Can Yoga Be Redeemed?

I must state as clearly as possible that anyone who gets involved with yoga, and kundalini energy which is the aim of all yoga, is making a very, very big mistake. No matter how committed a Christian may be, pastor or lay person alike, when a believer chooses to involve himself or herself with the world of the occult, including any and all levels of yoga practice, for “exercise” or otherwise, very powerful spontaneous demonic manifestations can and do oftentimes occur. Many ignorant people say that yoga exercises can be separated from yoga philosophy. This simply is not true. It is a well known fact that yoga postures/poses are the outworking of occult philosophy. Yoga is an occult practice. It is the basis of the Hinduism. Westernized as “Breath Religion”, “The Science of Breath”, and “Transcendental Meditation” it leads individuals to believe the great lie of human “godhood”. Yoga is demonic in origin, it comes from the teachings of demons, and it stands vehemently opposed to the God of the Bible and to every Christians’ faith in the Person and work of Jesus Christ. Yoga, even done as merely an “exercise”, has the power to produce occult phenomena dangerous enough to undo the human psyche. Sadly, countless people, including many undiscerning Christians, believe that yoga can be done as exercise or as an integrative worship practice – as part of a “transformative process” of drawing “closer to the Divine”. Nothing could be further from the truth.

“Kundalini is the mainstay of all yoga practices.” – Hans Ulrich Reiker, The Yoga of Light: Hatha Yoga Pradipika, New York: Seabury Press, 1971, p. 101

Before moving on to anything further, let’s establish the agreed upon background.

  1. There is another realm every bit as real, perhaps more real, than this realm. We can say this with confidence for a variety of reasons, but including the command to Moses to build the Tabernacle as a copy or pattern of what he would be shown: the real in the heavenly realm.
  2. These two realms are interconnected, as evidenced (among other things) by Jacob’s Ladder (and Daniel’s vision where Michael had to come rescue Gabriel, etc., etc.)
  3. Our daily, tangible lives are indissolubly linked to the spirit realm as evidenced by Paul’s statement, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12)

Second, let’s establish that neither myself nor the quoted author are arguing that any movement is inherently evil. There is nothing inherently evil about raising the middle finger. But… what is it that makes that gesture evil?

Theoretically (and realistically) someone could not know the significance of that gesture and raise their middle finger with no malicious intent. But here’s the point… for some time folks who perceive the lack of comprehension will not respond to that gesture, but at some point someone is going to punch them.

The answer to my previous question is that there is contextual agreement upon the significance of a movement. I raise my palm up to you when you’re running toward me and you will know that I am indicating you should stop, though that same movement would have meant, “Greetings,” if you met a Lakota Sioux in 1824. The yoga postures were designed and communicated by spirit entities and they, in agreement with previous and contemporary humans, have invested those movements with significance that the demonic entities treat very legalistically. This significance has persisted for millennia, and is not about to be let go of by those behind their revelation to humans (c.f., 1 Enoch 9:5-7).

A yoga pose, accidentally struck, is a non-thing, a triviality, an accident. But yoga poses regularly practiced are the waving of a flag in the spiritual realm. They will attract attention, whether you wave that flag with intent or not.

But there is more to it even than that. Just as few know much about Kinesiology and yet is has an effect, just as putting one’s shoulders back will enhance breathing compared to doubling over and hunching one’s shoulders, the yoga postures are designed with an awareness that humans rarely possess about the effects each pose has on receptivity to spiritual activity, and the enhancement or alignment of “energies” in the body that are often unperceived.

The entire thrust of God’s commandments suggest that His children are to be aware of the spiritual realm but permit God alone to mediate our interaction with it. The practice of sorcery, divination, necromancy, and pharmakeia for man-initiated connection/communication with the spirit realm is prohibited with prejudice. While we want to deny it, the adversaries know that this is precisely what yoga is for, and they are encouraging its growth among us at every opportunity.

Swami Sivasiva Plani wrote in 1991,

A small army of yoga missionaries – hatha, raja, siddha and kundalini – beautifully trained in the last 10 years, is about to set upon the western world. They may not call themselves Hindu, but Hindus know where yoga came from and where it goes. (“An Open Letter to Evangelicals,” in Hinduism Today, January 1991)

Sannyasin Arumugaswami asserts, “Hinduism is the soul of Yoga….A Christian trying to adapt these principles will likely disrupt their own Christian beliefs.”

As I mentioned previously, the argument is not that any movement (or breathing pattern) is in and of itself inherently evil. No, everything God created is good, and every good and every perfect gift comes down from the Father of Lights who is above.

I think, however, that we too often forget what evil is: the twisting of what was created for good away from God’s intent. The variety of ways in which this truth works itself out in our lives is too seldom recognized, which is unfortunate because its contemplation is quite revelatory.

To establish the interplay at work here, let’s take an extreme example, so clear and evident that it will illumine our perception when analyzing more murky examples. Marital intimacy and fornication are the same movement. God created this “movement” and He clearly intended it for good, so what is it that makes marital intimacy one of the greatest goods we can experience and extra-marital relations wrong—with a spectrum of wrong extending to some of the worst evils we can contemplate, and yet still the same movement?

Clearly intent is a major factor, but it is not just intent. For example, had we lived in 1st century Corinth, we would not have imagined that we could wander into the local temple with our spouse, and in the midst of the thousand courtesans the temple housed, engaged in marital intimacy with our spouse to the glory of God, while all around us worshipers of Aphrodite coupled to the glory of a rebellious spirit. And let’s be honest, despite the best of imaginary intentions, if we made that our regular practice, how long do you think it would be before our perspective on what is permissible began to be impacted? Humans are hard-wired to accept what is familiar as acceptable.

Let’s try the typical arguments in favor of yoga out in this context… So if a couple goes to the Temple Aphrodite with no intent to connect with or interact with demonic powers, does not pray to anyone but YHWH, and puts themselves in postures of intimacy only with their spouse, this would be somehow wrong? Well, perhaps not, strictly speaking. Can we agree that it would be at least unwise, and at best confusing? And when one considers that the spiritual powers are territorial in nature (cf. Deut 32:8-9, “When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when he divided mankind, he fixed the borders of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God. But the Lord’s portion is his people, Jacob his alloted heritage.”) it becomes evident that place and context matter.

Because of this Deuteronomy 32 worldview, we can understand that location in the Bible has cosmic significance. Ground is either holy, meaning dedicated to Yahweh, or it is the domain of another god. This is why the terms used to refer to the rebellious spirits in Scripture are often those of geographic dominion: “the prince of the kingdom of Persia,” “principalities,” “rulers” (Daniel 10:13; Eph 6:12).

This worldview is reflected in many places in the Bible. For instance, in the Old Testament the book of Daniel refers to foreign nations being ruled by divine “princes” (Dan. 10:13, 20–21). Another example: When David was running from King Saul, he was forced out of Israel into Philistine territory. In 1 Samuel 26:19, David cried, “They have driven me out from the LORD’s land to a country where I can only worship foreign gods” (GNT). David wasn’t switching gods. He also wasn’t denying that God was present everywhere. But Israel was holy ground, the place that belonged to the true God. David was stuck in the domain of another god. [Michael Heiser, Supernatural: What the Bible Teaches about the Unseen World And Why It Matters]

Old Testament era people knew this: think of Naaman taking Israeli ground back with him to Syria (2 Kings 5:17-18). This was clearly Paul’s view as well, “No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. [or stretch the stretch of demons in the house of demons] You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy?” No, rather, “flee from idolatry”! (1 Corinthians 10:14-22).

So, while we might call it a “yoga studio,” the reality is that this is a pagan temple, and we are as proscribed from engaging in what God intended for good there as we are at the temple Paul refers to. Eating and drinking, moving and stretching, and sexual intimacy are all created by God for good, but location, intent, association, and community all matter.

But what about this question? “What happened to the redemption theology we discussed back in the day – Christians through the Holy Spirit and practice can redeem the intents of evil, turning for good what Satan intended for bad?”

Indeed! We were redeemed in order to be redemptive. Nothing has happened to this imperative in my theological understanding. However, context, intent, location, association, community, and culture all make a difference. In the case of sexual intimacy, redemption means pulling it out of the public eye. In the case of eating and drinking, redemption means doing so in God-honoring settings, according to the rules He gave, and in accordance with needs and balanced desires. In the case of movement, it is theoretically possible to imitate yoga moves in your own home, independent of anyone else’s intention and practice, except…if you do some research you will discover not just that these movements themselves are flag signals in the spiritual realm, but that they are intentionally designed to open one up to influence and interaction. The details of this go beyond what I am comfortable discussing in a public forum, and frankly, if you decide to look into it, I would recommend doing so with another trusted brother or sister. This will take you some very uncomfortable places.

So, God created movement, envisioned stretching, and wanted us to glory in exercising the bodies He created and the wonder that they are: all to His praise and His glory. He also revealed some information and hid other information. It was rebellious spirit-realm-dwellers who began to reveal additional but only partial information that God had not revealed (cf. Gen 3:1-7; 6:1-5; 1 Enoch 6-10), and I think we are wise to remain within the boundaries of what God prescribed and proscribed.

That having been said, there is something called Praise Moves, which takes the idea of healthy movement and stretching and intentionally situates those movements within worship of the One True God. I have felt very ambivalent about this organization, even though the founder is a former yoga master, and is adamantly opposed to the yoga. But your challenge, Will, confirmed to me as I thought this through that it is possible to redeem the concept of healthy movement, so long as it is entirely disconnected from the practice of yoga, and situated within the context of Christian worship, rather than demonic obeisance. It’s still not my thing, but that’s neither here nor there.

The Cyber Chronicles | Episode 6 – Anatomy of an Email Scam

Scammers in Action.

Ever thought, “How the heck do they know that!?”

Me, too. Let’s expose how easy it is these days …

We’ve talked quite a bit about information in these articles, either directly or indirectly, and if you’ve noticed that, I’m doing my job. Across the pages of history are scattered periodic and uncommon tectonic shifts in the daily lives of humanity related to the proliferation of a new technology. One thinks of the Iron Age, the Renaissance, the Industrial Revolution, and we now live in the midst of the Information Age. The colossal impact of these phenomena are obvious in retrospect, but often challenging to accommodate in the present.

The foreshocks of the Information Age began with the invention of the printing press, but the ubiquitous adoption of the Internet as a presupposed fact of daily life has rocketed us into a new era of the Information Age. As a result, if we don’t want to be knocked over by the subsequent tsunami of reality, we must forge new habits and a new “normal.” My goal with these episodes is to reveal some of the new realities in a vivid manner, so that the rationale for change becomes embedded in our consciousness and subsequent behavior modification almost automatic.

AWARE

We’re probably all familiar with the common phishing email asking for the purchase of gift cards. We stop waves of them on a regular basis where I work, and we’ve seen a new degree of sophistication recently that serves as a great example.

This story starts with an email sent to someone who knows a coworker of mine.

snippet1

Now Mr. Ide knows Ms. Bessmer and is an IT health care professional, so he is not fooled by this familiar scam. But he also can’t resist responding to the scammer …

snippet2  

But this scammer is not to be discouraged. Despite having been called out for scummy behavior, they’re going to try harder.

snippet3

So let’s pause here and see if we can figure out how the scam artist knew that Lorraine and Michael know one another.

A quick internet search for “Lorraine Bessmer” returns as its fourth result the Idaho Chapter of HIMSS (Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society). Clicking on that returns the almost certain source of our scammer’s seemingly inside information. (I hope you still recall that specificity conveys authenticity.)

snippet4

Now I doubt you noticed (though I’m sure our erstwhile hacker did), but the information contained in this webpage and the information contained in Michael’s email didn’t match, and as a result the cyber criminal now has more information than they started with. By comparing the different phone number on the webpage with the phone number helpfully provided by Michael’s reply email, the hacker now knows both his office and mobile phone numbers, and which is which. If you remember our earlier story on SIM Jacking, you recognize that Michael is now more vulnerable to having his identity stolen, and it’s really not that difficult.

snippet5

 

It was Lorraine who first brought this episode to my attention, and I’m happy to report that the local chapter of HIMSS has modified its webpage so it no longer displays any personally identifiable information. The group serves as a great example of rapidly adjusting to our new reality. May we each follow this lead. And, please, try to resist replying to any suspicious email! Few of us are “woke” enough to realize what we’re accidentally giving away.

Perhaps you’ve wondered why your company encourages you not to use your corporate email for personal correspondence … well, now you know! And, of course, there are five more anecdotes we could cite …

PREPARE

You may be about ready to become a Luddite and swear off all technology, but that’s not really realistic is it? Once we are aware of what’s going on and know why we need to care, we have the opportunity to prepare. Think about how our kids take technology for granted. My middle daughter asked me a few days ago how I drove without GPS and couldn’t understand why I started laughing. I guess I’m going to have to give her some pre-technology preparation … us old dogs are still good for something!

If we will simply adjust to the new paradigm we’re already living in, we can all accommodate to what responsible means in the late stages of the Information Age. So sally forth with a new comprehension of how readily available our personal and corporate information is and become a paragon of informational virtue, freshly scam resistant!

The Cyber Chronicles | Episode 5 – Cloudy With a Chance of Breach

Navigating ‘the Cloud’

Let’s talk about “the Cloud.” You know the Cloud, right? It’s a place to store your information on a bunch of other people’s computers that you don’t control. Oh, and you also have no control over whether your information is stored on the same hard drive as that of a Russian hacker, or a NSA toolkit, or perhaps just some company’s data, maybe like LinkedIn’s user database, or some other valuable information that makes the server where your data also happens to reside a frequently targeted environment.

AWARE

Let’s talk about how awesome the Cloud is … you don’t have to pay the electricity bill, you don’t have to upgrade the OS, you don’t have to do any administration at all, in fact. You just drag and drop your data and, presto, you’re using the Cloud!

Of course, you also have no way to confirm the OS is properly patched and upgraded, but we can certainly trust all these major corporations to be doing things right. Right? Hello? Ferris?

Anyone

If you’re an observant reader, you might be sensing that I’m suspicious of the Cloud. Well, yes, a little bit, but I’m trying to get you to be suspicious of the Cloud, because right now most of us spray data out into the Internet like I spray my kids with a hose on a 105-degree day – without a second thought! And with data, we don’t know where it’s going, whether it’s private or whether you can effectively get it back. I can delete a file today, but if you copied it yesterday, you still have my data. I bet Jennifer Lawrence wishes she had thought about that pesky reality.

There are so many issues with the Cloud I had a hard time deciding what to talk about. But true to form, I decided to tell you a story. It was a bit difficult to put together the pieces because they go back to 2011 — the Mesozoic era of the Internet. (That works out to 66 million Internet years … I’m not quite clear on the math, but why are you distracting me?)

I can delete a file today, but if you copied it yesterday, you still have my data.

CARE

So … back in 2012, Dropbox announced they were investigating a strange increase in spam being received by Dropbox users. Dropbox even hired third-party experts to check it out. Reassuringly (at least back when you could trust people on the Internet … wait, you used to trust people on the Internet?), they found no evidence of a security breach.

Dropbox posted the following on its customer forums:

Untitled 2

Now those would have been reassuring words, except that slightly less than a year previously Dropbox had to admit that it had accidentally published code to the company’s live, public site that allowed anyone to sign in to any Dropbox account without a password. (I imagine right about now you’re feeling really good about storing your tax returns on Dropbox.)

But let’s return to 2012. Dropbox had an outside party investigating the strange amount of spam, and that outside party concluded: “Move along! Nothing to see here …”

Except that on July 31, 2012, Dropbox sheepishly announced:

“We’ve been working hard to get to the bottom of this …”

And you probably know how this ends. Instead of “no intrusions and no unauthorized activity,” as previously announced, it turns out: “Our investigation found that usernames and passwords recently stolen from other websites [always pass the buck – it can’t be your fault] were used to sign in to a small number of Dropbox accounts” (emphasis and words in [brackets] are mine).

Fast forward to 2016, when it was revealed that the “small number” of Dropbox usernames and passwords stolen turned out to be 68,680,741. (Just to confirm, that’s 68.7 million.) Guess how we found that out? Four years later, someone posted them for sale online. Oh, minor point: That’s how Dropbox found out too.

PREPARE

So, full confession: I’m a Dropbox customer. It’s just so darned convenient. However, I take several precautions, which I’ll share with you in a moment here. Before we go there, I want to make sure you know I’m not picking on Dropbox (well, maybe a little), because I could have chosen any of several Cloud companies, and they would have looked equally bad. It’s just seeing the details of reality all up close like this that smacks us in the face. We could have focused on Cloud companies’ data utilization policies, their basically non-existent privacy policies or what happens to your data when a fledgling Cloud storage company goes out of business (who wipes those repurposed servers?), but I had to pick something, and this story wasn’t writing itself.

What should you do to keep your data safe in the Cloud?

  1. Never store anything online that you wouldn’t want your next-door neighbor to read.
  2. Always use a lengthy, complex password.
  3. Never use a password that you’ve ever used anywhere else. (Read this cautionary tale for a reminder of the “why.“)

Let’s give some specific examples:

  • Don’t back up your Quicken (or any other financial software) data to the Cloud
  • Don’t put your W2, your tax returns, your budget spreadsheet or any other financial information in the Cloud.
  • Don’t back up an entire old hard drive to the Cloud. Do you really remember everything you had stored on there?
  • Don’t put a list of passwords in the Cloud.
  • Remember when you had to scan in your driver’s license and upload it to someone? Don’t store that in the Cloud.

I think you get the picture. We’re all going to use the Cloud – that’s inevitable, but you’d better be paranoid about what you put up there. Information is a valuable commodity in this digital age, and the Cloud is really just a digital neighborhood with glass walls.

The Cyber Chronicles | Episode 4 – Pete, Tweet & Repeat

Social Media Safety.

Even though all of these articles cover serious topics, we’ve been trying to have a little fun with the process, but today I’m being very serious. The issue we’re going to discuss and the story I’m going to tell you are no joke.

On Monday we discussed the need to change how we think about information, so in a way this article is a continuation of that conversation, but we’re going to focus in on social media as a completely out of control information sieve that threatens our lives in multiple ways.

Let’s begin by admitting that most of us are not really up to speed on social media. We may think we know what our kids are doing, we may be really hip and use Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, but check out the following list of social media apps. How many did you even know existed?

AWARE

Untitled 1

 

CARE

Why should we be concerned about this? Let’s talk about Elizabeth.

So far as I can tell Elizabeth’s story was first told by the boyfriend of her sister, Amy, in a Reddit chat room about a year ago. Elizabeth was 13, her mom was an ER nurse at Grady Health System. They lived outside the Little Five Points neighborhood in Atlanta. Unfortunately, because of the nature of her job, Elizabeth’s mom was often unavailable via phone. One night the oldest sister, Amy, who attended the University of Georgia an hour and a half away in Athens, received a call from an hysterical Elizabeth. Here’s what had happened.

Elizabeth liked using the video sharing app Periscope, in fact, she had built up quite a few followers, and typically had 10-20 people watching her at any given time. She would broadcast for two to three hours a day, leaving the camera on to record her normal life: doing her homework or putting on makeup. She would frequently interact with her various followers, and while there are always creeps on Periscope, she could easily block them. One follower was always there but never said anything; this person followed no one else, and never broadcast any video of their own. If Elizabeth began broadcasting, however, within a minute this person would join her feed, but never commented, and never responded to any of her attempts to draw them out.

One night while broadcasting painting her nails, she was being watched only by the silent user. Once again, she tried to draw them out, sending messages of smiley faces, asking various questions, all to no response. Finally, she went to bed but kept checking Periscope, wondering if anyone else would join her feed. Suddenly, she received a message from the silent watcher:

“Is your mom still at Grady?”

Elizabeth’s Periscope username wasn’t linked to her Facebook or anything else, and location sharing was turned off. How could this person know where her Mom worked, and that she was at work tonight?! Feeling panicked, Elizabeth instantly ended her broadcast.

A few minutes later she received a notification. The silent watcher was broadcasting for the first time ever. Elizabeth clicked to watch and saw a shaky video feed of the outside of her house! With growing horror she saw the camera view shift downward and become not just creepy but indecent.

PREPARE

We’re not ready for the intrusive reality of social media. Few of us carefully monitor the information we unwittingly reveal on social media, let alone know precisely what our kids are doing on their smart phones, tablets, or Macbooks. How many of the above list of apps (and there are so many more I could have listed) is your child using? Do you have their username and password for each account? To their phone or tablet? Do you have an account on every social media platform they use, so you can monitor whether they’re safe?

If not, here’s where to start. Maintain a conversational relationship with your child, use your social media accounts as an example and discuss why you never mention that you’re “heading to McCall,” or that you can’t wait to attend the Owl City concert, etc. Discuss the difference between people we actually know, and people we only know through their online presentation of themselves.

10 Ideas to Help Keep You and Your Loved One’s Safe Online

  1. Stop thinking you have nothing worth a cyber-criminal’s interest.
  2. Stop your bad password habits.
  3. Use multi-factor authentication for all accounts.
  4. Put at least six-character pins on smart phones and tablets.
  5. Make sure you as a parent have the codes to your children’s device and their accounts.
  6. Educate yourself, your parents, and your kids on common scams.
  7. Review every app or platform’s privacy settings, and discuss the danger of connections from third-party apps (reference the recent Facebook and Google hacks, directly related to third-party authentication).
  8. Conduct intra-family tabletop exercises or “war games,” and attempt to theoretically compromise (hacking or physical breaches) each other on the basis of information revealed in each person’s online presence.
  9. Conduct True or False exposés where each member of the family gets to reveal whether a popular meme or “news” story is misleading or reliable.
  10. Limit children’s online “friends” to 200. Research focused particularly on middle school kids indicates that cyber bullying and other negative encounters rise exponentially after the accumulation of 200 “friends.” Consider limiting your child’s online friends to those who they have or would consider touching on the shoulder – this will likely be less than 200 people.

Wrestling with God’s Law as Ceremonial, Civil, & Moral

In light of recent posts that have touched on the overarching structure of Scripture and how the OT and the NT properly interact, I’m curious…how do you all feel about the traditional division of the law (moral, ceremonial, civil), and how would you say it’s proper to determine that something from the OT does *not* carry over?

While there is significant preceding evidence that God entered into covenantal relationship with humans, at Sinai he specifically and exhaustively made clear—in a manner intended to be received by all who heard it, and to endure for all to come—that he intended to relate to mankind in a covenantal manner. He thus promised to be faithful to his chosen (elected) people, and they in turn were expected to obey his law or Torah. The law dictated the lifestyle of the people and reflected how a human was to relate to God, to others, to self and to material things (see McGonigle & Quigley, A History of the Christian Tradition from Its Jewish Origins to the Reformation, pg. 34).

To the degree that these laws directly reflected the nature of God in universal and timeless application these laws have never and will never be annulled. Laws of this nature have sometimes, helpfully, been called the moral law of God. Those laws appear in seemingly random places throughout Scripture and are variously summarized in multiple places and ways, including the 10 Commandments, the 2 Great Commandments, Micah 6:8, and elsewhere.

It is impossible to ignore the observable reality that within the Sinai legislation are laws peculiar to the situation of national Israel within the Land of Promise, ruled by judges and magistrates constrained by the Sinai legislation as their national law, and in the presence of a functioning Tabernacle/Temple system. Christian men have therefore sometimes quickly summarized those laws which endure with universal application as moral, those which apply specifically to the Temple system as ceremonial, and those which specifically direct the nation-state of Israel in the Land and governing themselves as civil. This shorthand description can function as a helpful categorization in aid to the complex process of deriving healthy, biblical application in diverse times and places.

To the degree that so-called ceremonial or civil laws reflect the character of God in a universally applicable manner, these laws remain binding in every age, though they do not, necessarily, direct all men in every place with specificity. So, all men everywhere are required to acknowledge God and no god before Him (Ex. 20:2-3), yet it is also true that all men everywhere are not mandated to redeem their firstborn son for the price of five shekels, to be given to the sons of Aaron (Num. 3:40-51).

There are several Reformation-era statements on these matters that are very helpful, especially when read as summary statements, reflecting extensive underlying exegetical work. Here are two that I especially like:

I. As the ceremonial law was concerned with God, the political was concerned with the neighbor.

II. In those matters on which it is in harmony with the moral law and with ordinary justice, it is binding upon us.

III. In those matters which were peculiar to that law and were prescribed for the promised land or the situation of the Jewish state, it has not more force for us than the laws of foreign commonwealths.

(Johannes Wollebius [1589-1629]), Compendium theologiae christianae)

VII. OF THE OLD TESTAMENT

The Old Testament is not contrary to the New: for both in the Old and New Testament everlasting life is offered to Mankind by Christ, who is the only Mediator between God and Man, being both God and Man. Wherefore they are not to be heard, which feign that the old Fathers did look only for transitory promises. Although the Law given from God by Moses, as touching Ceremonies and Rites, do not bind Christian men, nor the Civil precepts thereof ought of necessity to be received in any commonwealth; yet notwithstanding, no Christian man whatsoever is free from the obedience of the Commandments which are called Moral.”

(39 Articles of Religion, 1562)

I’ve been giving this topic significant thought for several years now. In fact, I think I first mentioned it briefly in public at the 2013 New England Messianic Conference. I’ve been spending a lot of time on the topic recently because I think I’m finally making some progress in articulating something that will make sense to people. For a long time it was something I was intuiting, and I struggled to convey what I meant.

One thing I believe we should acknowledge is that the stereotypical response of pro-Torah people to this topic has not been well thought out, or sensitive to historical context. Among the Reformers and their early descendants (with some exceptions) references to the tripartite division of the Law were not meant to be rationale for how to escape the present applicability of God’s law, but used as a short-hand reference to figuring out how to apply God’s law. Unfortunately, being not well-informed on Reformation-era thought, too many have reacted against one sentence in the 19th chapter of the Westminster Confession (echoed in Chapter 19 of the 1689 London Baptist Confession), without being familiar with the broader context in which those statements were made.

I think we can all agree that figuring out how to apply God’s law to our contemporary situation is rarely easy. Just like “circumcision” had become shorthand for the proselyte conversion process in the 2nd Temple era, the division of the law into ceremonial, civil, and moral categories had become shorthand during the Reformation era and following for referring to the significant wrestling they had done to determine the manner in which God’s law should be applied in their time period.

But we read, “All which ceremonial laws are now abrogated, under the New Testament,” and we freak out. Forgetting how precise these folks were in their working out of these concise statements. See, for example, the two quotes above.

There are at least four items of background we need to be aware of when considering this topic:

  1. For the Reformers, the reference to a tripartite categorization of God’s law was not a way to escape keeping God’s law, but a shorthand reference to textual exegesis focused on the manner in which his law should be kept.
  2. Over time, however, at least in practice if not in theology, this idea became a justification for why, essentially, nothing more than the 10 Commandments applied to contemporary Gentile believers.
  3. Dispensationalists seized on the complexity of the problem and the inevitable resulting inconsistency and said, “See, you can’t do this, it’s a unified whole and you must acknowledge that the entire thing has been done away with.”
  4. In reaction against the Dispensationalist’s view, which had increasingly influenced the practice, if not the theology, of Reformed people in the pews, Pro-Torah folks (ironically) insisted that the Dispensationalists were right and the law could not be categorized into parts, but must be accepted as a unified whole, but then in practice continued to inconsistently practice only those things which might be described as moral, while ignoring all those things which might apply to our congregational life (ceremonial) or political scene (civil).

It is time for us to stop reacting and to continue proactively articulating historically sensitive, theologically mature, biblically defensible, and eminently practical statements of our own. These will correct but not reject the overwhelmingly faithful line of reliable saints who have preceded us.

The Cyber Chronicles | Episode 3 – Nothing is Free

Information in the Digital Age.

I’m sure you’ve heard the truism as often as I:

“Nothing is free…”

I wonder if you’ve heard the follow-up? Nothing is free; you will pay with either time, money or information. Increasingly in our digital age, information is the most valuable one of those commodities.

AWARE

Recall the ubiquitous crime board that appears in every television detective drama. Whether or not actual detectives use these, this idea accurately captures the essence of what hackers are doing in their ongoing attempts to build a robust profile on you or your organization.

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Why is information so valuable to a hacker? Because specificity conveys authenticity. Every bit of info increases the hacker’s chance of appearing to be an insider, and thus of securing your confidence.

“specificity conveys authenticity”

CARE

We drip information like my daughter’s ’97 Volvo leaks oil. It’s not pretty! (the leaking oil, that is, she’s awesome)

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Let me tell you a story that happened last week. Names have been obscured to protect the innocent.

A program manager I work with was giving a training on trauma to some firefighters who were joining remotely over Skype. This was a multi-day class, and the day before everything had gone swimmingly, but today a lone guy in a particular station was having trouble accessing the meeting. Ever the problem-solver, the program manager suggested she email him the PowerPoint, and he could follow along over the phone without video access. I love these “get ‘er done” kind of people!

Everything was hunky-dory till she was informed by Compliance that she had distributed the Protected Health Information (PHI) of more than 700 people. Freaked out by what she had never intended, and extraordinarily confident that there was no PHI in the PowerPoint, the program manager called Compliance to determine what on earth had happened.

Every bit of info increases the hacker’s chance of appearing to be an insider, and thus of securing your confidence.

As she related the story to me, right in the middle of asserting that there was no PHI in this PowerPoint, the Compliance employee on the other end of the line directed her to a particular slide, and within three clicks converted a summary graph containing no individual information to the entire data source from her original spreadsheet!

PREPARE

So, I’m telling this story at her request, as she wants everyone to know that if you need to put a graph in a PowerPoint or other Microsoft Office document, for Pete’s sake, please take a screen shot!  

Whatever you do, don’t copy/paste, insert or embed your Excel graphic into that PowerPoint.

I hope you will start thinking differently about information. It’s a valuable commodity we reveal constantly with precious little thought to how we are endangering ourselves or others.

The Cyber Chronicles | Episode 2 – Credible Credentials

It’s time to confess your cyber sins. It’s OK. I’m a professional.

Have you ever used the same password more than once?

Don’t be ashamed. We’ve all done it. Repeat after me:

“Hello, my name is __________ and I am a password re-user.”

“We love you __________.”

Was it Confucius (or was that Sun Tzu?) who said, “Know thy enemy.”  Corrie Ten Boom was a bit more descriptive, “The first step on the way to victory is to recognize the enemy.”

In the case of passwords, we need to be more specific:

“We have met the enemy and he is us.” – Walt Kelly

Perhaps your employer, like many responsible organizations, has quite a few requirements for the creation and management of our passwords — rightfully so! As I’ll describe below, our passwords are remarkably vulnerable, due of course, to human nature. (We have met the enemy …) 

AWARE

An acquaintance of mine was called in to gain access to a major manufacturing company in a “pen test.” So … he first went out to LinkedIn and gathered the profiles of 100 employees from Company B. He then proceeded to do a bit of research with Professor Google, and discovered the email domain and username format for Company B, along with how to access the company’s email online.

(Try this yourself: Open a new browser window, and search for “marriott email access”; what’s the first result?)

Now Company B had a policy that everyone’s password had to be changed every 90 days, or 4 times per year. This was a responsible company trying to do a good job, so, of course, they also locked people out after five incorrect password guesses. So guess what my friend did?

Knowing human nature, he turned to the first of his LinkedIn-collected employees and via the company’s browser-based access to Outlook he typed in jsmith@companyb.com with a password of “Autumn2018.” No luck. So he proceeded to the next employee and entered jdoe@companyb.com with a password of “Autumn2018.”

(See how that works. You have to change your password four times a year: Winter2018, Summer2018, etc. — easy to remember, 10 characters, a capital letter, a number, etc. “We have met the enemy …”) 

After trying 100 employee emails with the password “Autumn2018,” he had accessed the email of four Company B employees!

The next step was to begin doing strategic searches through the employees’ email. Before long he found a conversation revealing the existence of a legacy VPN site that didn’t require Multi-factor Authentication. In two shakes of a lamb’s tail he had inside access to Company B’s network. The rest of the story gets worse from there, but we’re focused on passwords here.

PREPARE

What can you do? Fortunately, the skills you develop in responsible password management will serve you just as well at home as they do at work.

Your employer probably requires several factors to be true of a password:

  • They cannot contain more than four consecutive letters of any dictionary word.
  • A password must include at least three out of four of the following characters: uppercase alpha, lowercase alpha, numeric and special characters.
  • Passwords must be a minimum of eight characters.
  • Passwords cannot be the same as the previous 24 passwords used for that account.

Need help creating good, satisfactory passwords? This article by lifehacker is very good. You will note that you basically need a Password Manager. I’m partial to Bitwarden, but there are also many other good ones.