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Why Does the Red Planet Call to Us?

What space exploration tells us about human curiosity, from Eden to Mars.

Blue is the color of Mars at sunset. From the surface, the cold, dim light of the setting sun comes in from the horizon as it competes with the ever-present dust, thick in the air. The plains of graveled hematite that were once shades of ochre and umber by day are now jet and onyx.

In the darkness, Mars may seem to be a dead planet. But in Gale Crater, there is human movement, as NASA’s Curiosity rover slowly treks its way up the shoulder of Mount Sharp.

Mars is not the dying planet sprung from the imagination of writers like Edgar Rice Burroughs and Ray Bradbury. Mars is more alive than ever—increasingly populated over the last two decades with the robot explorers of an emergent humanity, propelled by a sense of curiosity that infects our species.

Ecclesiastes 1:13 calls humanity’s curiosity about the universe both a “heavy burden” (in the NIV), but also a gift “given to human beings” by our Creator (in the NRSV). Everyone loves, but God calls us to a higher love. Everyone is curious, but God calls us to a higher form of curiosity.

Last month, after nearly two years of testing and repairs, the Curiosity rover is again drilling into Martian rock in its bid to discover whatever secrets may be hidden within. One of the keys to unlocking those secrets is an instrument the car-sized vehicle carries called the ChemCam, an onboard spectrometer that uses a laser to vaporize Martian rock and then, by reading light waves, can measure the rock’s chemical and mineral makeup.

“Exploring the universe around us is a very God-given activity—to follow our curiosity and to continue the work of exploring God’s creation that has [already] begun,” explains Roger Wiens, a scientist …

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Christian Post Publisher Charged in $10 Million Fraud Scheme

Manhattan indictment alleges conspiracy and shady business practices between Christian Media Corporation and Newsweek rescuer IBT Media.

The former head of The Christian Post, which calls itself the No. 1 Christian website in the world, was indicted this week in what investigators say was a scheme to obtain millions in loans through false pretenses.

William C. Anderson—who served as the CEO of the Christian Media Corporation (CMC International) and publisher of its flagship publication The Christian Post—and Etienne Uzac—the CEO IBT Media (until recently, the owners of Newsweek)—were arraigned today on charges of fraud, conspiracy, money laundering, and falsifying business documents, following a long-running investigation by the Manhattan district attorney’s office.

The indictment alleges that the two companies, which were also indicted, faked financial audits to secure $10 million in loans—with $1.5 million going to CMC International—then used the money to make up for deficits from general operations rather than purchasing the high-performance equipment they told financers they would.

Both executives have denied the charges, noting that all the lenders had been paid back in full. In court today, they pleaded not guilty.

“The notion that my client intended to deceive anyone, much less engage in a money laundering conspiracy, is absurd,” Andy Lankler, Anderson’s lawyer, told The Wall Street Journal, which broke the news of the indictment. “We will vigorously defend these charges.”

Michelle Vu, chief of staff for The Christian Post, said in a statement to CT, “There are no charges against The Christian Post (CP), no allegations of any wrongdoing by CP. CP will continue its work as usual, focusing on bringing fair, accurate and relevant news to its readers.”

Anderson, who was at the …

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Hurricane Sergio remnants expected to bring scattered storms to Arizona

Arizona is expected to have scattered storms for the rest of the week and into the weekend, according to the National Weather Service in Phoenix.

      

 

 

Creating a new eatery category screams success for Scottsdale’s Riot Hospitality Group

Industry publication Inc. named Riot to its Inc. 5000 list for 2018, which recognizes the nation’s fastest-growing private companies.

      

 

 

We Interviewed 20 Christians Who Traveled to North Korea. Now They Can’t.

About 70 faith-based groups must surmount legal hurdles to engage the restrictive nation.

It’s been a year since the Trump administration banned Americans—including most humanitarian workers—from North Korea, following the death of Otto Warmbier, an American university student whose imprisonment left him in a vegetative state. Last month, the administration renewed the ban for a second year. Since its implementation, the State Department has granted a special travel passport only in “extremely limited circumstances.”

While containing Pyongyang’s military ambitions, taking a normative stand against human rights violations, and protecting Americans abroad are commendable policy objectives, the travel ban limits humanitarian and economic projects that connect North Koreans with the outside world. Particularly impacted are nearly 70 faith-based organizations (FBOs), most of them Christian, which during the past two decades have legally channeled hundreds of (mostly volunteer) workers and thousands of tourists to North Korea, officially the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). They originate from the United States (e.g., Christian Friends of Korea), Canada (Reah International), Finland (Fida International), Germany (Christliches Missionswerk Joshua), and South Korea (Eugene Bell Foundation Korea, Green Tree International), among other countries. As a Korean American political science professor, I (Yi) interviewed more than 20 workers and tourists, mostly US citizens, linked with faith-based organizations.

The FBO workers and volunteers, whom I interviewed, acknowledge the complications of international tourism to the DPRK and urge would-be tourists to exercise prudence and follow applicable laws. At the same time, they also highlight many positive developments in North …

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How Churches Can Spot and Stop Human Trafficking After Hurricane Michael

Christians are uniquely poised to help in the wake of disaster.

Now that Hurricane Michael has struck, a mass influx of people will start pouring into Florida to step into the vacuum of needs created by the storm. But the dark reality is that not all are there to help. Some will likely be human traffickers ready to swoop in and exploit the vulnerable.

The significant damage, mass displacement of survivors, and influx of outsiders following disasters often fuels the demand for sex trafficking and labor trafficking. Traffickers often hide under the cover of rescue work and even law enforcement, obscuring their true intentions until it’s too late for victims to protect themselves.

Despite the countless challenges to anti-trafficking efforts, Christians are uniquely poised to help in the wake of disaster because our churches’ community ties and relationships with the vulnerable.

Further, as Christians, we are called (Ps. 41:1) to help those in need, and where there is a major disaster—the threat of trafficking looms—clearly the need is great. Here’s how to spot vulnerable survivors more at risk for trafficking and steps to take to help stop it from occurring.

Spotting survivors at risk for trafficking

If you want to help prevent traffickers from exploiting the vulnerable and help people who are already trapped in this web, start by learning how to spot the signs of trafficking. People displaced by the event often lack depth of community and roots in their new location, which makes them more vulnerable to trafficking.

When people are struggling to meet basic needs, like food, water, and housing, they can be more easily coerced or deceived by people offering to help meet those needs. Traffickers often try and lure displaced survivors with job offers or free housing …

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Looking for LOVE in Scottsdale: Iconic sculpture to move Friday

The LOVE sculpture, which is a popular selfie spot, has been closed to the public since July due to bridge work.

      

 

 

Employee used same spoon to taste-test soups on this week's restaurant inspections

Seven locations encompassing Mesa, Gilbert, Glendale and Phoenix on this week’s list for four or more violations. Also see grade A spots.

      

 

 

A Dying Child and a Living Hope

How prayer and friendship helped an expecting mother through a devastating fetal diagnosis.

Perfectly Human: Nine Months with Cerian is a profoundly moving and wise book. In it, author and historian Sarah C. Williams tells the story of welcoming her daughter, Cerian, after a routine, 20-week ultrasound discovered a severe skeletal disorder typically resulting in stillbirth or neonatal death. Beginning with the initial diagnosis, Williams sketches a portrait of a family that loves, suffers, and endures in faith.

It would be a mistake to characterize this book merely as a grief memoir. Williams shifts seamlessly between intimate reflections on love in the midst of tragic loss and incisive commentary on the social structures that framed her experience of receiving an adverse in utero diagnosis. She sees with the loving gaze of a parent and the disciplined mind of one trained to wrestle with difficult questions. “What does it mean to be human?” she asks. “This is the question our daughter Cerian raised for me, and this is the question that lies at the core of this book.”

But it is not enough for her to raise questions about the pressures families face after a life-limiting diagnosis. She writes honestly about her own faltering attempts to comprehend Cerian’s value. She confesses that ethical and religious principles alone could not give her family the courage and hope they needed to fulfill this work of love. What they needed, they received in disciplines of prayer and the mercy of friendship. In prayer, they discerned a call—a vocation to receive Cerian as a gift to be loved. Through friendship, they received the grace to answer this call with unflinching fidelity.

The choice to welcome Cerian opened Williams to a deeper understanding of what it means to be made in the image of God. …

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The Technological Discipleship Gap

New digital technologies have potential to either advance the gospel or sow destruction.

In 1988, my wife Donna and I planted our first church in Buffalo.

Many of the issues I confronted in my congregation still exist today. We still struggle with encountering racism and sexism in the pews and in the world. While the drugs might have changed, confronting the prevalence and destruction of addiction is still very much at the center of church life today.

Yet for all the similarities, it is hard to overstate just how much the rapid advance of digital technology and the internet have changed life in and out of the church. Consider two different data points from a Pew tracking poll:

Data Point #1: Cellphone usage has grown from 62% in 2002 to 95% in 2018.

In less than 16 years, cellphone usage has gone from common to essential. We have reached a point where the idea of a person not having a cellphone is foreign.

The introduction of instant communication with anyone at any time and across multiple kinds of mediums changes the way we engage others. Suddenly we are never alone; we carry our friends and family in the palm of our hand.

Data Point #2: Smartphone usage has grown from 35% at their introduction in 2001 to 77% in 2018.

Parallel to cellphones, smartphones have gone from non-existent to seemingly essential. More than just our family and friends, suddenly the entire world is open to us. We are always plugged in, always connected, always presented with endless voices shouting for our attention.

Given these two points, is it surprising that the congregations pastors engage every Sunday are radically different than those I stood in front of in 1988? In my new book, Christians in the Age of Outrage, I argue that this rapid change is one of the main causes for outrage today. We have all these new technologies and online platforms …

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