Fake News and the Christian Response

Fake News. What’s a Christian to do?

There’s a lot of talk about Fake News these days. When you turn on the TV, pick up a newspaper or scroll through your favorite social media site, your mind will be crammed with all kinds of conflicting data. Did President Trump collude with Russians? Did Hilary Clinton delete thousands of emails? Was president Obama secretly siding with Muslims? We may feel we have the answers to these questions, but we will probably never fully know the truth. We only see these stories through the tiny window that is the media, and even then we only see the data that they want us to see, and with the slant that they want us to see it. So what’s a responsible Christian to do? I’d like to propose three principles of positive posting. Will you consider these the next time you share something on social media?

Verify articles before you share

The first thing to consider before sharing an article is the source. There are some news sites that are known to publish fake news consistently. Be cautious of websites ending in “.com.co” or pretending to be a well-known new source. These types of sites attempt to look like a valid news site (abcnews.com.co, abcnewsgo.com, etc), by having a similar URL or name. Be leery of sites that seem to have a lower quality of writing. Sites that publish real news will seldom use ALL CAPS TO GET A POINT ACROSS!!

The best method I’ve found for weeding through all the junk is to make an approved list of sites that you use to verify all news. I try and pick several sites from differing political views that are known to have a higher standard for journalism. Understand that all news comes through a filter, and different people will see the same news from different viewpoints. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to find unbiased news, but by listening to varying political views, you will have a better feel for the actual facts, and the truth is often found between the extremes. I use the following sites to verify news:

If you can’t verify the validity of the news, then you shouldn’t share it.

Care for people over politics

Something else to consider before sharing is that real people are listening. There’s something about hiding behind a screen that makes us a little bolder. Maybe it’s the safety of our living rooms, or the slight sense of anonymity that removes inhibitions, but it can cause us to say things that we wouldn’t normally say in person.

One thing I try to always do is picture myself sharing this information in person with those who would hold an opposing view. What would you say if you were face-to-face? Issues are important to us, and we have the ability and right to share what we believe, but don’t allow your viewpoints to crush your relationships. If you’re critical of an issue, then speak directly to the issue when posting, and not a person or his or her character (Tweet That!). It’s OK to say I absolutely hate what “this issue” has done to society.  It’s not OK to say that (liberal, conservative, you fill in the blank) idiots are the cause of all that’s wrong in the world today.

It’s OK to have an opinion, but care for people over your own political views. As a Christian you are called to show compassion, have patience, have humility and ultimately love and pray for those that treat you badly.

Share the real source of truth

The happenings of the last election gave me a new view-point and purpose for my social media posting. It was brutal.  I know many relationships suffered as a result of what was shared. I made a personal decision to use social media for good, and particularly in three ways: good spirited humor, teaching of positive moral values and encouraging others in their struggles.

As a believer, I’ll try and look for ways to incorporate the absolute truth of God’s Word in my posts. I don’t try to be preachy or to come across as arrogant, but I do believe in the changing power of the Word of God. There is so much negative in the news and in social media, so why not improve the lives of others by posting what is good (Tweet That!)?

Ransomware and spyware and malware, Oh My

Computer safety is front page news these days. Over the past couple months the cyber-world has faced several major threats. In May 2017 the WannaCry ransomware infected nearly 200,000 computers in 150 countries, and just a month later is attacked again by a similar bug named Petya. It can be a bit intimidating with viruses, malware, spyware, Trojans and other types of malicious software trying to infect you systems. In this article, I’ll explain the differences between the various computer attacks and help you find your way on the Yellow Brick Road of computer security.

Malware is a term created from combining the two words ‘malicious’ and ‘software’. This is a broad all-encompassing term used to describe any harmful software and includes everything in the list below.

A virus is computer code that attaches itself to another program or file allowing it to spread from computer to computer causing varying degrees of damage.  They usually sit dormant until activated by someone. A virus cannot stand alone. It’s just a segment of code that inserted into a valid program on your system and runs when the host program runs.

A worm is similar to a virus, but it is a stand-alone program. Once infecting a computer system it can automatically spread to other computers via existing email and contact lists found on that computer. There’s no need to double click a worm to get it going. I runs and spreads automatically.

A Trojan-Horse was named after the tactic used in the tale Trojan War where the Greeks attacked Troy by sneaking into the walled city in a large wooden horse.  The digital counterpart is a program that claims to do one thing, but does something else. You might download and install software that claims to clean your system, but behind the scenes it intentionally slows it down.

Spyware is software that usually does no harm to your system, but just tracks your actions—potentially recording your browsing habits and keystrokes and sending that info back to others. At its best, spyware is just annoying and used to prompt pop-up ads, but at its worst spyware is a path to identity theft.

Ransomware takes malicious software to a new level. As the name implies it takes your computer system hostage and promises to restore your files once a ransom has been paid. Petya is the latest of such attacks and in just a few days has spread to 64 countries infecting more than 12,500 computers.

So how do you protect yourself?  It’s not as easy as just clicking your heels together and thinking of a safe place. It’s impossible to be 100 percent protected from everything, but there are a few steps you can take to thwart most attacks.

Don’t open attachments.  Never open an attachment unless you know ahead of time what it is.  Even emails from your friends can contain malware. If you get an attachment from a friend, contact them directly and ask if they sent it.

Keep your operating system up to date. Those who create viruses look for vulnerabilities in operating systems (OS), and when found, they write harmful programs that take advantage of those loopholes. Operating systems like Windows XP have known vulnerabilities, and since Microsoft no longer supports XP malware has a free pass into those systems.

Keep your anti-virus up to date.  Most of the antivirus software out there (both free and paid) work well. The problem is many people do not update their virus definitions often enough.

Don’t connect to public Wi-Fi. If you absolutely have to use a public connection make sure you set it as ‘public’ when you set it up, that way your OS knows to lock down certain ports into your computer. When it comes to connecting to the internet there really is no place like home.

Staying safe is not difficult, but you must keep security in mind when using your connected devices.

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.

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.

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.

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.

How Safe is Your Identity?

cyber-crime-and-identity-theft

 

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.