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September 09, 2014

A couple of years ago an unknown person hacked my GMail account. I had been lazy, I had used a low-quality, low-security password, and I paid the price. Within seconds the person had changed my password, locked me out, and deleted all my archived email. I tried everything I could to attract the attention of Google’s support team, but to no avail. It was only when I asked for help from my Twitter followers that I regained access to the account. In other words, if I didn’t have so many Twitter followers, I would have permanently lost my account.

This event and a hundred headlines convinced me of the need for better security. Recent news stories have once again shown the importance of properly securing accounts, apps and services behind best practices. Here are 5 steps you need to take to protect yourself online.

#1. Use Good Passwords

Surely you know by now that a bad password is, well, bad. You make a criminal’s life exponentially more difficult if you determine you will use stronger and better passwords. Of course it’s not always quite so simple, as there is endless debate over what constitutes a good password. But whatever camp you represent, a good password is one that protects your account and one that you can actually remember.

I think xkcd gets it roughly correct here, though. Find a password that is long but also easy to remember. Four random words strung together will protect your account better than a much shorter string of random numbers, letters and other characters; a mnemonic device of some description should help you remember those words. As he suggests in his comic, consider putting together a silly little story or scenario to help you retain it. You can use this random word generator to get you started. If you want to kick it to the next level, consider Jesse’s advice. (Also, make the first or last letter a capital since some sites require at least one upper-case character.)

So go ahead and make yourself a password and, for now, write it down on a piece of paper. We will get back to it in a minute.

#2. Use Unique Passwords

Creating one good password is a good start, but if you want to be ultra-secure should consider creating unique passwords for each of your important accounts. We can consider this an optional step if (and only if!) you are going to be sure to follow step #3 below.

If you want to be ultra-secure, here’s how to proceed. I’m sure you have a number of low-security accounts—they don’t have much personal information, they don’t have access to your credit card, and so on. For these accounts you can maintain a single password that spans all of them. But for each of your accounts that would really hurt to lose, you should consider a unique password. Otherwise, a criminal who gets that one password will have access to all of your accounts and, trust me, he’ll try. You probably have a lot of these accounts that really matter: email, Evernote, iCloud, Facebook, Twitter, Dropbox, banking, Paypal, and so on.

So go ahead—figure out the sites that need strong, unique passwords, and get to it. Create those passwords, write them on your piece of paper, and visit each site to change your account accordingly.

#3. Use Two-Factor Authentication

By now you have (hopefully) created unique and high-quality passwords for each of your important sites. Or, at the very least, you’ve got one great password that is protecting all of your accounts. Already you’ve gone a long way to protecting yourself online, but there is still some work to do. The next thing you’ll want to do is find which of your sites and applications support two-factor authentication. Two-factor authentication is a login system that requires a password plus another piece of information before you can access an account or change any of its information (hence the “two factors.”) The second piece of information is usually a code that will be generated by your mobile phone or sent to your mobile phone. You’ll find two-factor authentication supported by Google, Apple, Evernote, Dropbox, Facebook, Twitter, and most other major services. It will take a minute or two to set up each of them, but it is time well-invested. Once you have done this, a criminal not only needs your login name and password, but he also needs access to your cell phone (at least in theory).

September 09, 2014

Today’s Kindle deals are exceptionally good: Recovering Redemption by Matt Chandler ($4.99). B&H has several of their new, good, reader-friendly Exalting Jesus commentaries on sale: Exalting Jesus in James by David Platt ($5.99); Exalting Jesus in Ephesians by Tony Merida ($5.99); Exalting Jesus in Mark by Daniel Akin ($5.99); Exalting Jesus in 1, 2, 3 John by Daniel Akin ($5.99). B&H has also put their New American Commentary Studies on sale for $3.99 each: Believer’s Baptism by Thomas Schreiner; Future Israel by Barry Horner; Enthroned on Our Praise by Timothy Pierce; Sermon on the Mount by Charles Quarles; Lukan Authorship of Hebrews by David Allen; God’s Indwelling Presence by James Hamilton; The Messianic Hope by Michael Rydelnik; The Ten Commandments by Mark Rooker; The Lord’s Supper by Thomas Schreiner; The End of the Law by Jason Meyer.

9 Questions to Help You Steward All of Life for God’s Glory - Brad Hambrick has some questions you should ponder.

The Edge of the Earth - If you’re a Switchfoot fan, you’ll be glad to know they unexpectedly released a 7-song EP as a follow-up to Fading West (Amazon, iTunes). While we’re on the subject of music, Lecrae’s new album Anomaly releases today (Amazon, iTunes).

Not Sinning - Adam4d took one of my tweets and expanded it to a comic. I like it!

The Op-Ed (Oprah Edited) - This is good stuff.

Scots, What the Heck? - I am not authority on the matter, but here’s a look at why Scotland should be very cautious about separating from the United Kingdom.

10 Ways to Exercise Christlike Leadership - Here’s Owen Strachan doing what he does so well.

When You Don’t Feel Connected at Church - I think everyone feels disconnected from church from time to time. Here is some help for when you’re feeling that way.

If I don’t care to understand the concerns of those I disagree with, it’s not reconciliation I seek, but submission. —Joshua Waulk 

Walk

September 08, 2014

I am sure you have heard by now that a group of hackers invaded the private accounts of a list of celebrities, found their photographs, and released them to the public. The celebrities were young women, the photographs were nude or semi-nude, and the shots were meant to remain private. The end result is that millions of people have now seen and enjoyed revealing photographs that were intended only for these women and their most intimate acquaintances.

We could talk about the folly of taking nude photographs, and the inappropriateness of such moments shared between two people who are not married (which, I assume, is the context of most or all of the photographs). But I think such a focus would be to miss out on more important matters.

When I read this story I felt a deep sadness for these young women. These women are victims, and they are victims several times over.

They are victims of the crime that hacked their accounts and stole their photographs and displayed them for the world to see. We acknowledge this, but I want us to acknowledge a deeper kind of victimization.

They are victims of the millions of virtual voyeurs who are looking at photographs that were meant to be kept private. And they are victims of all the people who are using those pictures for the purpose of sexual titillation or just plain entertainment.

But there is still another aspect of their victimization I want us to see: The very fact that these women took these photographs in the first place is proof that they are victims of the world, the flesh, and the devil. I assume they were all willing participants in these photo shoots, but they were victims even in their willingness—victims of those forces that makes them believe they are nothing more than their beauty, their sexiness, or their sexual desirability. They are victims of the lust that drove them to inappropriate sexual relationships outside of marriage. When we understand sin, we understand that a person can be a willing participant and victim at the same time and in the same act.

When I speak to people about pornography, I always try to highlight this point: As Christians, we ought to have the highest compassion for people who are victims of sin. The young man who looks at pornography is enjoying someone else’s victimization. Whether the woman on the screen was raped into porn or whether she is a fully-willing participant, she is a victim of evil, controlling forces. And the young man who looks at her on the screen is joyfully participating in her victimization. He takes advantage of a victim for his own sexual satisfaction. That is a shameful, abhorrent evil. And those who looked at the stolen celebrity photos are every bit as guilty.

As Christians we are called by Jesus to love our neighbors as ourselves—we are to have compassion on them for their sin and folly. Whatever else we see in this sad story, let’s see this: As Christians, we must refuse to participate in further victimizing those who are victims of sin.

(In case it needs to be said, I did not look for or look at any of those photos in preparing this article.)

Hacker image credit: Shutterstock.

September 08, 2014

There is lots of Kindle goodness for you today: Finally Free by Heath Lambert (a great book on overcoming pornography) ($3.99); Washed and Waiting by Wesley Hill ($3.99); Choosing to See by Mary Beth Chapman ($1.99); The Power of Words and the Wonder of God by John Piper ($1.99); Words for Reader and Writers by Larry Woiwode ($1.99); Meaning at the Movies by Grant Horner ($1.99); Art and the Christian Mind by Laurel Gasque ($1.99); Jesus, Justice, and Gender Roles by Kathy Keller ($1.99).

BBC Earth Titles - Today only Amazon has a lot of BBC’s Earth titles up to 79% off. They include Planet Earth, Life, Frozen Planet, etc.

Africa Needs a Whole Lot Less of Joel and a Whole Lot More of Rick - Here’s a response to Victoria Osteen that comes from the mission frontier.

The Simple Technology That Accidentally Ruined Baseball - Baseball fans will enjoy this one.

The Abomination of Desolation - The Gospel Coalition turns to Daniel Doriani to ask, “What is the abomination of desolation referred to in Matthew 24?”

What Kind of Procrastinator Are You? - Here’s a simple flowchart to figure out how and why you procrastinate.

InterVarsiety De-Recognized - This seems to be increasingly common: Universities refusing to recognize Christian campus organizations (or, in theory, other organizations that involve some kind of exclusivity).

May I Marry for Looks? - Clint Archer pens a letter geared toward young men.

“Busy” isn’t about the accumulated number of hours we work, its about the nervousness of our hearts. —Justin Risedorf

Risedorf

September 07, 2014

Today I’d like to do a little “faith hacking”—to find and share one of those practical methods or techniques for living the Christian life. As I read, as I listen to sermons, as I speak to people, I am always looking for insights on how other Christians live out their faith in practical ways, and today I want to tell you about one great suggestion for improving the way you meditate on Scripture.

If you are like me, you find meditation a difficult practice. You like the idea of it, but find the reality difficult to carry out. In my mind, “meditation” seems like an ethereal term, one that contains a good idea but without any clear structure. I struggle with it.

In his book Simplify Your Spiritual Life, Donald Whitney says, “When meditating on a verse of Scripture, it’s usually much easier to answer specific questions about it than to think about the text without any guidance or direction at all.” Which, I think, pretty much explains my frustration. He describes meditating on Philippians 4:8 and realizing that the verse offers helpful directions for the kinds of things he could meditate on for any passage in the whole Bible.

Philippians 4:8, which you’ve probably memorized at one time or another, says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Whitney studied the verse for a time, and came up with a list of questions that can be helpful for meditating on nearly anything in your life, but especially Scripture. Here they are:

  • What is true about this, or what truth does it exemplify?
  • What is honorable about this?
  • What is right about this?
  • What is pure about this, or how does it exemplify purity?
  • What is lovely about this?
  • What is admirable, commendable, or reputation-strengthening about this?
  • What is excellent about this (in other words, excepts others of this kind)?
  • What is praiseworthy about this?

And there you have it—8 questions that can help guide your meditation.

Do you have other questions to guide your meditation? How do you make sure you are not only reading Scripture, but also pondering and applying it?

September 06, 2014

The weekend is here, and with it a new edition of Weekend A La Carte. And I’ll begin by expressing my gratitude to this week’s sponsor, Clarifying the Bible. My site is dependent upon sponsors to keep going, so be sure to check them out week-by-week.

Rick Reed went looking to Bonhoeffer to pick up some interesting tips on teaching and preaching. I like this one: “The best sign of a good pastor is that the congregation reads the Bible.”

Jared Wilson says He Must Increase; Our Churches Must Decrease. And I quite agree.

Daniel Doriana offers up some tips for dealing with a bad boss, because we have all had to at one time or another.

Here are 7 Signs You’re Spending Too Much Time Looking at Your Phone. Am I the only one who has permanent iPhone-shaped indents in all of my pants, right at the left-front pocket?

This is a fascinating video of pianist Glenn Gould in a state of almost possession, or is it absence?, as he plays piano.

I don’t know if it’s true, but I like the headline: Canada is now more American than America. It looks to the Burger King / Tim Horton’s deal as proof.

And let me leave you with a quote…

I have had more trouble with myself than with any other man. —Dwight L. Moody

Moody

September 05, 2014

This week’s Free Stuff Fridays is sponsored by our friends at Reformation Heritage Books. They have put together a great prize package this week; there will be 5 winners, and each of them will receive the following 6 books:

  • SwinnockThe Blessed and Boundless God by George Swinnock. “This book, by Puritan George Swinnock, is precisely what is needed in order to introduce God’s people to the blessed and boundless God. I cannot wait to share this work with my own flock.” (Mark Jones, minister of Faith Presbyterian Church, Vancouver, British Columbia, and coauthor of A Puritan Theology)
  • Building a Godly Home by William Gouge (3 Volumes). For years, William Gouge’s Domestical Duties has stood as the foremost Puritan treatment of Christian family life. Yet due to its size and antiquated expression, it has become almost unknown among current generations of believers. To help revive the usefulness of this classic book, Scott Brown and Joel R. Beeke divided Gouge’s work into three manageable volumes, updated the language to modern standards, and have given it the title Building a Godly Home.
    • A Holy Vision for Family Life
    • A Holy Vision for Happy Marriage
    • NEW: A Holy Vision for Raising Children
  • Beauty and GloryThe Beauty and Glory of Christian Living, edited by Dr. Joel Beeke. “The Beauty and Glory of Christian Living is a storehouse of spiritual riches for all who desire to experience the fullness of Jesus Christ. The topics covered in these pages are well chosen, carefully addressed, and comprise a treasury of truth for every Christian. Get alone with God and read the book. You will be greatly helped in your growth in godliness.” (Steven J. Lawson, president, OnePassion Ministries, Dallas, Texas)
  • A Vine Ripened Life by Stanley Gale. “This was too important to read just once. The possibilities for growth were too good to pass up, so I read it again. So consider reading it this way: go through it slowly, try to do it with someone else, read it aloud, and pray together as you go. Blessing and growth will follow.” (Edward T. Welch, counselor and faculty member at the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation (CCEF) and author of When People Are Big and God Is Small.)

Enter to Win

Again, there are 5 prize packages to win. And all you need to do to enter the draw is to drop your name and email address in the form below. (If you receive this by email, you will need to visit challies.com to enter.)

Giveaway Rules: You may enter one time. As soon as the winners have been chosen, all names and addresses will be immediately and permanently erased. Winners will be notified by email. The giveaway closes Saturday at noon.