Historically, small political communities tend to use direct democracy. In small towns or indigenous communities where everyone knows one another and the issues under debate directly affect them, such an arrangement is ideal. However, once there is an expansion in the size of the electorate and the scope of policy areas, direct democracy can become unwieldy. In America today, thousands of laws are implemented and repealed on a daily basis. Applying a direct democracy framework in this type of political environment would be quite difficult.

Representative Democracy 
As political communities change and evolve, so does our understanding of how democracy should be implemented. The second major type of democracy is referred to as representative democracy. This political arrangement establishes an intermediary political actor between the individual and the policy outputs of the state. Through the electoral process, one person or a group of people are elected and assigned with the task of making decisions on behalf of the group of citizens that they represent. In the United States, we have multiple intermediaries. Each state has two representatives in the upper house or Senate. In the lower house or House of Representatives, the number of intermediaries appointed is based on the population size of each state. It is important to note that while the power of the individual is diminished slightly, political representatives are still beholden to the group that they represent, also known as their “constituency.” In the US, members of both the House of Representatives and Senate face regular elections, during which the public evaluates their performance. If citizens are pleased, then it is expected that the representative will be re-elected. This repetitive process creates a relationship of accountability between voters and those that they put into power. Electoral defeat serves as a deterrent to a politician’s temptation to err from the preferences of his or her constituency. 

The creation of the intermediary role begs the following questions: 
  1. What does it really mean to be a representative of the interests of a collective of individuals? 
  2. What if the set of policies that voters want does not really serve their interests? 
  3. What should the representative do? 
Some scholars argue that it is the responsibility of the elected representative to carry out the wishes of the constituency, even if it harms them. This is known as the “delegate model.” Conversely, some argue that politicians are specialists. While voters continue to engage in their everyday lives, politicians are in the thick of congressional debates. They understand the intricacies and implications of policies more than their constituents ever could, so in some circumstances, political leaders should be given the benefit of the doubt. This model is known as the “trustee model.” The trustee model does not mean that voter-representative accountability is unimportant; rather, it recognizes asymmetries in information and knowledge that exist between the public at large and elected officials. One could argue that it is actually impossible to represent the interest of every voter. Consequently, all representatives are trustees as they must make educated guesses about what their power base would want and should want. Sometimes representatives will be right, and sometimes they will be wrong. What is important is that we place our trust in their ability to make rational and well-informed decisions. The electoral process responds to a representative’s failure (real or perceived) by most likely removing the representative from office.

The boldface questions and the bolded red sentence are the targets for the next one or two posts.

What happened to the government of the United States over time is candidly described in the column below. You might have read a version of this on social media. What follows is the original text of the column. BTW, it was not the author's "final column."

(This column was originally published in the Orlando Sentinel on Feb. 3, 1984.)
By Charlie Reese
Politicians are the only people in the world who create problems and then campaign against them.
Have you ever wondered why, if both the Democrats and the Republicans are against deficits, we have deficits? Have you ever wondered why, if all the politicians are against inflation and high taxes, we have inflation and high taxes?
You and I don't propose a federal budget. The president does. You and I don't have the constitutional authority to vote n appropriations. The House of Representatives does. You and I don't write the tax code. The Congress does. You and I don't set fiscal policy. the Congress does. You and I don't control monetary policy. The Federal Reserve Bank does.
One hundred senators, 435 congressmen, one president, and nine Supreme Court justices - 545 human beings out of 238 million- are directly, legally, morally and individually responsible for the domestic problems that plague this country.
I excluded the members of the Federal Reserve Bank because that problem was created by the Congress. In 1913, Congress delegated its constitutional duty to provide a sound currency to a federally chartered but private central bank.
I exclude all of the special interest and lobbyists for a sound reason. They have no legal authority. They have no ability to coerce a senator, a congressman or a president to do one cotton-picking thing. I don't care if they offer a politician $1 million in cash. The politician has the power to accept or reject it.
No matter what the lobbyist promises, it is the legislator's responsibility to determine how he votes.
Don't you see now the con game that is played on the people by the politicians? Those 545 human beings spend much of their energy convincing you that what they did is not their fault. they cooperate in this common con regardless of party.
What separates a politician from a normal human being is an excessive amount of gall. No normal human being would have the gall of Tip O'Neill, who stood up and criticized Ronald Reagan for creating deficits.
The president can only propose a budget. He cannot force the Congress to accept. it. The Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land, gives sole responsibility to the House of Representatives for originating appropriations and taxes. O'Neill is speaker of the House. He is the leader of the majority party. He and his fellow Democrats, not the president, can approve any budget they want. If the president vetoes it, they can pass it over his veto.
Just 545 Americans have fouled up this great nation.
It seems inconceivable to me that a nation of 235 million cannot replace 545 people who stand convicted - by present facts - of incompetence and irresponsibility.
I can't think of a single domestic problem, from an unfair tax code to defense overruns, that is not traceable directly to those people.
When you fully grasp the plain truth that 545 people exercise complete power over the federal government, then it must follow that what exists is what they want to exist.
If the tax code is unfair, it's because they want it unfair. If the budget is in the red, it's because they want it in the red. If the Marines are in Lebanon, it's because they want them in Lebanon.
There are no insoluble government problems. Do not let these 545 people shift the blame to bureaucrats, whom they hire and whose jobs they can abolish; to lobbyists, whose gifts and advice they can reject; to regulators, to whom they give the power to regulate and from whom they can take it.
Above all, do not let them con you into the belief that there exist disembodied mystical force like "the economy," "inflation" or "politics" that prevent them from doing what they take an oath to do.
Those 545 people and they alone are responsible. They and they alone have the power. they and they alone should be held accountable by the people who are their bosses - provided they have the gumption to manage their own employees.

Conclusion #1
Many, if not nearly all, problems in what is called American politics are the results of actions of that government. The problems were not problems until the government decided they were problems after creating the situations through legislation.

The next Almanac - in two weeks - is Why my California ballot is soooo large. Part 2. More on Federal government

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