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:

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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.

Tough Problems Keep you Sharp

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A few years ago I started looking at the unsolved conjecture about twin primes and set out to find a solution. A Greek mathematician named Euclid proved over 2,300 years ago that there were infinitely many prime numbers–numbers that are only divisible by one and themselves (2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 17, 19, …), but it has never been proved that there are infinitely many twin primes.  Twin primes are primes that are only two digits apart like: (3, 5),  (11, 13), (18409199, 18409201).

There have been thousands of individuals over  several thousands of years that are far more intelligent than I who have never found a solution, so why try? I won’t delve too much further into the maths involved or the work I’ve done on this problem, but I did want to mention three benefits of trying to tackle a problem of this magnitude.

The first benefit of a hard problem is pushing your limits. When you first pick up a problem like this you quickly learn your limits and come to the realization that you know very little. Knowing your limits is a good thing, because it’s difficult to push past them if you do not understand where they are. As you begin to investigate your problem you’ll probe the knowledge of other and increase your own understanding. Maybe in the end you’ll become an expert in the subject, but you’ll definitely be more knowledgeable.

A second benefit of a tough problem is that it gives courage. When you stand before the impossible something changes in you. You develop an attitude that says, “I’m going to try anyway.” Many people give up too quickly. They say it’s too hard, or it can’t be done, when they should have said, I just don’t want to put fourth the effort. It reminds me of the biblical story of David and Goliath where the little shepherd boy faced an impossible task. The mightiest warriors in Israel failed, but this 16 year old won the day.

The third benefit is that it keeps you sharp.  A few weeks ago I was cutting weeds with a machete and handed it to my father for just a second. As he put it down to his side the blade barely touched the finger of his other hand and drew a line of blood. It was sharp and it did it’s job easily and efficiently. I think it’s the tough problems that help keep us sharp.  They keep us focused on the impossible solution always trying something new and honing current knowledge.

Maybe math is not your thing, but that’s OK.  I challenge you to find a hard problem, maybe even one deemed impossible, and set out to find the answer. You might have a long struggle ahead of you, but you’ll grow. And maybe, you’ll find a solution that nobody’s thought of.

5 Tips for a 25 Year Marriage

sadfaSome of the best marriage advice I received as a young man came from my pastor. He said if you want a marriage that lasts, then find someone who’s been married a long time and watch them. At the time the “Old People” in my life seemed really strange and I thought they’d have no clue how to face the current issues of my day, but I was wrong. These older couples may not have been experts in my culture or changing technology, but they did understand relationships and how to strengthen them. Today is my 25th anniversary, and now that I’m walking on the other side of the fence I’d like to offer a few tips of my own. Below are Five tips for a twenty five year marriage.

The first tip is to never say the “D” word. Divorce–doesn’t even sound good does it.  Debbie and I decided very early in our marriage that we would never say the word divorce.  No matter how mad we got or how tired we were we would not mention that word in an argument.  It was difficult at times and the word often popped into our minds, but it was never spoken.

It’s too easy to say things you don’t mean when you’re angry, and when you begin to throw the “D” word around you begin to think about it.  You begin to believe it.  Before long it seems like the only solution to your problem.  Instead of looking for reasons to stop being together, you should look for reasons to build your marriage.

The next tip is: don’t go to bed mad at each other.  I would be lying if I said I never went to bed mad at my wife, but I can say we made it a priority to resolve our issues before the day ended.  There are times when couples need a little distance, and some time to work through hard feelings, but when its all said and done we need to learn to set our emotions aside and communicate openly and honestly.

We still have fights after 25 years of marriage, but they look a lot different than when we were first married.  Arguments these days often last about 2 minutes.  I say what’s bothering me, she says what’s bothering her and we drop it.  I’ve learned to hear what she’s upset about and try to make changes and she does the same.  We don’t have very many “BIG” fights any more.

Always make sure to kiss each other goodbye.  You never know when your last kiss will be, and we’re not guaranteed of tomorrow.  And I’ll also add, on occasion throw in the 10 second kiss.  I won’t say much more….just try it.

Tell your spouse, “I love you” everyday.  One of the most basic needs of every human is to be loved, and it’s important you tell your spouse that you love them.  Try and think of the kind words you use as building blocks to your marriage.  The more nice words you use, the stronger your marriage will be, and probably the nicest thing you can say is, “I Love You.”

There are certain roles only a spouse can fill, and don’t allow others to fill them.  When we think if intimacy often times sex comes to mind, and that’s part of it, but only a small part.  Sex is one of those things that only your spouse fulfills.  That may seem obvious, but infidelity happens, so maybe it’s not as obvious as you would think.

Beyond sexual intimacy there are places in the heart that should only belong to a spouse.  I consider my wife as my best friend.  She listens to me when I talk.  She laughs at my jokes.  She makes corny comments like, “You’re sexy and I know it,” and just hearing her say it makes me smile.  If I were ever to allow another woman that place in my heart it would be wrong.  That place belongs only to her.

If you were to ask a hundred people what makes a marriage last you’d probably get 100 different answers, but these are a few of my top tips.  I’ll leave you with one final thought.  A marraige relationship is never complete.  You’re always pruning it, watering it, and working on it.

A Good Pair of Shoes

loveI’ve felt for the longest time that we believers make our jobs harder than they really are—spiritually speaking. We often focus on processes, styles, and even the details of our doctrine causing us to overlook the essentials of our spiritual walk. Don’t get me wrong; I think these things are important to our journey, but misaligned spiritual priorities can leave us feeling empty, frustrated, and even judgmental of others. With the wrong focus we become like the Pharisees, and that’s not fun, especially for those around us.

In the gospel of Matthew chapter 22 Jesus says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.

Once a person takes the first step of believing that God is real, the idea of loving him comes naturally. It’s an amazing experience when a one comes to the point of understanding all that He is and all that He’s done for us. How can you not love someone who gave their life for you?

The second commandment, to love people, seems to be a bit more difficult. People aren’t perfect. They sometimes get in our way and ruin our plans. They have ideas that don’t line up with our own. They cut in line at Wal-Mart and drive slowly in front of us on the highway. They say bad things about us on Facebook and sometimes even sit in our pew at church. How dare they?

It’s not by chance that the Apostle Paul placed the “Love Chapter” in the midst of verses that talk about our talents and spiritual gifting. He basically tells us that we may do great things, make big sacrifices, or even perform astounding miracles, but if we don’t have love then it’s meaningless.

I once saw a photo of a pair of shoes, and on the top of one was written the phrase, “Love God.”  The other said, “Love People.”  If we all were to write these two statements on the tops of our shoes, and remembered everywhere we stepped to love God and to love people, then just think of how different our world would be.

How Safe is Your Identity?

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One scary moment of my life was answering a call from my credit card account manager who asked, “Mr. Lucas, did you recently purchase a dozen roses and four bottles of wine in New Jersey?”  Well, considering I’ve not been to Jersey, I had never used that card, and I don’t drink wine, my answer was, “No!”  I began immediately thinking about how bad this could be. Would I have to cancel my cards? Would I spend hours on the phone trying to clean this up? Luckily that’s all the further that theft went. I didn’t have to pay for the charges, and none of my other accounts had been compromised.

It is becoming increasingly harder to stay safe. In a world that’s wired to the internet and a culture dependent on a variety of electronic gadgets, identity theft is thriving. “You can’t prevent identity theft! No one can!” says financial expert Dave Ramsey. Even Todd Davis, the CEO of a large identity protection company, who shared his social security number publicly had his identity stolen 12 times, says the Phoenix News Times. While this may be a bit unsettling, understand that you can make it extremely difficult for the prowling identity thief. Don’t become the feeble gazelle faltering at the rear of the heard. When it comes to identity theft, there are three areas to consider.

Minimize the risk–There are a number of ways we can lower the risk of attack, and they all limit access to your personal data.

Get a shredder and properly dispose of old documents that have sensitive data; don’t just throw them in the trash. Anyone can drive around in the early morning hours and pilfer through your garbage. Don’t give out personal information to someone who calls you. If you need to give the info, then hang up and call their publicly listed number. Never trust that the person on the end of the line is who they say they are. And finally and most importantly, be cautious of what you put on the internet. From a person’s Facebook account or website it’s often easy gather all kinds of personal information. Even something as simple as, “Here’s my cat named fluffy!” Many people use their pet’s names as passwords.

Monitor your accounts. –Another big way to keep yourself safe is to monitor your existing accounts. If you can catch illegal activity when if first happens you can limit the damage.

Watch your monthly reports. Keep your receipts and match them with the report item for item, and if something appears that you didn’t buy then call. You can also check your annual reports for free at https://www.annualcreditreport.com. You can get reports for all three (Trans Union, Equifax, Experian) of the reporting agencies from them. Another simple step to take is reduce the number of accounts you have. It’s easy to miss unwanted activity if you have 10-15 different accounts to watch.

Maximize your protection. –One final way to reduce the time and money spent on costly clean-up is to purchase identity theft insurance.

You must change your mindset. No person or company can prevent an identity theft from occurring, but a good company can help manage the aftereffects, and repay stolen money. You insure the things that are valuable to you, your homes, and your cars, so why not insure your identity?  You can find a good identity policy for around $6.75 a month. Dave Ramsey recommends the Zander Insurance Group as a good provider of identity theft protection.

A picture may be worth more than a thousand words

a_picture_is_worth_1000_words_by_refrigeratorbingo-d465awbYou’ve probably heard the phrase a picture is worth a thousand words.  Well, when it comes to your cell phone photos it might be more.  As most of you know, when you take a photo with a digital camera it will save the data from the image into a image file on the camera, and this file can then be copied to your computer or uploaded directly to a number of popular social media sites.  An image is made up of thousands or millions of little dots called pixels and the data file stores the location and color of each dot, but what you may not know is that these image files can contain a lot more information.

Some of the data embedded into this file might be things like: type of phone, lens used, exposure used, colors used, and even the GPS location where the image was taken, and with the right tools anyone in the world can view this information if it’s stored online.

Earlier today I took a picture with my phone, then uploaded it to a website that can extract this information to see what it would show.  The image below shows some of this data.

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So far, it’s not too bad, and many of the images you find online and on facebook will show no more info than this.  However, if an image is taken on a phone where geo-tracking is turned on, then the image file will contain the exact GPS coordinates, and this website will show those coordinates in google maps.  When I scroll down to the bottom of the page this is what I see.

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Wow, now that is revealing.  With google maps,  you can zoom down to the exact house where the image wast taken.  I have edited the image above so that you won’t know my exact location, but the point is, you could unknowingly be putting unwanted info about yourself on the internet.

There is a bit of good news though.  It is possible to turn off the geo-tracking on you camera.  It may be different for different cameras, but on an android you need to start the camera, then open the settings, then uncheck the icon that looks like an upside down tear drop.

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Are You Spiritually Bankrupt

hagmann121512I’ve often wondered why I’ve met some of the meanest and some of the nicest people in a Church.  I’ve decided it’s because some of them are rich while others are spiritually bankrupt.

There are few things in life that bring you the joy of loving others.  When you give of your self, sacrifice, show kindness, politeness, use a little self-control, and a good portion of gentleness, then you are spiritually rich (Gal 5:22-25).

A life that is focused solely on self…in the end is lonely, depressing, and and only leaves you longing for more.  I like how 1 Corinthians says it below–If you don’t have love, you are spiritually bankrupt.

1 Cor. 13:1-7 If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.

If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.

If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

Liar Liar White House on Fire

I’ve noticed over the years that people lie.  I’ve seen children do it, little Billy who ate the cookie on the counter and told his dad he didn’t.  I’ve seen married people do it, no honey, that outfit looks great on you.  Some lies are bold and blatant.  Some are tiny, little bitty white lies…if even such a thing exists.  Sometimes lies can come by omittance.  Regardless, we don’t much like lies when they are told to us; we expect honesty.  Honesty is a virtue.  It is a character trait and a value that is up-right and good, and it’s something we should all strive for.

There are also certain professions that we hold to a higher level of integrity.  For example, we all expect pastors to be honest.  I find it funny and sad at the same time, but when I was studying to be a pastor, I recall one specific test that was particularly difficult.  I sat in the back of the class because it was easier to get out the door when the bell rang, and the future pastor sitting next to me asked if he could look at my answers.  We expect our doctors to be honest.  We want an accurate account of the status of our health, and I definitely don’t want a doctor that cheated on his tests to be operating on me.

We also want our public leaders to be truthful with us, and especially the high office of president.  I do understand the scrutiny that leaders go through today, and especially those on the world stage.  Every thing a leader says is recorded, watched, re-watched, and then criticized by millions of viewers.  It’s easy to misspeak.  I don’t really want to say that lies coming from public leaders hurt us more, because there’s nothing quite like being lied to by someone close to us, but I will say that lies coming from a public office seem to degrade society more.  I’ve put together a few of the public lies from my generation….check them out:

Here’s a clip from George H. W. Bush giving a promise on the campaign trail. Nobody likes taxes, but I’ve got to admit, how in the world can you expect anybody in public office to keep a promise like this.  It’s not good to promise things you cant keep.

 

Here’s probably one of the most famous lies of my generation.  President Bill Clinton lied about a relationship that he had with a White House intern.  This was a very blatant lie.  The president new exactly what he was saying was wrong, but to be honest, many people seemed to ignore it.  Several that I talked to said that it was a private matter, and did not affect his role as president.

 

The following lie has been brought to public attention in the past few weeks.  It is also different from the two former lies (a stupid promise, and a personal issue).  This was a sneaky lie.  It was an intentional deception and twisting of facts to get a specific piece of legislation passed.  President Obama was a community organizer, a lawyer, and a Harvard constitutional law professor; this wasn’t just jumbled words….PERIOD.

 

Richard Nixon was the president in office when I was born.  While I don’t remember this lie personally, I do remember hearing about it when I was young.  President Nixon lied about the watergate scandal and almost became famous for being the first president that was impeached, but he resigned before it could be done.

 

I had to throw this guy in just for good measure.  Here’s Rod Blagojevich a governor from my home state of Illinois.  It would seem that the governor’s seat in Illinois is notorious for producing felons.  Four of the last seven were convicted and imprisoned.  After watching this scandal a few years ago, I just shook my head.  Governor Blagojevich really seemed clueless.

 

Why I Believe

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I try and take a balanced view of life.  I think every person whether Christian, Muslim, atheist, agnostic, or someone of any other belief system needs these three things…. reason, emotion, and faith.

Reason is important and without it we could not live.  We need it to get up in the morning, to drive to work; to live our daily lives, to build things, to invent things, but our reason can fail.  A few years ago, I was driving to a nearby city and I heard my brakes dragging a little.  Once I got to my destination, I decided to get out of the car and reach my finger in and touch the brake pads…what was I thinking?  Well, I wasn’t!  They were hot and it burnt me—I wasn’t using much reason at that time.

How much knowledge does the human society have? Do we know 50% of everything there is to know? 20%?  Of everything in the entire universe I bet we know less than .0001% of all knowledge that exists, and maybe even a lot less than that.  It is not probable that our society will ever know all there is to know.

If we take a look at black holes, the mathematics that describe them breaks down at the singularity.  How can something become infinitely dense?  Some would say they don’t, but we won’t go there. General relativity does not work well with quantum mechanics.  And just how many dimensions are in our universe?  Three?  Four?  Eleven? We just don’t understand how things work.  Again, I’m not saying we will never understand these things, we are making strides in formulating a theory of everything, but I am saying that logic alone is not enough for a human to live.

Let’s say you’re in a room full of people.  Some of them old, some young, but the only other person you know is your spouse.   Then someone lights a bomb and you only have a second to save one person, who would that be?  Logic say’s you should pick one of the younger ones.  You should pick someone with a longer life span because they have the most to loose, but your emotions say it should be your spouse.  Logic without emotion is a bit empty.

The second thing I think we need is emotion.  As mentioned above, a life without emotion means nothing.   Our emotions can help us make good decisions, and there’s nothing quite like a good intuition.  But emotions can fail you.  I remember watching a TV series the other day about phobias.  There was a stronger macho-looking guy that was really fearful of dogs.  It was really sad, but he had a hard time even touching a dog or being in the same room with the dog.  His emotions were leading him in the wrong direction.  He needed to use more logic and less emotion, and he knew it—it was just difficult for him to do.

The third thing we all need is faith.  You may say that atheists need no faith, but I would disagree.  There are things in life that we do not understand that we have to accept by faith.

There are things that we don’t understand that others do, and we accept them by faith.  For example, some people may not know how electricity works.  You turn the switch on the wall and the light turns on.  That’s all they need to know.  They have faith that someone else has it figured out, and they can just use it.  Maybe for you that might be the process of nuclear fusion, or how a combustion engine works, or what code makes a web browser work … the point being we take those things by faith they will work.  We just understand that someone else understands.

There are also other things in life that have no proof that we take by faith.  I’m going to use for an example the topic of our beginnings.  When it comes to beginnings, we can narrow it down to two possibilities.  It was created or it just happened.  When it comes to the science of beginnings it is all speculation, and has little or nothing to do with the scientific method.  The scientific method requires a hypothesis to be formed and then tested.  We cannot create a universe nor can we create life in a test-tube.  We can form all the hypotheses we want, but without the test it’s not science.

What is the probability that life began on its own?  I don’t want to get into all the math involved, which is probably impossible to calculate anyway, but it would be astronomically high.  One author said 1X10 to the power of 40,000.  There are only 1X10 to the power of 80 atoms in the universe.  Is this really the probablility—I’m not sure, but regardless, the probability that life began on its own is an impossibly high number.  In any other field of science we would say it’s an impossibility.  In the science of beginnings we just increase the age of the universe until it works.

It takes faith to say life began on its own because it cannot be proven.  It also takes faith to say there was a creator because it cannot be proven.  In my life, I try to employ a lot of logic, some emotion, and a little faith.  For me it’s easier to believe that a creator made what we see than it is to believe it just happened.

So why do I believe the Bible?

Literary Consistency and Longevity.  The Bible is an incredible document.  It contains 66 books written by 40 different authors over a time span of 1600 years and in three different languages.  Despite all of these differences it holds an astounding unity within its pages.  You can pick any book of the bible and after doing a solid investigation you get a feel for what it’s about. Its basic message is that God created man, man is imperfect and needs the help of a creator who has willingly offered help.  There is no other book that has been read as much as the Bible, or has had as many copies over the years as the bible.  With the number of original works we can be assured that what we read today is very close to the original version.  Even despite the attempts of many down through the ages to destroy it, the Bible has lasted.

Its claims.  The bible makes bold claims that it is the only inspired Word of God.   2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All scripture is inspired by God.”  Jesus quoted the Old Testament, and approved of the writers of the New Testament.  Jesus claimed to be the one and only way to God.  John 14:6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Historically accurate document.  The bible has never been proven wrong through archaeology.  They’ve discovered a number of things mentioned in the bible: Jericho and its walls that were actually fallen.  The five cities of the plain mentioned in Genesis were thought to have been nonexistent, but they were recently found.  We also see the histories of the bible matching up with other historians comments and historical documents.  The first century historian Josephus speaks about Jesus in some of his writings.

Prophetically accurate document.  There were many prophecies made in the Old Testament that have already been fulfilled.  Daniel chapter 2 predicts the next three world kingdoms very accurately…the Medo-Persian, the Greek, and the Roman empires.  The prophet Isaiah predicted in Isaiah 44:28 that a king by the name of Cyrus would come and help in the restoration of the Jewish people.  He made this prediction about 150 years before it happened.  700 years before it happened the prophet Micah predicted the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.  Zechariah predicted about 400 years in advance that the Messiah would be betrayed with 30 pieces of silver.  He also predicted that none of His bones would be broken and He would be pierced in His side.  There are many more prophecies that have been fulfilled.  I challenge you to look them up, but to keep this letter short I’ll stop there.  These Messianic prophesies are not ones that Jesus could have fulfilled by choice.

It works.  My last reason is that I can see that the principles the Bible promote work.  Millions of lives have been changed by the words in this book.  I’ve applied many of the principles to my own life and I’ve never been disappointed.  Can the Bible be proven to be the Word of God or to be absolute truth? No, but for me it is a reasonable option.  It does take faith to believe in God, but it is not blind faith.  It is faith built upon good observations.

The alternative for me seems less probable, and beyond that has little hope.  When I think of a world without God, I find no hope.  There’s none in politics.  All I see there is bickering and fighting, and a group of people just trying to be re-elected.  I’m reminded of the statement that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.  I find little hope in fame; I see people like Britney Spears and Miley Cyrus, and think the pressures of fame have done them little good.  I see little hope in money.  A little money is needed, but beyond our basic needs of food and shelter and clothing, money does not give you happiness.  I supposed there’s a little hope in family, friends, and society.  But honestly, society changes.  In Africa, we see the morals of the head-hunter society that are pretty different from ours; in our prisons we see an entirely different set of values, and the values of today are vastly different than they were in the 1920s. I don’t think society is the foundation we can put our hope in.  And in the end, we die and everything we’ve learned, valued, and loved disappears.  Maybe we’ve impacted others in this life and have passed on things of value, but eventually they pass on too and all we’ve done, valued, loved is gone. And maybe we’re one of the very lucky ones who has impacted society in a way that we get our name in some book and it lasts generations.  Eventually that disappears too, and in the end life has passed and nothing we have done remains.

I choose God because it’s a logically plausible choice that I feel with my emotions and believe with my faith.  I do not chose my faith in God because it gives me hope…but I can say there is an amazing hope in my faith in God and the Bible.  I believe there is life after death, and what I do in this life affects the next. I have a hope that in the next life, I will see some of those I knew in this life. I have a hope that by passing on this hope to others that they too will enter the next life.  With my faith in God I feel that I have a purpose.  And that purpose is to help others find this hope.  And that purpose will affect the lives of others for eternity.

The implications of this choice are huge.  Because without God life is all about me and what makes me happy.  Whether that means a life of hedonism seeking all the pleasures possible to man, or a life dedicated to working my way up in society and becoming popular and important–really it’s all about me. But if God is real, then His Word is truth and I should do my best to live by it and up hold it.  Suddenly, my life is no longer about me, but about God.  I am not perfect, nor will I ever be; I’m just trying to do my best.

Many think the Bible is just a book of rules, but really you can narrow it down to just two.  The first says this: Love the Lord God with all your heart, body, mind and soul. And the second says: Love your neighbor as your self.