God is a God of coming back

In the midst of encouraging a friend this evening I just need to write these words. Perhaps they will reach you in a time of hopelessness.

God is a God of coming back, a God waiting with open arms…

At the point you don’t feel like you can’t crawl back the 1200th time THAT is exactly when you should fall before him and confess.

Confess who you are, confess who He is,

and cling to the cross of Christ which satisfies the scales of justice and opens the door to mercy. Pour it all out on Abba Father and surrender all pride. His mercy has no limit and His grace is sufficient.


An excerpt of an amazing prayer, “Meeting God” from the Valley of Vision.

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For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile. (‭Jeremiah‬ ‭29‬:‭11-14‬ ESV)

Amen.

A Selfless Leader

One day the LORD said to Moses, “Climb one of the mountains east of the river, and look out over the land I have given the people of Israel. After you have seen it, you will die like your brother, Aaron, (‭Numbers‬ ‭27‬:‭12-13‬ NLT)

I love Moses’ reaction to being told he was going to die and not enter the promise land.

Did he pout?
Did he protest?

No, he prayed…
and not for himself but for the people and that God might give them a courageous leader and shepherd.

Then Moses said to the LORD, “O LORD, you are the God who gives breath to all creatures. Please appoint a new man as leader for the community. Give them someone who will guide them wherever they go and will lead them into battle, so the community of the LORD will not be like sheep without a shepherd.” (‭Numbers‬ ‭27‬:‭15-17‬ NLT)

If God speaks a difficult word to you or I today will our hearts respond like Moses? Will our prayers be for those around us?

May God grant us the power to love so completely.

Grace abounded all the more

Romans 5:20, “Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,”

What God has done and has given us is much more than to counteract sin. Christ did not repress or weaken sin – He destroyed it in Himself, so that we might know the power of Him in us. People have been tyrannised so long that they live looking over their shoulders, expecting sin to raise its ugly head. We need a long, steady realisation that the grace of Christ is much more than enough to deliver us”

~Les Wheeldon

What a word of dependence and victory.

Except taken from his “Hearing God’s Heart” Devotional, a portion available via YouVersion Reading Plan or you can purchase a copy at his website.

The Beginning and End of Hope

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For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. (Psalm‬ ‭62‬:‭5‬ ESV

We readily accept that our hope is in Christ but perhaps this can lead us to an incomplete picture.

Look at v. 5 again. “for my hope is FROM him.” Yes we have a hope in God but don’t overlook that this hope is from God. He is both the source and the fulfillment of the promise of hope. God is the start/finish line of our hope.

Without the Spirit of God working in us we are unable to manufacture true hope and without Christ and his resurrection and victory we have nothing to anchor our Hope.

Look at Romans 15:13 (emphasis is mine)

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. (‭Romans‬ ‭15‬:‭13‬ ESV)

When facing trials, suffering, fear, or uncertainty God does NOT say “Good luck go muster up some Hope” rather he waits for us to turn to him in prayer and stillness to give Him the opportunity to grow Hope in us.

This understanding should bring us rest and lead us to being more desperate for God. (Funny how so much of following God is continually confessing how utterly unable I am to do it in my own power.)

A hope that is planted by Him can sustain through any storm.
A hope that is secured in Him will never fall short.

Disaster Relief Buckets of Love and more…

Buckets of Love

The Arkansas Baptist State Convention is collecting “Buckets of Love”.  These are really helpful items for victims and their friends/family that are assisting in the clean up. See the brochure below and deliver the buckets by Friday to Central Baptist Church Conway, 3333 Dave Ward Dr, Conway, AR 72034.

Regarding relief supplies:

I’ve seen a need for more Gatorade and sports drinks, masks for the workers, and colors/coloring books for kids. In Vilonia you can drop off supplies at Beryl Baptist Church (Red Cross HQ).

Volunteers:

Authorities are asking people to not self-deploy. If you’d like to volunteer you can put your name on the ABSC list here

Buckets of Love

 

The Same Voice Still Speaks Life

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God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. (Acts 2:24 ESV)

At the point that all seemed lost I imagine hearing God the Father’s voice speaking the name of his Son in the darkness of Saturday night. Divine vocal chords piercing into the abyss of death and hell. A phrase that changed everything.  – Jesus, my son, Arise.

The Bible doesn’t tell us the exact words God used but it does tell us repeatedly that the same voice calls life out of our death as well.

When we are trapped by our sin suffocating under the weight of our self-centeredness and wickedness that voice of YHWH pierces through. The power it contained 2000 years ago hasn’t diminished one iota. God is still in the resurrection business.

That voice is giving life to men, women, orphans, families, murderers, deacons, Sunday school teachers, our homeless neighbors and even we folks that have lost sight of God in our business of church. Gods speaks life to all who will come.

Wherever you are tonight do not despair. The Good News still stands, your debt has been paid.

Do not mistake seeing Jesus sacrifice as rudimentary appeasement of an angry terrible beast name God. He died because the wages of sin is death. God is Life and Holy and cannot abide sin. Justice demands a price and once we chose to sin that price was demanded of you and I. It is through God’s love and mercy that he made a means of atonement for you and I. Take hold of the cross and choose to live!

Glory Hallelujah Sunday is COMING!

because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9 ESV)

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YByT6wfdhJs]

//image credit Stephen A. Wolfe

Heartbleed blah blah blah – What does it mean for me?

Question Mark

I’ve read a lot about Heartbleed lately but I don’t really understand it. What does it mean for my family?

A friend texted me this question yesterday and I’m going to do my best to answer this question in non-tech talk because I feel like the message to normal folk is getting lost in technical language and there are likely more friends and family wondering the same thing.

 

Heartbleed is a bug in the code that many sites use to secure websites. The webcomic xkcd actually did a great job of explaining it

Heartbleed explained by XKCD

Heartbleed explained by XKCD

Heartbleed is going to affect you in 2 primary ways.

Lots of password changes

Every account you have with a website that used OpenSSL should be considered compromised and you need to go change your password. Thankfully many sites are sending out emails and publishing blog posts to notify their users. This password reset is to prevent any unauthorized access (folks other than you) from logging in to the site or app just in case your password might have been exposed using Heartbleed.

What sites are affected? Mashable has a very good list but don’t go changing everything just yet. Websites really need to take 2-steps to fix the problem before you change the password (more on that in a bit). Without these changes the new password might be exposed. It’s akin to having your phone tapped and giving out your new number to anyone eavesdropping.

So how do you know a site is fixed and is ready for you to change your password? Well there isn’t a single good answer. Check the website of the company, ask them via Twitter do a bit of research. If you are a user of Lastpass then they did their users a huge favor and added a feature to their security check to show every account saved in Lastpass that may be affected and indicating whether it was now safe to change your password or not. Don’t you wish you used an incredible service like Lastpass 🙂

Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr, Soundcloud, Yahoo and most of the big sites are safe know so you can change those passwords anytime.  Some of the notable sites that aren’t secure as of this writing are Imgur, Instagram, and Flipboard.

Malicious Websites using a stolen “valid” certificate

Let’s start with an oversimplified explanation of Secure Websites.

When you login to your bank the little lock in your browser means that your bank bought a certificate from the web trusts and is using it to encrypt your data so other folks at the coffee shop don’t get a peek at your password. That security lock means 2 things: 1) you are really dealing with your bank and 2) information submitted through that webpage is secure and only visible to your bank. That is what SSL technology does in a nutshell. You can see that when that system is compromised its a big problem. Welcome to Heartbleed.

If you are familiar with phishing then you know that attackers will craft an email or website to look similar enough to your bank, google, yahoo etc… to fool you into typing in your username and password. If you fall for it then you’ve handed your account over to an attacker. This OpenSSL bug opens the door for attackers to not only impersonate website but now they might be able to steal that websites certificate and make their forgery even more convincing.

I mentioned before that websites have 2 steps to secure themselves. 1) Apply the OpenSSL patch which fixes the bug 2) Get a new certificate and revoke the old one that marks it as bad.

Once they mark the old certificate is marked as bad your web browser should flag you that the certificate used on this website is no longer valid. The only catch? Chrome and Firefox don’t do this by default. Follow the instructions here to change those settings to check for revoked certificates in Chrome and Firefox.

Final thoughts

Its difficult to predict the fallout of Heartbleed. It will be learning process for both the security community and everyone involved from Certificate authorities to browser vendors.

TL;DR The best you can do is to change your passwords, use something complex and unique to that site (don’t reuse passwords, seriously— don’t) and make sure your web browser settings give you the most security and to keep your wits. If something looks off or strange don’t type in your password.

Further Security Tips

  1. Passwords: You can’t remember complex 22 character passwords. Use a password manager like Lastpass. Stop using passwords and start using passphrases 4 words add punctuation. BlueElephantlovesYanni! is an incredible password and you can remember it.
  2. Enable 2-Factor Authentication: This is an extra step and uses your mobile phone as a 2nd form of authentication. Use it on Google, Apple, Yahoo, and many more. Start with this article Here’s Everywhere You Should Enable Two-Factor Authentication Right Now, I use the Authy App on my phone to keep track of all my 2-factor enabled accounts
/image credit ryanmilani

Heartbleed and your web browser

There is a very nasty vulnerability known as Heartbleed that has been discovered within OpenSSL. While you may not be familiar with OpenSSL you are familiar with the hundreds of thousands of sites that use it to protect your passwords and encrypt your data. It is estimated to be implemented on a 1/3 of all secured webservers and it is used by sites like Yahoo, Imgur, and many others.

The vulnerability allows an attacker to gain plaintext chunks of text in 64k segments. These segments have been proven to expose visitor cookies, user passwords, and perhaps most worrisome the private keys of Web Server SSL Certs. In laymans terms that means I not only broke into your house but I changed the locks. (infosec folks please don’t take the analogy too far, I realize it is more akin to being able to spoof locks but I digress). Because of this potential key compromise Yahoo and many other companies are going through the process of revoking and regenerating their SSL certificates.

Why should you care?

If an attacker has gained the private key of a certificate they can then use that certificate to make themselves appear legitimate unless your web browser checks for certificate revocation. Chrome nor Firefox do this by default. (they should and I’m hopeful they will).

You can manually enable this feature and I would suggest that you do so. It is not a cure-all nor fool proof but the fall out from heartbleed is going to be significant and honestly this future should be enabled at all times.

How to change your browser settings:

Chrome – go to settings, click “Show Advanced” and find this setting

ChromeRevocationSetting1

ChromeRevocationSetting2
Firefox – settings, advanced, Validation, then check both boxes

FirefoxRevocationSetting1

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IE – I believe these are on by default but to be sure, go to settings, advanced and find these settings

IERevocationSetting1

Further Reading

For further reading regarding Heartbleed:

The Greatest Comedian You’ve Never Heard Of

Minister of Mirth: Grady Nutt

Minister of Mirth: Grady Nutt

I have a special place in my heart for great comedy and as a youngster I thrived off Ray Stevens, Bill Cosby, and Grady Nutt. Most of you recognize 2 of these names but you aren’t familiar with the venerable Mr. Nutt.

Grady Nutt is the best comedian you’ve never heard of. This is a true southern brand of comedy that centers around church and families and it is absolutely hilarious.

I’ve looked for clips of his sketches for years and on a whim decided to try again today (it’s maintenance night and I need something to entertain my ears) and EUREKA; I found the exact album that I played endlessly.

So do yourself a favor and check out “Funny Stories from the Prime Minister of Humor

I recommend you start with “When the Roll is called up yonder”  – My favorite joke of all time. and don’t miss “I have an Odor” and the “Dinner on the grounds“.  I hope you enjoy these bits as much as I do.

[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/playlists/12493258″ width=”100%” height=”450″ iframe=”true” /]

Passing Away

We are immersed in thoughts of food that will be gone tomorrow, a situation at work that you won’t remember in 6 months, a repair on a house that will be shambles in 50 years, and building a legacy that will be forgotten by our own ancestors in 200yrs.
For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. -1 John 2:16-17