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The Key to Prosperity

It's not knowledge or work ethic, it turns out.

What are the most important qualities of a society that allow economic prosperity to take root? A lust for learning and knowledge? A blistering work ethic? Increasingly, academic research has highlighted a characteristic that may surprise many: Social trust.

Trust and its inseparable counterpart, trustworthiness, are themes that run strongly throughout Scripture. Trustworthy people are continually held in high esteem throughout the Bible (Exod. 18:20, Neh. 13:13, Dan. 6:4, Luke 19:17, 1 Cor. 4:2, 1 Tim. 3:11). Trust and trustworthiness are fundamental to healthy relationships; they are hallmarks of spiritual maturity. But academic research has only recently begun to grasp why they are so fundamental to economic prosperity.

The importance of social trust has been driven home as my family and I live for six months in a small village in Oaxaca, Mexico. The value of social trust is made salient by its absence, like being oblivious to your mother’s savory cooking until you leave home. Mexico is a wonderful country, rich in resources, history, tradition, art, and culture. But it is not a country rich in trust. Trust in government, in politicians and police, even among one’s fellow citizens is as sparse as water in the Sonoran Desert. These are not casual observations. Lamentably, they are how the data speak.

For 35 years, social scientists of all stripes have been obtaining data on trust and trustworthiness through the World Values Survey. In this carefully representative survey, 400,000 people across 100 different countries are asked: "Generally speaking, would you say that most people can be trusted or that you need to be very careful in dealing with people?” For example, while 74.2 percent of those ...

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Fri, 22 May 2015 08:40:00 PDT
Memorial Day 2015: Remembering the Sacrifices Others Have Made

Remember the lives people have given to maintain the freedom we have to worship in this country.

Although I am in Brazil, I think that patriotic days like this are important—and as a dual citizen, of the United States and the Kingdom of God, I celebrate these days even when I am far away.

So, today, my family and I will take a moment, thank God for the freedom we have in the nation we lived, and pray for the families of those who have lost loved ones in the service of our nation.

In memory of this United States Memorial Day, I am posting a speech was given over fifteen years ago by Reverend J. Thomas Shelley of Zion (Shaffer's) United Lutheran Church in Seven Valleys, Pennsylvania.

I've posted it below for your reading and consideration about how we might consider memorials.

On Memorial Day of last year I found myself doing something which I had never done before; indeed, something which at one time I could not even have conceived of doing: conducting a service of worship. Memorial Day has been largely abandoned to Veteran's groups conducting military services in a few larger cemeteries. The response of the Church has been either to ignore the day altogether, or to so drape it in red, white, and blue that the nation—and not the Triune God—becomes the object of devotion and worship. It was probably because of the excesses of the latter that I found myself among the former—among those who ignored the day. But years of passing by a cemetery on the way to worship time and again have had a profound effect upon me. "I believe in... the communion of saints," always (to use Luther's phrase) "most certainly true" has become more than just words in a Creed; but a constant, discernible presence of the faithful departed of every age. So also have ...

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Mon, 25 May 2015 05:00:00 PDT
Review: Tomorrowland

Hollywood is fighting its own Loudness War, and this movie definitely isnt helping.

mpaa rating:PG (For sequences of sci-fi action violence and peril, thematic elements, and language.)Genre:Adventure, Family, Science FictionTheatre Release:May 22, 2015 by Disney

I should start out by disclaiming that I am kind of a Brad Bird mega-fan, coming just short of having a framed picture of the director on my mantelpiece. When I review sub-par kids’ movies for this site, I frequently have to re-write my conclusions to be something other than just “Watch The Iron Giant/The Incredibles again instead of this.” The former is one of my all-time favorites, and the latter, together with Up and Ratatouille, is perhaps the defining film of Pixar’s Golden Age. (Oh—and Bird was responsible for Ratatouille, too.) And Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol continued the series with not just a good installment, but maybe the best of the bunch.

And, on paper, Tomorrowland is pretty similar to all of those movies. It’s got spy-thriller bits, action scenes, heartwarming inter-familial moments, and a moment of devastating social commentary that will make the audience so quiet you could hear a pin drop.

However, there’s something about Tomorrowland that is distinctly different from Bird’s past filmography. When I say that it sounds good on paper, it turns out that, in practice, that’s the only place it works. This isn’t for a lack of Bird’s traditional touches, but because of their overabundance.

Tomorrowland, no matter how you choose to situate it with respect to Bird’s past movies, is overwhelmingly a product of its time—and, because of that, it highlights a problem with a whole slew of recent films.

Tomorrowland skips back and forth between multiple timelines—and even dimensions—but the gist is this: Casey Newton (Britt Robertson) wants the world to be a better place. Having had an obsession with space travel since ...

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Sat, 23 May 2015 10:23:00 PDT
Josh Duggar of '19 Kids and Counting' Apologizes, Resigns after Reports of Molesting 5 Young Girls

Police investigated sexual assaults in 2006, but no charges were brought against Duggar. TLC pulls program from its lineup.

Josh Duggar, 27, the eldest child in the Duggar family of 19 Kids and Counting, apologized for acting “inexcusably” after InTouch, a gossip website, revealed that he had “forcibly fondled” 5 girls, all minors, when he was about 15 years old.

“Twelve years ago, as a young teenager I acted inexcusably for which I am extremely sorry and deeply regret. I hurt others, including my family and close friends. I confessed this to my parents who took several steps to help me address the situation,” Duggar said on the family’s official Facebook page. The hit TLC series, based on the Arkansas family, has been on the air since 2008.

Duggar also resigned his job as executive director of FRC Action, an affiliate of the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council (FRC). The Hollywood Reporter on Friday published that TLC aired a 19 Kids marathon on Thursday, sparking viewer outrage. On Friday, TLC without comment pulled the May 27 program from its broadcast schedule.

“Today Josh Duggar made the decision to resign his position as a result of previously unknown information becoming public concerning events that occurred during his teenage years,” said Tony Perkins, president of FRC, in a statement. “Josh believes that the situation will make it difficult for him to be effective in his current work. We believe this is the best decision for Josh and his family at this time. We will be praying for everyone involved.”

InTouch broke the story earlier this week after filing a Freedom of Information request. The entire police report from Springdale, Arkansas, where the Duggar family lived at the time, is available on its website. No charges were filed in the case, though ...

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Fri, 22 May 2015 08:59:00 PDT
The Christians Who Annoy Us Are the Christians We Need Most

Why learning from those outside your tribe is essential to the churchs witness.

Confronted with the stubborn fact of church disunity, every new generation of Christians asks the same question: “Why can’t we all just get along?” And every old generation has the same set of answers at the ready. “We already tried to get along before you got here,” say some. “All the things that divide us are nonnegotiable,” say others.

In any generation, the friction among Christian “tribes” is palpable. Collin Hansen, the editorial director for the Gospel Coalition, approaches this subject not as an impartial observer but as a committed member of a particular tribe: the “young, restless, Reformed” believers whose emergence he profiled in a classic 2006 CT cover story and a 2008 book by the same name. Yet his latest work, Blind Spots: Becoming a Courageous, Compassionate, and Commissioned Church (Crossway), suggests a strategy for “church unity and an effective gospel witness in the world.”

This is a matter of no small urgency, Hansen argues, because a divided witness won’t suffice to gain a hearing for the gospel in the current cultural climate. In the foreword, NYC pastor Tim Keller describes the book as “an extended essay on how Christians in Western societies today . . . need to respond to a culture quickly growing post-Christian.”

To this end, Hansen proposes that Christians learn from believers who make them uncomfortable, because the ones who annoy us are likely the ones we need most. Instead of trying to be well-rounded, we should settle for being well-surrounded. If we can’t embody all the strengths of every Christian tribe, we can at least associate with brothers and sisters who have what we lack (and ...

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Fri, 22 May 2015 08:30:00 PDT
3 Reasons for Christians to Engage in Science

A lot of Christians are nervous about engaging science, but should we be?

I’ve always been a bit of a science nerd, and it appears I have passed that attribute on to my children. As I start this essay, my daughter has just shown me her clay model of the surface of the skin, complete with labels of the various layers.

Obviously, your first assumption is that this is for a school project. But actually, it’s simply because she loves science. For her, creation speaks to the wonder and glory of the creator, which means science is an avenue for worship.

However, it appears we live in an age when many evangelical Christians are unsure where science fits. Perhaps that is because many evangelicals presume scientists are disproportionately unbelievers. In a way, that is true. A 2009 Pew Research study found scientists are more than 10 times as likely as the general public to disbelieve in God or a higher power. [1]

Scientists themselves are starting to lose the trust of many Americans, who, according to researchers at Princeton, believe scientists are highly competent, but not particularly trustworthy. [2] People believe seeking grant funding or pushing a particular agenda motivates many scientists, instead of an unbiased pursuit of truth.

Because Christians see statistics like these, many Christians assume there is no spiritual value in believers pursuing a career in the sciences, and that doing so could, in fact, be detrimental to their faith. While it is true scientists are less likely to believe in God (that’s just math), it is not true there are no scientists who believe. There are actually a significant number of scientists who are Christians, including many prominent believers.

In 2014, Rice University along with the American Association for the Advancement of Science ...

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Fri, 22 May 2015 08:00:00 PDT
Border Crossing: Renting to Churches of Other Cultures Part 2

When pastors consider renting to churches from other cultures, they must examine their motives.

Generous hospitality can benefit immigrant congregations and their North American hosts, but it’s important to understand your motives first.

Last month, I referred to a common scenario: an immigrant congregation seeks space for worship services, and an established church with ample facilities weighs whether to make room.

I pointed out that more important than determining whether they should rent is considering why. What is the real motivation of both tenant and landlord?

For example, a declining church might need income, and immigrant congregations may want nothing more than space for worship. Both parties must admit this bottom-line need honestly rather than euphemizing it as something more spiritual, or frustrations will fester.

But material need is not the only motivation for renting. I have discovered at least two others. Renting as benevolence is today’s focus.

A Desire to Be Generous

Sometimes the prevailing desire of both parties moves beyond the equal exchange of money for mortar to the unequal exchange exemplified by generous hospitality.

Immigrant congregations with limited means often seek access to facilities free of charge. Although Americans may first perceive this desire as opportunistic, many other cultural groups value generosity so highly that expecting it of others is not an offense but a given.

According to Robert McAffee Brown, many Latin American believers read Scripture through the lenses of generosity and material need. It is no wonder to them that the disciples on the Emmaus Road[1] had their eyes opened to the identity of the risen Jesus only after they offered him—a stranger—shelter for the night and served him a meal. Generous hospitality validated their ...

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Thu, 21 May 2015 08:00:00 PDT
Forgiving Her Sister's Murderer, Face to Face

Attorney Jeanne Bishop has helped thousands of clients make amends for their crimes. Now shes helping the man who killed her sister make amends for his.

On April 7, 1990, David Biro broke into the affluent suburban Chicago home of Nancy and Richard Langert armed with a glass cutter and a revolver. When the Langerts returned home that night, Biro, then 16, was waiting. He rejected the couple’s attempts to negotiate, which likely included money; police discovered ­$500 in cash abandoned at the scene. Biro shot Richard in the head and Nancy, who was pregnant, three times. He left her bleeding in the couple’s basement.

“It was Palm Sunday,” remembers Jeanne Bishop, Nancy’s sister. Bishop was at choir rehearsal at Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago. “The secretary came and said, ‘You have a phone call.’

“I said, ‘Can you take a message?’

“She said, ‘No, you need to come with me.’ ”

Bishop immediately thought of her elderly father. But it was his voice she heard over the phone: “Nancy and Richard have been killed.”

An image of a truck crushing the couple’s compact car on the expressway flashed through Bishop’s mind.

“What do you mean, killed?” she said.

“Somebody killed them.”

A week later, Bishop learned the details of her younger sister’s last moments. Nancy had remained alive for roughly 10 minutes after Biro shot her in the elbow, back, and abdomen. Before she died, she crawled over to her husband’s body and used her own blood to draw a heart and the letter U.

No Division

Six months after the murders, the police arrested Biro. An honors student at New Trier High School in Winnetka, Illinois, Biro had once been admitted to a psychiatric hospital for trying to poison his family. He had bragged to his ...

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Thu, 21 May 2015 07:56:00 PDT
On Their Side: A Public Defender's Work to Humanize Her Clients

How the murder of her sister spurred Jeanne Bishop to grapple not only with Christian forgiveness but also with her vocation.

Nancy Langert’s murder spurred Jeanne Bishop to grapple not only with Christian forgiveness but also with her vocation. In 1990, the then-29-year-old was a corporate attorney in Chicago.

“I was doing the job out of fear and pride, really—fear of not having enough money, pride in working for the big fancy law firm,” Bishop told CT. “I realized that God gave me this gift of life, and I was squandering it.

“I needed to do the things God gave me this life for: to serve others and not myself.”

Within a year of her sister’s death, Bishop quit her job to become a Cook County public defender. Today, the Yale Law School graduate advocates for Chicagoans who can’t afford a trial lawyer, representing thousands accused of everything from petty theft to murder.

Before Bishop and her clients meet—typically in the lockup of a courthouse—the defendants have been handcuffed, arrested, and put in a cell. They will “be wearing a uniform they did not choose, shoes that may not fit,” said Bishop. They have a number written in marker on their arms, so “they’re not called out by name. They’re called out, ‘Number 24!’”

The majority of Bishop’s clients opt for a plea deal instead of a trial. But before Bishop offers counsel, she asks them for the truth.

“I want to be the smartest person in the room when I stand in front of the judge,” she said. “If I don’t know what really happened, then I’m not the smartest person in the room. I want to know everything so I can investigate every possible avenue of defense.”

Bishop also uses all the details of the crime to teach her clients. ...

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Thu, 21 May 2015 07:50:00 PDT
The Church Is Your Mom

Maybe not a perfect mother, but a mother worth celebrating nonetheless.

This year, Pentecost Sunday, which is this weekend, falls a couple weeks after Mother’s Day.
But several years ago the two celebrations fell on the same day, and I thought that timing was perfect—Pentecost celebrates a birth and a mother­, the birth of the church and the church as our mother.

Since then, I’ve thought of Pentecost as our truer, ancient Mother’s Day.

St. Cyprian, a third-century bishop, famously said, “No one can have God as Father who does not have the church as Mother.” The symbolism of the “church as mother” is used throughout early church writings, continues into the medieval period, and, though it may surprise some, was embraced by the reformers. John Calvin quotes Cyprian and refers to the motherhood of the church throughout his Institutes.

The historic symbol of the church as mother is replete (dare I say pregnant) with meaning: we receive the gospel through the church just as we receive life through our mother; in many traditions, word and sacrament are said to nourish and feed us just as mothers nourish infants through their very bodies; and, extending the Pauline metaphor, the church is historically addressed as the “bride-mother,” through which the Spirit bears life to all the world. A French hymn proclaims, “Now Christ, the Model of what all may be, has taken Church, our mother, for his bride…His love is she.” This maternal symbolism affirms the significance of motherhood and the vital role of moms. Throughout church history, when thinkers, teachers, and saints looked around for a symbol of the church—something that told us of that which was essential, life-giving, glorious, nourishing, vital, ...

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Thu, 21 May 2015 07:11:00 PDT
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