My home office at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Delete that email before it’s too late

Have you ever gotten a computer virus? They’re a pain in the neck. I got a notice about a new one yesterday that experts are calling CryptoLock. It’s a type of ransomware apparently. It’s a nasty piece of work. Once this thing gets into your system it looks for commonly named Word documents and PDF files and encrypts them so you can’t access them without a password, leaving the crazy hacker programmer types on the other side of the planet free to extort you. Basically, if you want your files back, you have to pay them for the password.

I was curious about this one, so I went looking for more information on it. I found a bunch on the US-CERT web site, a special bulletin even. It very helpfully lists some bulleted points about how to prevent being infected by it, and–like most lists–it goes in order of importance, starting with the most important point. What do you think that most important point is?

Don’t think too hard. It’s pretty obvious. But maybe it’s too obvious and that why they have to list it first because people don’t think about it enough.

The first preventative method to keeping your hardware safe from viruses? Do not follow unsolicited web links in email messages or submit any information to webpages in links. In other words, don’t click on links you didn’t ask for in emails from people you don’t know. And the second method? You’re going to love this. Use caution when opening email attachments. I’m serious. I’m pulling these directly from the US-CERT web site.

The top two preventative methods for protecting your computer? Don’t click on things you don’t recognize and don’t open attachments you don’t recognize. Am I wrong? Or are those the two most basic level rules of navigating the internet?

The third point is fairly obvious too. Maintain up-to-date anti-virus software. But I would have thought it would be higher up on the list. After all, the best offense is a good defense, right? Well, apparently not. Because it doesn’t matter how up to date your anti-virus software is. If you click on a link or open an attachment that infects your computer, the game is up.

My home office at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

My home office at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is James 1:13-15.

And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else. Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.

It’s easy to blame God for everything that’s wrong in our lives. I mean, He’s in control, isn’t He? So if He’s in control and He’s good, then why does He let all these horrible things happen in our world? Personally, it’s easy to get frustrated too because I never seem to learn the lessons I need to learn. Why else would I have to keep experiencing the same difficult situations over and over and over again?

But the Bible says very clearly that God isn’t the source of our trouble. God is the source of our help. When you’re struggling with the choice whether to do something you know is wrong or to turn away from it, that’s not a problem God has sent into your life. That’s just life. And it’s not God who makes you want to do wrong; it’s your own heart.

I didn’t plan to post this today, but this really struck a chord in me. I get so discouraged sometimes because I feel like God is testing me. I feel like He pushes me to the very edge of what I can endure, and He’s just waiting on the sidelines to see how I improvise to get myself out of it. But I don’t think that’s how God views us at all. Remember, because of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, God looks on us like His children. And no parent in his or her right mind stands on the sidelines and enjoys watching their child flounder around helplessly–even and especially if that’s the way the child likes it.

No, God is standing by waiting for me to call on Him to ask for His help. He’s standing close ready to send help when I ask for it. He’s watching over me because that’s what He does.

So what about letting sin into my life? What about letting those things into my heart that I shouldn’t? Well, it comes down to a pretty simple explanation; don’t follow the link. Don’t download that attachment. If you don’t recognize it, or if you are fairly certain it’s going to be damaging, don’t do it. You have a choice laid out before you when it comes to email. Open it or delete it, and if it’s a sketchy email, deleting it is always the best course of action.

And if that’s how we handle a sketchy email, why is handling the sketchy parts of life any different?

What choice is before you right now? What temptation are you staring in the face? It could be anything. But whatever it is, you don’t have to do it. You don’t have to follow through. You don’t have to take that step or make that choice or turn that direction. Nothing and no one is forcing you to do it.

You can know the Bible cover to cover. You can go to church seven days a week. You can know all the names of the disciples. But none of that will do you a lick of good when you’re staring your temptation in the face and you have to choose whether you’re going to sin or not. Just remember that you don’t have to sin. You have a choice.

Believe me, you’re much better off deleting that email before you even read the first line. It may seem like any other email. It might even look harmless. But it will only bring you trouble and heartache to the people who love you most.

Fair Food

Escape routes are only useful if you recognize them

Every time I watch an action movie, there’s always some point where the hero needs to escape. Not necessarily retreat. But escape a falling building or escape a burning car or escape from the bad guy’s hideout. It never fails. And I can’t help feeling that if we only needed to escape from physical danger, we would all probably be doing pretty well. But it’s rarely physical danger we need to escape from and more like danger from the way we think.
Physical danger can be pretty obvious. You know and realize that you’re in danger and look for a way to escape. But danger that comes from the way we think is harder to identify. Most of the time, we don’t even think it’s dangerous so we power on through without stopping to realize that it might not be a wise choice.
Best example: the way we eat.
Fair Food
Fair Food – Kansas State Fair, Hutchinson, KS

I was looking for a photo to feature this morning, and I couldn’t help but put up a shot of a tasty treat that only comes around at fair time. Yes. Krispy Kreme Donut Burgers. I have no idea what they taste like. I’ve never tried one, and I’m not really interested in trying one. I’m sure they’re good. And you know? Eating one once a year is probably perfectly fine, but Americans don’t eat things like this once a year. We eat all the time. And we rarely think about the consequences. We’re the richest people in the world, and we eat like it.

And it’s not just food. It’s exercise. It’s faith. It’s friendships. It’s family. It’s giving. It’s everything. And the dysfunction all starts with the way we choose to think. I blogged earlier in the year about how we can choose to change the way we think, and the verse today is about how God can help us accomplish that. Today’s verse is 1 Corinthians 10:13.
 The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.
Check out the last sentence: When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.
I can speak from personal experience on this one because God has truly proven Himself faithful. I can’t tell you how many times God has opened a door and provided an escape route for me when I was torn with indecision, to sin or not to sin. In those circumstances, when my mental strength was wavering, I knew I was facing a choice but I didn’t think I could resist . . . and then the phone rang. Or someone would come to the door. Or I would get a text message. Or my power would go out. Or any number of random things would happen to take my mind off the subject, and when I returned to the thought, I could see it from a different angle and realize that I didn’t have to choose to sin.
It’s the same with any temptation. Being tempted doesn’t mean you’re sinning. Everyone is tempted. But as a Christian, you don’t have to choose to give in to temptation and God will always provide a way out for you. You just have to look for it.
Like John McLane or Jack Bauer or Martin Riggs looking for a way to escape the bad guy’s hideout, keep your eyes open every day. Because we’re tempted every day. And on those days when we feel weak mentally, we need to be aware that the temptation will be harder to beat. And if we’re not already looking for a way out when it hits us, we might get stuck.