The Cloud

One definition for cloud is a visible collection of particles of water or ice suspended in the air, usually at an elevation above the earth’s surface. But that’s not what this article is about. The cloud is a term commonly used by the media and those in the information technology field. It’s a trendy and cryptic phrase, and many are left wondering what it is and where it’s located.

The cloud is not one single object or location. A general definition of the cloud would be this: a collection of software, services and data that resides on the Internet. To the general consumer, the cloud may consist of Gmail, Netflix movies, Candy Crush scores or a favorite song streamed to a computer or smartphone. Healthcare companies store information about you there. Police and federal agencies store details about you there. Basically, it’s data or services that an individual can access from anywhere an Internet connection exists.

The location of the cloud is about as broad of a topic as what is the cloud? Many of the big players in the tech game have their own little, or maybe not so little, pieces of the cloud. For example, Facebook has large data centers in Forest City, N.C., and Prineville, Ore. Those facilities can handle 1.32 billion monthly active users, 6 billion likes per day, 400 billion shared photos, and 7.8 trillion sent messages. Apple’s iCloud datacenter in Maiden, N.C., covers 200 acres and can handle 320 million active users.

The cloud has become an integrated part of most of our personal lives, but businesses are also taking advantage of it. The approach many companies have taken is to ease their way in, playing it safe and staying in control. There are positives and negatives to moving to the cloud. Some factors to consider are: bandwidth limitations, future functionality, disaster recovery, integration requirements, maintenance and support.

When your data and services are in the cloud you’re not responsible for keeping things operational, and that’s good and bad. I’m glad that there are web servers in the cloud where I can host my blog website. It would be costly, both in dollars and time, for me to set up my own personal system. But I find myself frustrated as I sit here and try to upload this article because the site currently not working. I wish I could jump in and fix it, but I can’t.

The cloud has descended upon our world and there’s little chance of escape. More and more of the services consumers and companies are using are becoming cloud-based. Our phones use it. Our operating systems us it. Every time we hop on Facebook, Amazon, Twitter or use our Google drive or Dropbox, we access the cloud. There is, however, a bright spot in the midst of all this cloudiness, with the move to the cloud comes easy access to our data.

Talking Machines…part 2

talkin machine2In my previous article, I talked about how far technology had progressed in the past 100 years.  In my own lifetime, I’ve seen computer technology really explode.  My first computer was a Commodore 16, with no hard drive, and 16k of memory.  There was no graphical operating system, and I couldn’t do much more than type at a prompt.  The PC came with a monthly magazine subscription that had sample programs listed in the back, and I can remember my dad and me sitting for hours typing in code for a Space-Invaders type of program.  It never worked.  We tried entering the program three times, but it would crash after about 30 seconds—must have had a bug.

Since that time hard-drive size and processing speeds have increased exponentially—Moore’s law describes a trend in hardware manufacturing where the number of transistors that would fit on an integrated circuit doubled about every 24 months.  It also seems a new PC becomes outdated minuets after removing it from the box.  However, in spite of all these computing advancements, human language programs have lagged far behind.

Computers can process large amounts of data very quickly—billions, and even trillions of instructions per second. A computer can search an encyclopedia for a phrase like “history of computers”, and return all the results in a list in just a few seconds. There’s just no way a person could do that kind of rote processing—it would take us months or years to do the same thing.

Computers tend to do certain types of tasks efficiently, like searching through a list or adding numbers. But there are certain tasks that are tough for a computer. For example, a person can look at an image of a friend, and within seconds recognize them. Computers can’t. There are image-recognition programs, but they are slow and unreliable.

Many forums and blogs on the internet have a CAPTCHA (Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart) defense built in…when you post a reply to someone’s thread or blog, it requires you to look at an image, and then type it into a verification box. This is to keep computer programs from posting advertisements and other nasties to the site. This is effective because it is difficult for a program to look at an image and determine what it is.

Another difficult task for a computer is to process language. Human languages are ambiguous—take a look at this sentence: Time flies when you’re having fun, but fruit flies like bananas.

Does fruit fly?  How does time take flight?  Is “flies” a noun or verb, an action or insect?

Also stressing a word in speech can change the meaning of the sentence. For example:

I never said anything about you”
– Maybe someone else did, but I didn’t.

“I never said anything about you”
– I never said anything, but may have written something.

Imagine a future without the mouse or keyboard.  You get home from work, open the door, and immediately speak to your house computer, “Jake! Please turn on the TV.”  It responds in a pleasant voice and tells you it is now set to channel 23 for the evening news.  Later on that evening you’re sitting on the couch, “Jake can you email my sister, and invite her to the cookout Saturday?”  It replies a few seconds later and asks, “Would you like me to ask her to bring something?”  A program that can understand and follow a conversation would be very useful.

It could also become a very personal possession, and be passed on to your children and grand children, allowing them to ask questions about your life like  “Jake. What was my grandfathers favorite food?” or “Jake.  What was my dad’s first job?”

For now, computers that can communicate intelligently with us lies within the realm of sci-fi, but science fiction often drives scientific discovery.

Talking Machines…part 1

talkin machine1I’m amazed at the progress of technology over the past 100 years. Modes of transportation have gone from wheeled carts pulled by horses to vehicles that are measured in thousands of horsepower. There have been major advances in medicine—doctors can transplant most organs of the human body, and there has even been partial success in transplanting the head of a monkey to a different body.  Or was it the body to a different head? We’ve been to the moon and Mars. We’ve split the atom. We can talk instantly with someone on the opposite side of the planet, and computers that would have filled entire rooms years ago, can now fit on your wrist or in your pocket.

So… I pose this question. When do you think we will be able to talk to our computers?

We do this somewhat now, in limited capacities, so let me rephrase the question. When do you think conversations with our computers will be as real and indistinguishable as conversations with other humans?  I’m not talking about sentience, that’s an entirely different conversation, but when will computers be able to simulate human conversation?

ELIZA was one of the first programs to attempt a conversation between man and machine, and was created by Joseph Weizenbaum in 1966.  Dr. Weizenbaum was a computer science professor at MIT, and created ELIZA to simulate an empathic psychologist.  It would take statements made by patients and rephrase them as questions.  For example, a response to “My back hurts” might be “Why do you say your back hurts?”  It’s a simple little trick that seems to mimic intelligence, but is easily dismissed as it becomes apparent that there is no reasoning behind the responses.  There are many other conversational programs available today—Jabberwacky, ALICE, PARRY, ELLA, and HAL to name a few, but they all fall short when it comes to true natural language processing (NLP).

This idea is not new to the field of artificial intelligence.  Alan Turing first proposed a test of intelligence in the 1950 edition of Computing Machinery and Intelligence.  The test goes like this: a human judge has a text-only conversation with a computer program and another human.  If he is unable to distinguish between the computer and the other human, then that program passes the test—the Turning Test.

In 1990 Hugh Loebner brought this test to life by offering $100,000 and a gold medal to the first computer program whose responses were indistinguishable from a human’s.  This grand prize is still unclaimed, and programmers still compete annually for a bronze medal and a $2000 prize.

You might think that computers are smart, but the ability to do something quickly and efficiently doesn’t indicate intelligence.  For the most part, computers just do what you tell them.  They don’t think for themselves.  They just follow instructions.  There has been significant progress in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), but the smartest machines of today still only have the intelligence of an insect.

In 2005 Ray Kurzweil wrote a book called The Singularity is Near that suggests sentience will happen not too far in the future.  Ray has been hailed by many as a modern day scientific prophet.  Bill Gates said, “Ray Kurzweil is the best person I know at predicting the future of artificial intelligence.”  His book suggests that technology is growing exponentially—by 2020 machine intelligence will equal human intelligence, and by 2040 machines will surpass the intelligence of all humanity combined.

Is sentient life possible? Ehh… I don’t know, we’ll have to wait and see, but I do think it will be possible for a computer to emulate a human—first in speech, and then in action.

Where does evil come from?

Sin has been with us since the beginning. We see the first sign of evil when Cain kills his brother Able out of jealousy.  The Bible also tells us that this pre-flood world was full of all kinds of evil, but where did it come from. This article will share some thoughts about three root categories of sin and the cause of evil in the world today.  I’ve made great progress on my book Seven times Understanding the Times, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and God’s Ultimate Plan for the world, and hope to release it in 2017, but the purpose of this work is to look at God’s big picture. As part of my study, I began digging into the issue of sin and man’s fallen state, and in particular 1 John 2 listed below. To see the big picture, we must understand sin and how it affects our world (Tweet That!). 1 John 2 suggests that all of our short comings can fall into 3 main areas. I will briefly mention the first and the last from this Biblical list, but the one that I really want to look at the lust of the eyes because I believe it relates to the source of evil.

 

1 John 2:15-17Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.”

1 Timothy 6:10 “For the love of money is the root of all evil.”

 

The Lust of the Flesh

The first one mentioned in this list, “lust of the flesh” can be broken down into the physical drives that the body has. Understand that these drives are not wrong, but can be if used in ways that are harmful. God gave us all of our drives to help us live fulfilled lives; they are good when used within the boundaries set by God.

  • Thirst & Breath – are drives we have that don’t really have any (sin issue) associated with them.
  • Sleep & Hunger – can be associated with the sin of laziness. Resting and taking it easy are not necessarily wrong, but the bible suggests a lifestyle of laziness will lead to ruin. I don’t believe overeating is a sin, but I do believe gluttony is really associated with laziness.
  • Addictive substances – things like alcohol, caffeine, tobacco, etc. are all things that can lead to addiction. I don’t want to debate whether these are right or wrong, but I do think a strong biblical case for their use in moderation can be built.  Paul mentions, “all things are lawful, but I will not be mastered by any.”
  • Sex – sexual activity practiced outside of God’s defined marriage bed (lust, adultery, promiscuity, pornography, etc. ) are harmful (sinful) activities.

 

The Root Issue: Being controlled by our physical drives can cause us to act below where God created us to be (Tweet That!). God created all animals with drives, but he created humans in His own image. We are above animals, and should not be driven like animals. Rather we are to control our drives, and not let them control us.

The Biblical Solution: Fasting. Regular fasting of food, sex, entertainment and other things our body craves will help us keep these drives in check. Daily disciplines. Forming daily habits of reading our Bibles and praying can also help us over come these drives. When we learn to tell ourselves “no” and do what we want to do vs what we crave – then we win.

 

The Pride of Life

The third item in the list deals with pride. There is nothing wrong with feeling good about a job well done.  A nicely mown lawn, a clean house and a great job on a project are all good things. I believe God intended us to gain pleasure from our work. That said, pride can take us to a place we don’t want to go. Biblical, this is why Satan fell, because he desired to be on the same level as God. If we begin to change our behavior to gain praise or approval of others, pride probably has a hold of us.

 

The Root Issue: It causes us to act above where God created us to be. God created us perfect, but mankind fell. We must understand that we are utterly lost and that it is in Christ alone that we are raised up by God.

The Biblical Solution: Helping others in secret. To keep us from being approval seekers, we should often do acts of kindness and charity without receiving credit for it.  Allow others to receive credit and/or do those good works in secret.

 

The Lust of the Eyes (The one I wanted to really talk about)

If the lust of the flesh is equated with the desires of the physical body, then the lust of the eyes could be associated with the desires of our soul.  Money, possessions, sparkly things! I don’t think being wealthy is a sin. The Bible called Abraham very rich, and Job’s net worth was about 5.3 million (in today’s terms) just counting his livestock.  Some have even said that money is the root of all evil, but that is incorrect.  It is the love of money that is harmful.

I personally think the American dream can become the American nightmare. If we allow life to become all about what we can gain, then we’ve missed it. It’s OK to possess things, just don’t let them possess you.

 

The Root Issue: We are not satisfied with what God has given us. Many search for something to fill an empty hole in their life, but “things” cannot fill that hole. I believe it can only be filled with a relationship with Christ.

The Biblical Solution: Give things away. To keep from being consumed by material things, give stuff away.

I said all that to say this.  Biblical, evil is treating others in a harmful and malicious way, and according to the Bible all evil is attributed to the sin of greed (desire for money or possessions)–the lust of the eyes.  If we do what’s within our power to encourage and teach people to become giving individuals, then I believe evil will be reduced.

Do I think we can fix this world? Nope. If you’ve read much of the Bible, you understand that life in the end-times will be plagued with evil, but that should not prevent us from living our best. I’ll now answer the question of this article: Where does evil come from? It comes from people who value things above others. It comes from inside us. Cain killed his brother because Able possessed something that Cain did not have. Do not allow the drive for “things” cause you to treat others poorly.

As a pastor, I try to teach these three principles to everyone I know. They are biblical and they work. They will change your life.

  1. Learn to tell yourself no. Fasting will help you become a stronger person.
  2. Value giving to others more than receiving from others. It is more blessed to give than receive.
  3. Do good deeds in secret. Taking no credit or allowing others to take the credit for your work will help you become a humble person.

Talmud Records Strange Events after Death of Jesus

talmud02The Talmud is a collection of instructions that form a central text in Rabbinic Judaism. There are actually two versions, the Babylonian Talmud was created by Babylonian Jews and is widely accepted as authoritative. A second, Jerusalem Talmud exists, but it’s not generally taught or accepted.

There are several interesting events written in the Babylonian Talmud that occurred between AD 30 and the destruction of the temple in AD 70.

Yoma 39b:

Our Rabbis taught: During the last forty years before the destruction of the Temple the lot [‘For the Lord’] did not come up in the right hand; nor did the crimson-coloured strap become white; nor did the westernmost light shine; and the doors of the Hekal would open by themselves, until R. Johanan b. Zakkai rebuked them, saying: Hekal, Hekal, why wilt thou be the alarmer thyself? I know about thee that thou wilt be destroyed, for Zechariah ben Ido has already prophesied concerning thee: Open thy doors, O Lebanon, that the fire may devour thy cedars.

 

It would seem that up until the temple was destroyed, 40 years after the death of Jesus, that four strange things commonly happened:

  • The Lot for the Lord was not correct. This was a bit like rolling dice. The priest would cast the lots and take up two, one in the left hand and one in the right. If the lot for the Lord was in the right hand then all of Israel was joyful, but if it came up in the left they were not. It seems God was not happy that Israel rejected Jesus.
  • The strip was not white. The strip was a piece of cloth tied to the Azazel goat, with a portion of the red cloth tied to the Temple door. Each year the cloth would turn white and signify the atonement of Yom Kippur was acceptable to the Lord. This annual event happened until AD 30 when the cloth would no longer turn white. Jesus is now the only acceptable sacrifice God will accept.
  • The light did not shine. The seven candle-stick Menorah in the Temple went out and would not shine for 40 years. For 12,500 nights in a row this lamp would not stay lit.
  • The doors would open themselves.  The Temple doors would swing open every night of their own accord.  This also happened for the 40 years following the crucifixion of Jesus.

I don’t place the same measure of authority on the Talmud as I do the scriptures, but these historical records are interesting. I’ll leave it up to you to study these events in more depth, but the point is the Jewish leadership of the day recognized something was amiss between 30 AD and 70 AD.

What was amiss? The fact that the Jewish people missed their Messiah. They were looking for a Messiah that would deliver them from the oppression of Rome.  He would build an everlasting temple and usher in an era of peace. They failed to recognize the verses Jesus fulfilled in his first coming. These prophecies spoke of his being mocked (Psalm 22:7). They spoke of his hands and feet being pierced (Psalms 22:16). He would be rejected by men (Isaiah 53:3). He would be a rock of offence for both houses of Israel (Isaiah 8:14).

Romans 11 tells us that one day Israel will return to God Rom 11:25,26 “For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery—so that you will not be wise in your own estimation—that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and so all Israel will be saved;

Are the Old Testament Laws still important?

ThOld_Bibles-1e entire Bible is the revelation of God himself to mankind. It’s tells us what God is like and it’s the story of the creation of man, his fall, his need of God, and God saving him. God didn’t give us the entire Bible all at once, but as mankind grew He revealed more and more about Himself to us—ending with a new covenant (the New Testament).  As we look at the Old Testament we need to approach it in different ways based upon what style of writing the book contains. We don’t read a math book in the same way we read Shakespeare and we don’t read Isaiah in the same way we read Genesis. Below is a quick summary of the Old Testament.

Bible Facts:

  • 66 different books (39 in the Old and 27 in the New Testament)
  • About 40 authors
  • It covers a time span of 1600 years
  • Written in three different languages (Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic)
  • Top five bible writers by number of chapters (Moses, Ezra, Paul, David, Isaiah)

Categories of the Old Testament

Law—You should read books of the Law with understanding that God gave the laws to the Israelites (and us) to help them survive and to help them as they worshiped God. There are various categories of “Law” and some of these laws changed as Israel grew.

One type of law that we can trace from the beginning of creation until the return of Christ are the dietary laws. In the Garden of Eden God told Adam and Eve, “”I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.” After the flood God told Noah that he could eat any animal, except for the blood of the animal.  Several hundreds of years later when Moses came down from the mountain, God gave many restrictive laws concerning food. Things like pork and other animals that chewed the cud were forbidden.  In the New Testament God told Peter that we now have freedom to eat all animals. It’s important to understand the type of Law when trying to judge if it applies to us under the new covenant.

  • Ceremonial and dietary Laws (examples: Don’t eat pork, Make sacrifices using a lamb, bull, etc). These laws were done away with in the New Testament. Jesus was the final sacrifice and we no longer need to offer animals to God. The death of Jesus covered all sins for all times, and it’s just up to you to accept the sacrifice on your behalf. As mentioned before, the dietary laws have changed over time and we are now free to eat any animals.
  • Moral Laws (Lies, sexuality, theft, etc). These laws still stand today and Jesus taught they were wrong. Jesus also took a stronger stance on many of the moral laws. For example, Jesus said that lusting after a woman is just like adultery.  He also said that hating a person is murder in your heart. The moral laws come in three flavors: lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh and the pride of life.
    • Lust of the flesh is perhaps the most well known and deals with desires of our physical body. These include any sexual deviance (sex between unmarried people, adultery, homosexuality, bestiality, and lust). They also include addictions of all types.
    • Lust of the eye is similar to the flesh except it is a desire for what you see.  The pursuit of money and possessions above our pursuit of God is sinful. These include things like theft and envy.
    • The pride of life can also be an unhealthy drive. It’s the desire for others to like us and praise us. It’s why Satan fell.  Satan tempted Jesus with this when he said, If’ you’re really the Son of God then jump, won’t He save you? People will go to great lengths to gain the approval of others.
  • Civil laws (examples: don’t harvest the edges of the field, observe the Sabbath, Observe the other Jewish holidays). These laws were in place to help the nation of Israel to govern itself.  They may still be a good idea, but they are not law to us, they were law to the nation of Israel.

History—you should read history books as a list of factual events that happened. Most of the time the events are in chronological order, but they are intended to described what happened. Some examples of history in the Old Testament are 1 & 2 Chronicles, Genesis, 1 & 2 Kings, etc.

Poetry & Wisdom—you should read these books understanding that they express the emotions and feelings of mankind. When you read these you’ll relate with many of the writers and how they felt, and they often give us great advice. Examples: Psalms, Proverbs, etc.

Major Prophets—prophets  were often used imagery to explain what they saw.  For example: In the book of Daniel, he interpreted a dream of a large statue of with a head of gold, a chest of silver, a belly of bronze, and legs of iron.  It turned out that this statue represented actual kingdoms that existed (Medes, Persians, Greeks, and Roman empires). Some other major prophets were: Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel.

Minor Prophets—they were not minor because they are less important, but just because their books are generally smaller.  We should read these just as we read the Major Prophets.  Their message is just as “prophetic” Examples : Hosea, Joel, Amos, etc.

Old Testament Book Categories

  • The Book of Beginnings, History
    • Genesis
  • Law
    • Exodus
    • Leviticus
    • Numbers
    • Deuteronomy
  • National History of Israel
    • Joshua
    • Judges
    • Ruth
    • 1 & 2 Samuel
    • 1 & 2 Kings
    • 1 & 2 Chronicles
    • Ezra
    • Nehemiah
    • Esther
  • Poetry & Wisdom
    • Job
    • Psalms
    • Proverbs
    • Ecclesiastes
    • Song of Solomon
  • Major Prophets
    • Isiah
    • Jeremiah
    • Lamentations
    • Ezekiel
    • Daniel
  • Minor Prophets
    • Hosea
    • Joel
    • Amos Obadiah
    • Jonah
    • Micah
    • Nahum
    • Habakuk
    • Zephaniah
    • Haggai
    • Zechariah
    • Malachi

Aproximate dates of the Books of the Bible

  • Job—Thought to be the oldest book in the bible.
  • Genesis–1445-1405 B.C.
  • Exodus –1445-1405 B.C.
  • Leviticus –1445-1405 B.C.
  • Numbers–1445-1405 B.C.
  • Deuteronomy–1445-1405 B.C.
  • Psalms–1410-450 B.C.
  • Joshua–1405-1385 B.C.
  • Judges–ca. 1043 B.C.
  • Ruth–ca. 1030-1010 B.C.
  • Song of Solomon–971-965 B.C.
  • Proverbs–ca. 971-686 B.C.
  • Ecclesiastes–940-931 B.C.
  • 1 Samuel–931-722 B.C.
  • 2 Samuel–931-722 B.C.
  • Obadiah–850-840 B.C.
  • Joel–835-796 B.C.
  • Jonah–ca. 775 B.C.
  • Amos–ca. 750 B.C.
  • Hosea–750-710 B.C.
  • Micah–735-710 B.C.
  • Isaiah–700-681 B.C.
  • Nahum–ca. 650 B.C.
  • Zephaniah–635-625 B.C.
  • Habakkuk–615-605 B.C.
  • Ezekiel–590-570 B.C.
  • Lamentations–586 B.C.
  • Jeremiah–586-570 B.C.
  • 1 Kings–561-538 B.C.
  • 2 Kings–561-538 B.C.
  • Daniel 536-530 B.C.
  • Haggai–ca. 520 B.C.
  • Zechariah–480-470 B.C.
  • Ezra–457-444 B.C.
  • 1 Chronicles–450-430 B.C.
  • 2 Chronicles–450-430 B.C.
  • Esther–450-331 B.C.
  • Malachi–433-424 B.C.
  • Nehemiah–424-400 B.C.

Lose The Notes – Revolutionize Your Public Speaking

CaptureWhen I first started public speaking, I used a stack of typed notes and read them aloud to the audience. I had the basics down, a well studied topic, highlighted sentences where more emphasis was needed, and an occasional pause with eye contact with the audience. It worked fairly well and over time I improved, but I still felt like my speaking lacked something. One week I picked up a book about speaking without notes. My very next speech was phenomenal. The audience was engaged and I was dripping with confidence. I received all kinds of compliments after that message and I never went back to a typed manuscript.

The preparation for speaking without notes is not that different than speaking with them. In both cases you start with studying a topic and creating an outline, but the last steps for each is different. With a speech with notes you would spend some time writing the document, careful to word things just right. You would then read it out-loud several times to check for errors. You could then highlight some important points if you like. Then it’s ready for delivery.

The next step for noteless speaking is to organize your outline on note-cards, with each card representing a point of the message. The last step is memorization. I know what you’re thinking, but you too can engage your audience through memorization (Tweet That!). It just takes time and repetition. The benefits of noteless speaking are amazing.

The first benefit is it allows you to more effectively engage the audience. When you don’t have to refer to notes it allows you constant eye-contact with your audience. People feel like you are speaking directly to them. If feels more like a conversation than a speech. You’ll gain the freedom to leave the platform and walk among those gathered to hear you.

A second benefit is you can more effectively use body language to get your message across. It has been said that only seven percent of communication is verbal and the other 93 percent is non-verbal. There is so much more to your speech than words. Let your audience feel your message through your expressions. Be animated in what you say. Smile, laugh, walk around, jump or lie down, but the more energy you pour into your speaking, the more the audience will receive.

Speaking without notes also forces you to know your topic well. I’m not talking about preparation of your topic but a familiarity with it. As you work to commit your information to memory you start to understand it well. It takes me about two hours to memorize a 40 minute speech outline. During that two hours I probably go over the material 20-30 times. when you get it into your spirit, you’re not so consumed with saying the exact words correctly, but it becomes something alive within you. The heart of the message will flow through you when you speak it.

Knowing a topic well brings confidence and confidence will be noticed by the audience. Speaking to an audience is a privilege and they deserve your best, so whether you speak with or without notes, always take the time to research, organize and familiarize yourself with your topic. Find something you can be passionate about and speak it from your heart.

21 Day Bible Reading Challenge

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Every year about this time I challenge those in my circle of friends to 21 days of Bible reading.  I don’t always pick the same chapters, but pray about what meaningful scriptures I’d like to add to the list. I want to encourage you to take the challenge. Read God’s Word. See if it changes your life.

  • Day 1 Genesis 1 – The beginning of all things.
  • Day 2 Daniel 3 – A story about God’s protection in tough times.
  • Day 3 Psalms 149 – A little Praise to God.
  • Day 4 Hebrews 11 – The faith chapter.
  • Day 5 Romans 11 – God still has plans for Israel.
  • Day 6 Luke 21 – A little about the end of times.
  • Day 7 Matthew 5 – Sermon on the mount pt #1.
  • Day 8 Matthew 6 – Sermon on the mount pt #2.
  • Day 9 Matthew 7 – Sermon on the mount pt #3.
  • Day 10 John 21 – Some of Jesus’ last concerns.
  • Day 11 Acts 2 – A bit about Pentecost
  • Day 12 1 Corinthians 12 – A bit about spiritual gifts.
  • Day 13 1 Corinthians 13 – The love chapter.
  • Day 14 1 Corinthians 14 – Instructions about spiritual gifts.
  • Day 15 Romans 6 – Being dead to sin.
  • Day 16 Zechariah 14 – God fights for Israel.
  • Day 17 Proverbs 11 – Contrast between upright and wicked.
  • Day 18 Daniel 7 – A bit of prophecy about the last days.
  • Day 19 Isaiah 53 – Prophecy made about Jesus.
  • Day 20 Galatians 5 – Walking in the spirit.
  • Day 21 Revelation 22 – The endings of all things.

What’s Love got to do with it?

The word 'Leadereship' highlighted in green with felt tip pen

Leadership is one of those topics that has been hashed and rehashed millions of times. There are a number of leadership styles ranging from the autocratic lone-ranger, to the democratic let’s take a vote, to the laissez-faire stand back and watch leaders. Beyond styles there are also a number of models that have  changed over the years. Leadership is a very complex topic with no “one” right way. Each model and style has strengths and weakness and we often work most effectively in the model and style that fits our personality. I do however want to mention one aspect that is often missing from the business model of leadership–and that’s love.

Now maybe you’re like Tina Turner and ask, “What’s love got to do with it?” When it comes to the business world, making money is what’s important. It’s the shareholder that matters. It’s getting the job done on time that’s important and I would say you’re absolutely right, but what’s the best means to that end. If we’re going to prosper and win, then why not do it in the biggest possible way. I would like to suggest to you that it’s possible to be financially profitable while enhancing the lives of others (Tweet That!) by using the vehicle of love. Below I’d like to list three benefits, beyond the mighty dollar, when we mix in a little of the underestimated emotion.

Firstly, I’d like to say that genuinely caring for those we lead is a great motivator (Tweet That!). One of the main roles of a leader is to provide proper motivation to those they are leading. I think caring for your team can be one of the greatest motivators that exist. Motivation is different for everyone. Some like a challenge, some like opportunity to move up, and then there’s always money.  But caring is free and it’s benefits go beyond any project or task.

We’ve all heard the quote, “They won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”  The same is true for influence. As an employee I would go out of my way for a leader that I know cares for me and happily do what they ask. I would still obey an callous leader, but that obedience would come out of a respect for the role and not the person.  When working under a leader who could care less, it’s easy to do just what’s required. The former provides a greater framework for individual productivity.

Thirdly, creating a team atmosphere of caring among group members increases efficiency within the team. When people are happy their output is greater. If the individual will benefit from a caring attitude, then we can expect a greater synergy among the group. Can you imagine a team that is committed to one another? I’ve always believed that by helping others achieve their goals I would ultimately have my own goals fulfilled.

In the end business is business and it’s the bottom line is what drives it. I implore you to aim for a greater bottom line and mix in a little love.

Encryption – Do you need to secure your files?

Security, anonymity​ and privacy are topics you hear a lot about these days. When the news is filled with how terrorists used encryption to mask their evil activities one might ask do we really need it? I would say we absolutely do. It would be easy to make a case for government agencies, banks and even medical services to have access to this type of technology, but I’d even say we as individuals need to use it.​ The Bureau of ​Justice Stastics reported that in 2014​ there were 17.6 million US residents that experienced identity theft.​ On average it costs victims about $1,500 in lost finances and that’s not counting lost hours and stress caused by cleaning up the mess. Most of your personal files don’t need encrypted but you should protect your sensitive data. Things like financial, medical, website passwords, etc should be secure.​​

I’ve spent some time learning the ins and outs of encryption. There’s still much I don’t know, but I do feel I have a good grip on how many of these technologies work.​ I want to use the rest of this article to explain a little about encryption an application I’ve created called Xcipher and how it works.

The two main types of encryption are public and private key. Public key is what we often use when we connect to a secure website. It uses very large prime numbers to create a key that is used to encrypt data in a file. Primes are significant because they take a very long time to factor.​ For example​​ I can take two large prime numbers and multiply them together in seconds, but if I take the result and try to find the two numbers that created it, that would take a long time and for very large primes it could take thousands of years to crack.

Xcipher uses private key encryption which doesn’t use prime numbers at all. Private key encryption is similar to writing your password or padlock combination on a sheet of paper and storing it away till later. The file cannot be unencrypted without the password and it’s kept secret from others.

The Xcipher application will read a byte from the input file create an encrypted byte based upon a character in the password, and then write that byte to the output file….and continue through the entire file.

A byte is 8 bits, and the first read of the file would contain data like this: {01101001 010010101 10100001}.​​ ​After the data is read​ a “mask” of the same length (8 bits) must be created. This mask is basically a random number from 0 – 255. It is used to flip the bits using an Xor operator. Java has a function that returns a random number.  Something really helpful about this function and what makes this application possible is the fact that you can seed the random function with a starting point and it will then return a sequence of numbers that are always the same. If I create a million random numbers the second run with the same seed will create the exact same million numbers.

Let’s say our password is “apple”. It has already read in byte: 01101001 and the first character of the password is a lower case ‘a’. If you use its integer value you get the number 97. We then generate 97 random numbers, toss them to the side, and then use the 98th, which will be an integer between 0 and 255, and that will be our mask. We throw the first numbers away to add complexity to the algorithm making it near impossible to calculate the mask that is returned. If you dont’ have the password that is used to create the mask and the starting point (seed) for the random number you cannot determine the mask. Without it you cannot recreate the original byte.

There are 256 possible number between 0 – 255, and that is important because that is also the largest number possible with a byte. The binary number 11111111 is equal to the decimal number 255. So the random number that is chosen is always the size of one byte….our mask is a random number the size of a byte.

Now lets say the 98th number was 133 which is the binary number 10000101. So now we have:
01101001 – original byte
10000101 – mask 
The Exclusive Or (know as an Xor operator) will compare the two bytes bit for bit.  You remember those truth tables you learned in college, well here’s the one for Xor:

  • 1 Xor 1 = 0
  • 1 Xor 0 = 1
  • 0 Xor 1 = 1
  • 0 Xor 0 = 0.

Let’s do the calculation:
01101001 – original byte
10000101 – mask
____________________________XOR
11101100 – encrypted byte

Xcipher screen shot:

enc2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So how does the decryption work? Well, when you run the encrypted file back through the same program, it will read in the encrypted byte, and when Xor’d with the same mask, it will produce the original byte. So the Xor acts like a switch that will flip the bits back to the original, and java will produce the exact random numbers each time.

Just because bad people use a good technology doesn’t make that technology bad. Encryption is a powerful tool that makes our online communication safe and secure and we should not fear it. If you’re interested in the application just message me and I’ll give you a copy.