Tech Tuesday: Spam Email

by Laura Courtney
 
This is a bit longer than our typical “quick help” post on tech related issues, but it is one that undoubtedly one that every person reading this has encountered. There are estimated 122.3 billion spam emails distributed every day. Many of these are very obvious, but others can be a little more thought out.
 
Staff at CABC recently had a sneakier spammer contact several of us which made us think it might be a good time for such a topic. In this instance we’ll give our spammer a little credit since they did their research and tried to take a familiar name for staff (aka Pastor Josh) and then sent the below message to the staff email addresses posted on our website to try to solicit fraudulent payment. (Get thee behind me Satan!)
 

 
So here a just a few pointers to check if you are wondering if an email is spam or not:
 
  1. Sender email. As with our example (see image above), the spammer tried to use the name of someone we’d recognize or deem credible (aka Pastor Josh). However, if you look at the email address associated with the name, while better thought out by our spammer in order to look more credible, it is not a correct email of Pastor Josh. If you don’t see an email address listed immediately in the email, you can usually hover over the sender’s name and a contact box will pop open with the full “from” email address. This is always the quickest way to spot a spammer.
 
  1. Other contact. Again with our example, the spammer was specific in stating it could only be email contact. However, if you are suspicious that an email is spam and definitely if you know the sender name, reach out the them by another means of communication (phone number, Messenger app, etc.). This is of course the easiest way to confirm if any email is legitimate.

 

  1. Link address. Often spammers send emails telling you to sign in or click on a link. Number one rule if you think anything is ever spam is don’t click on links. (But you already knew that because you so smart!)
Opening or even replying to an email does not mean you will be hacked or that you’ve lost your persona info already (that is a common misconception though). However, if you click on a link that is fraudulent and proceed to enter login details, personal info or payment info, this is where you run into hacking and identity theft issues.
If you ever see a link in an email you suspect is fraudulent, hover your cursor over the link. The full HTML or web address can then be seen either in a temporary pop-up window or at the bottom left corner of your screen. If the web address is anything that does not make sense or does not match to the business it is referring to (e.g. if the email says its from CABC, but when you hover over the links within the email and they read something other than www.christabc.org) there is a good chance it is a spam link.

 

  1. Check the link. If all else fails and you still aren’t sure if a link is spam or not there are several web resources you can check the links or emails against. Norton Safe Web, ScanURL, Google Transparency Report, and URLVoid are just to list a few. Again, make sure you’re not clicking the link but instead just copying the text from the email itself. Having security software on your tech devices is also always encouraged. Basic free versions are available and more robust versions can be purchased with a relatively minimal monthly or yearly cost.
 

Hope this was helpful and if you have any follow up questions feel free to comment here, on our social media, or by email (so long as you’re not a spammer 😉)!


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Love Never Stops

by Laura Courtney
 
We are wrapping up our summer looking at the characteristics of love from Paul in 1 Corinthians 13 (verses 4-7).

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

This is quite an extensive list. To ask where you need to grow is a little rhetorical because we all need to continue to grow in all these areas. Perhaps we are better in one or two of these areas most of the time, or it is easier to control some of these characteristics within ourselves usually, but overall we are human and thus prone to selfish and broken ways.

We need to constantly be striving to better ourselves in all these areas. That may seem like an impossible task, but if we continually fix our eyes on Christ we will always have a clear course marked out for us.

I think its interesting that this list starts out somewhat easy or at least in a way where we can say, “yeah I can try to be more patient, or more kind.” But as we work on bettering ourselves and our actions of love in each of these characteristics, we will continue to meet more and more difficult characteristics within ourselves that we must overcome to love more like Christ. One can attempt to be more patient, but it can be harder to catch oneself being envious, or harder to control envious thoughts perhaps. And then still to not be self-seeking, or to not be easily angered. Finally we are tasked to the “always” clauses which undoubtedly we will struggle to always do.

But the more and more we continually focus on these characteristics, and the more we try and try and try, even after failing and falling short in between each attempt, the closer to grow to Christ and the closer we grow to a peace and joy that points others to Him too.

Because ultimately this list is not for our own end. Its not a checklist to get into Heaven. It’s not our report card by which God grades us each year. It is instead a collaborative embodiment that demonstrates the love of Christ to others. That when we are more patient, more kind, less self-seeking, unendingly hopeful and unwavering in our perseverance – that is what sets us apart. That is what exemplifies that we belong to a Kingdom that is not of this world, and that cannot be shaken by the whims of political powers and earthly authorities.

We love through it all because God loved us through it all. Despite our sin, our guilt, our shame, and our evil ways, He gave His all that we might have new and endless life in Him. May we seek to live our lives worthy of that sacrifice and as ambassadors of a King who loves unconditionally. Let us continually strive to never cease growing in love just as His love is so endless.
 
“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
 
“Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations…” (Deuteronomy 7:9)

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Love Always Trusts

by Laura Courtney
 
Trust is not something that comes as easily these days it seems. We are hounded all day long by news media, social media and all kinds of advertisements telling us what is true, what is real, what we should do, look like, act like, etc, etc, etc. It’s exhausting and often disappointing. Even when we try to trust in friends or family or those we feel are reliable, trust is often hard.

What it comes down to is the fact that we are not perfect. We are human and far from perfection. Ever since the Garden we’ve been unable to be without fault and subsequently without sin and evil. Though many of us try our best to live good lives and to not do ill to others, as fallen humans in a fallen world we still have selfish tendencies no matter how hard we try to fight it. And we will still make mistakes, fail, let others down and not live up to the expectations of those around us.

No matter our good intentions and character we will disappoint others because we are not perfect. But there’s good news… we’re not meant to be! Our lives do not have to be perfect to reflect the perfection of our Creator. We are to point others to the One who can be trusted with all.

Christ is our only constant; the only thing that will never change. He cannot be persuaded or swayed into doing something that is not good. He cannot fail or make mistakes. He cannot let you down or disappoint you (though He can make you understand the difference between what you want and what you need).

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17)

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. (Jeremiah 29:11)
 
And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19)

God is the only thing in this world that is trustworthy, true, and faithful. His Word is the only thing that we can look to for truth and guidance. So I encourage you today, if you feel like you don’t know what truth is or who to trust, simple open your Bible and start reading. And the beautiful thing is that no matter the version, interpretation, language or time period you live in this one simple (yet divine) Book will be true and trustworthy through and through.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)

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Love Always Protects

by Laura Courtney
 

This begins our final four weeks looking at the characteristics of love from 1 Corinthians 13 and are the “always” promises: “[Love] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (I Corinthians 13:7)

For me, this is perhaps one of my most favorite visualizations of God: our Protector. I have always loved the imagery and idea of Christ and the angles fighting for me, fighting again the evil that seeks to overcome, and fighting in perfect strength and righteousness.

One of my favorite worship songs talks about this very concept:

“I know who goes before me,

I know who stands behind

The God of angel armies,

Is always by my side”

(Chris Thomlin, “Whom Shall I Fear”)

And then another, less traditional song speaks similarly:

“From the armories, the angels sing

You will see them end this suffering

From the armories, the angels sing

You will fear them when they lift their wings”

(Oh Sleeper, “The Finisher”)

 

And of course scripture itself is filled with this illustration:
 
For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. (Psalms 91:11)
 
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them. (Psalm 34:7)
 
“See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared.” (Exodus 23:20)
 
And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. (2 Kings 6:17)
 
How amazing is it to think that we have an army of divine and angelic protection around us; fighting for us and guarding us from the darkness that seeks to overcome this world.

 

How much more courage would we have if, like Elisha, our eyes were opened to the power that walks with us daily? How much more willing would we be to step out in faith and into what God has called us if we looked and saw an entire army following us wherever we go?

While we may not see celestial beings around us everywhere we walk, we can take courage that we do not walk alone no matter where we are or what we face. Christ walks with us and the Holy Spirit dwells within us. This does not mean that we will have a clear path with no obstacles; but it does grant us the peace to know that we can get press on when we feel stuck, get back up when we fall down, and turn around when we take the wrong road. Because Love is always with us to guard us and protect us if we are willing to open our eyes and our hearts to be directed in where we go.

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Do Not Delight in Evil

by Laura Courtney

“Suppose one reads a story of filthy atrocities in the paper. Then suppose that something turns up suggesting that the story might not be quite true, or not quite so bad as it was made out. Is one’s first feeling, ‘Thank God, even they aren’t quite so bad as that,’ or is it a feeling of disappointment, and even a determination to cling to the first story for the sheer pleasure of thinking your enemies are as bad as possible? If it is the second then it is, I am afraid, the first step in a process which, if followed to the end, will make us into devils. You see, one is beginning to wish that black was a little blacker. If we give that wish its head, later on we shall wish to see grey as black, and then to see white itself as black. Finally we shall insist on seeing everything — God and our friends and ourselves included — as bad, and not be able to stop doing it: we shall be fixed for ever in a universe of pure hatred.” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity)

 

A Facebook friend of mine (do you know who you are?) posted this a few weeks ago his page. This really stuck out to me at the time and, reflecting on this week’s focus in our summer reading guide, came back to me again.

That question that C.S. Lewis poses –  “Is one’s first feeling ‘Thank God’… or is it a feeling of disappointment” – is one I feel we all need to honestly answer. Because for me, if I’m being honest with myself, I know if have tendencies towards the latter. And if we don’t acknowledge that truth in our own thinking, we will just continue to seek out, and consequently seek to delight in, the evil that we read and hear about in the lives of those around us.

But as we read from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, we are not to delight in evil but to rejoice in truth. Clearly this was a troublesome point for the people of Corinth at the time too. Can I rabbit trail here and just say how grateful I am that God’s Word is relevant for us in all periods of our lives… whether we live in the year 50 or 2021!

But if we look at this characteristic of love in 2021, what does this mean for our lives here and now? Do we delight in evil by listening or participating in gossip? Do we follow celebrities or even “friends” on social media to watch and compare how much better we are then them? Are we looking for the bad in others to try to make ourselves feel better?

Love does not delight in evil. Do not let the evil of this world fill your heart. Do not let the black darkness steal the light from your spirit. Maybe this means you need to stop being around those friends that continually gossip, or at least ask them to stop talking about others with you. Maybe you need to unfollow or unfriend friends on Facebook if you are only using their profiles to judge them and their actions. Maybe you need to pray for yourself and ask God to show you where you need to expend love more.

Let us join together and rejoice in the faithfulness of our God and His truth and power above the darkness of this world. Let us share in each others celebrations and pray for one another in our troubles. Let us not let the darkness and evil of this world overcome us and divide us, but let it unify us and join us all the stronger in the hope and truth of our Lord and Savior.

“So that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”
(Ephesians 4:14-16)


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Not Easily Angered

by Laura Courtney
 

What makes you angry? Is it waiting, rude or inconsiderate people, when someone else gets something you wanted or prayed for (especially when they don’t deserve to have it and you totally do)? Does it anger you when you are not recognized for the obviously good things you do? When you deserve the recognition or thanks that other receive?

I think its interesting that this characteristic is listed right in the middle of the description of love found in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, and consequently the halfway point of our summer reading, because all the characteristics listed up to this point can often cause us to get angry.

Having to be patient – anger. Having to be kind or not receiving kindness from others – anger. Jealousy and comparing ourselves to others – anger. Pride leads to anger, dishonoring others is often a result of anger. If we are so focused and concerned about ourselves only we get angry when others do not share that same focus.

Controlling our anger is hard because it is so easy for this human emotion to be triggered by almost anything and everything around us. The devil knows how to get a rise out of us. He knows that in the heat of the moment, we make bad decisions and say hurtful things to those we love. He knows he can tear apart the deepest relationships if our anger is left unchecked. And in today’s tech-filled world, he doesn’t have to try hard to find ways to get under our skin. Social media is a place where everyone is posting as fast as they can type and where hateful and angry comments, which can be posted within seconds, are unable to ever be taken back.

But what happens when we get angry? As we read from this summer’s reading guide anger leads to bad decisions, unkind words, hurt relationships and in its worst moments even irreparable and negatively life-impacting actions. If this one single emotion can cause us to stray so far from God’s will and command for our lives, how can we call it a “natural” reaction? It has only become “natural” because we are so fallen and broken from the perfection we were created to be.

But what would happen if before we made any action in anger, we went to God with our anger? If we asked the One who calms the storms to calm our hearts and emotions? Satan knows that in our own power we will say and do hurtful things. And if we try to take power over our emotions on our own, we will fail (and most likely get angry about that too). But if we take a few moments to seek His power and ask Him to give peace to our hearts before we act or say even one single word, how loving of a place we could find our world in.

So… how have you acted in anger this week (because we all have)?

What made you angry – patience, pride, jealousy, selfishness?

 How can you better handle similar instances – that will almost undoubtedly arise again – instead of turning to anger first?

And looking ahead to this next week’s focus and characteristic of love, are there people you need to ask forgiveness of or give forgiveness to for anger expressed?

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. (James 1:19-20)


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