Two Simple and Free Ways to Eliminate Porn Temptation

Temptation - Apple

The Internet is a giant, never-ending vat of visual temptation.

Pornography, celebrity sex tapes, websites dedicated to adult content/explicit images, half-naked women in ads.

It can appear quickly and from the most unexpected places.

I was listening to music from Pandora’s website once when a full-page ad of a half-dressed woman appeared as a new song started playing.

Pandora!? #nothelpful

That’s enough to get the mind traveling down the wrong path. Before you know it, you’re opening a new tab, visiting your go-to porn websites, and scouring the web for more. It’s a scenario I’ve repeated, and I know countless others have experienced as well.

So how can we combat porn and visually explicit images coming at us from every direction?

In this blog post, I’m going to show you two free ways I’ve eliminated visual temptation today, so that I won’t have to resist it tomorrow.

And I’ll show you step-by-step how you can use them too!

Battle Temptation With Help From Friends

Dear reader, I’d like to introduce you to my very close friends: uBlock and OpenDNS.

They’re the type of friends that always have my back; supporting me in countless times of weakness or temptation. Always there to keep me from crossing the point of no return.

And they want to help you as well.

What’s uBlock?

It blocks 99% of the ads you’ll find on websites.

Most of the time I’m browsing the web, I’m not intentionally looking for trouble. But risque ads have a way of derailing me fast.

So uBlock is there to remove that temptation.

As an added bonus, it makes browsing the web infinitely cleaner and more pleasant. It’ll even protect you from spammy pop-ups, malicious ads, and anything else shady the Internet might throw at you.

Everyone should install it. It’s that good.

Check it out.

uBlock - Before and After

 What’s OpenDNS?

It’s kind of a techie concept, so I’ll just boil it down to what it does.

It’s a content filter (like Net Nanny) that blocks porn websites, adult content, identity theft/fraud scams, etc. The neat thing is that protects all your devices at home (computers, laptops, smartphones) without the need to install it on each Internet-connected device.

Install it once and it protect every device.

It’s free and simple to setup. Winner, winner, chicken dinner.

Where uBlock prevents me from being tempted by ads, OpenDNS kicks in when temptation overtakes me. I’ll get this when I try to visit a pornography or other adult themed website.

Blocked by OpenDNS

Here’s how you can as well.

Installing uBlock

Step 1

Click on the link below that corresponds to the web browser you’re currently using. It will take you to the uBlock installation page for your browser.

If you’re unfamiliar with installing browser add-ons/extensions, take a look at this image. It’ll show you where to click after you’ve clicked on one of the web browsers below.

Step 2

I recommend you change one of uBlock’s default settings. Watch this video on how to do that. It’ll also show you how to disable uBlock on a website if needed.

Setting Up OpenDNS

There are two main content filtering services from OpenDNS.

  1. OpenDNS Family Shield
    • Pre-configured to block all adult content
  2. OpenDNS Home
    • Choose what categories to block (not just adult content)
    • Specify websites to always or never block
    • Really, really, really basic reporting of visited/blocked websites

This post will focus specifically on Family Shield because it’s the easiest to setup.

Step 1

Answer the following questions:

  • Do I know where my router is?
  • Do I know what DNS servers are?
  • Have I ever logged into the admin area of my router?

If you answered yes to all of those questions then keep reading.

If you answered no to any of them then I would recommend you find a techie friend who can answer yes to those questions. Those are basic tech concepts, so it shouldn’t be hard to find someone.

Or, if you’re bold and adventurous, you can try it yourself.

I believe you can do it! :)

Step 2

Log into the admin area of your router.

Depending on your router, sometimes the login information (web address, username, password) is displayed on your router. Or if you’re lucky, you can visit this page and see if there are specific instructions for your router.

Step 3

Once you’ve logged in, find where you can specify your own DNS servers. Again, if your router is listed, this page will be helpful.

Use the following DNS servers:

208.67.222.123
208.67.220.123

Be sure you save your changes.

Step 4

Test your settings.

If you get a success message, then pat yourself on the back and call it a day. If you don’t get a success message, reboot your computer and try again.

If that still doesn’t work, unplug your router for 30 seconds and then plug it back in. Wait for it to reboot and try one more time.

Also double-check the DNS servers on your router were properly changed.

Caveats of OpenDNS

OpenDNS should be viewed as a secondary, not primary line of defense against porn or other adult content.

It will filter content for any device connected to your router. On the flip side, any computer or smartphone not connected to your router will not be protected.

For example, if your son takes his laptop to a friend’s house. Not protected.

Or if you disable wi-fi on your smartphone and browse the web via cellular data. Not protected.

Your primary line of defense should be strong accountability relationships in addition to content filters like Net Nanny, X3watch, or Covenant Eyes installed on every Internet-connected device.

Despite being more of a backup content filter, OpenDNS is still worth setting up for the additional benefits I listed earlier. It’s free and does provide an extra layer of security.

What are some other ways we can eliminate temptation today?

Photo courtesy of Beshef.

You Need a Budget (YNAB) vs EveryDollar

YNAB and EveryDollar Logos

I was pretty pumped when I saw Dave Ramsey launch his new budgeting tool called EveryDollar. Especially since there was a free option.

Being a long-time You Need a Budget (YNAB) user, I was curious to see how EveryDollar stacked up.

Would EveryDollar be good enough to switch away from YNAB? Or at least worth recommending to friends who don’t want to pay for YNAB?

I focused on three areas I believe are important for any app wanting to help people get their money under control.

How easy is it to:

  1. Create your first month’s budget?
  2. Add transactions from your smartphone?
  3. Balance your budget at the end of the month?

This post shares what I learned and crowns a winner!

Creating Your First Budget

EveryDollar

Creating a budget is a simple process in EveryDollar. Once you create an account and log in, you’ll immediately be able to get started.

Enter in your monthly income and spread that amount across the different budget categories. You can use the default groups/categories given to you by EveryDollar or create your own.

Creating a Budget - EveryDollar

You Need a Budget

The initial setup process for YNAB is much more involved than EveryDollar.

You will need to install YNAB (on your computer) and Dropbox (for syncing to your smartphone or other computers).

Once you run the program for the first time, the walkthrough will introduce you to the app and YNAB’s Methodology. However, I don’t believe that’s really enough to fully grasp how to create your first budget.

Even with my past experience using budgeting apps, it took me some time to really understand how to get started.

That’s why I’d highly recommend everyone watch their tutorial videos or attend one of their free training classes.

You Need a Budget Walkthrough

Winner: EveryDollar

There’s no question here. EveryDollar is definitely a lot easier and quicker to get started with.

Nothing to install. Simple to understand.

Adding Transactions

The best way to keep track of your budget is to add each transaction as they happen. That means the mobile apps for EveryDollar and YNAB are critical pieces to budgeting success.

The focus of this section will be on adding transactions on the iPhone.

EveryDollar (1.0.3)

Just like creating your first budget, EveryDollar’s iPhone app makes it straightforward to add a new transaction.

Nothing fancy here.

Type in an amount, choose a budget category and type in the merchant name.

 

You Need a Budget (3.2.5)

Let me just go on the record here and say YNAB’s iPhone app is gorgeous. It’s obvious from the start a lot of care went into designing YNAB (and how you use it).

You’ll type in the same things as you would in EveryDollar.

However, the strength of YNAB becomes more apparent when you re-visit a place you’ve already shopped.

More details later when I declare a winner for this section.

 

Winner: YNAB

  1. YNAB uses GPS to remember all the places you shop at.
  2. YNAB uses default values whenever it can.

Both those things drastically speed up how quickly you can add a transaction.

The easier it is to use an app, the more likely you will be to use it. When it comes to staying on budget every month, this becomes an important point.

The second time you visit a store, this is how quickly you’ll be able to add a transaction. Notice all I did was type in an amount and the store/category were automatically filled in for me.

On the flip side, EveryDollar requires you manually type out the store name and choose a budget category every time you make a purchase. #painful

Balancing Your Budget

I won’t get into a rant here, but if you don’t do this step regularly (at least once a month) then you’re not really budgeting.

What does balancing your budget mean?

It means every budget category is at $0 or has a positive dollar amount before moving on to the next month’s budget.

If you overspend by $50 in groceries this month, you take $50 from a different budget category (one that has an extra $50 to spare) and move it into the groceries category to compensate for the overspending.

It could also mean “sweeping” all your surplus (money you budgeted but didn’t spend) into a specific saving goal.

Balancing your budget requires two things:

  1. An easy way to move money from one category to another.
  2. Confidence you’ve recorded every transaction for the month.

Now let’s take a look at how EveryDollar and YNAB stack up.

EveryDollar

Turns out getting this:

Overbudget - EveryDollar

To balance out to this:

Is way harder than it should be.

There’s no easy way to move money around.

I had to bust out a calculator and re-calculate the new amounts for Groceries and Restaurants so that the Groceries budget would be $0.

How about ensuring all my transactions have been added properly?

This was a nightmare.

I have a bunch of recurring transactions (rent, HOA dues, subscription services, cell phone bill, savings goals, etc.). All of those have to be manually added. EveryDollar doesn’t support recurring transactions.

And I don’t always remember to add transactions on my phone whenever they happen. So how do I know which transactions I forgot?

Lots of manual labor.

I had to look at statements from each banking account and check line-for-line if I entered the transaction into EveryDollar.

I wanted to gouge out my eyes. There’s no easy way to do this.

You Need a Budget

All things bad in this department for EveryDollar turned out to be all things good in YNAB.

You can have scheduled (recurring) transactions.

Scheduled Transactions - YNAB

And it’s really simple to move money around because YNAB has a built in calculator.

 

YNAB also provides a handy feature for reconciling. While you still have to compare bank statements line-for-line (similar to EveryDollar), YNAB makes this process easy (and can guarantee accuracy).

Check out this video for how it works.

 

Winner: YNAB

By a huge margin.

I didn’t realize this was a deal breaking feature for me until the end of the month when I started balancing my budget.

For a budget to work, you have to be confident the numbers are right. Otherwise you may be spending money you don’t actually have.

Without a way to reconcile the numbers in EveryDollar, the process of checking for accuracy becomes a painstakingly slow and error-prone process.

Budgeting already requires a good amount of discipline. Make that process harder and you drastically reduce a person’s desire to keep up with it.

This is where YNAB clearly shines. It’s extremely easy to balance your budget each month.

Conclusion

YNAB is the clear winner here.

Once you get over the initial learning curve, it’s easier to use and stay on top of your budget. There’s a ton of resources; including an incredibly helpful community willing to answer all your questions.

And did I mention both the desktop and iPhone apps are beautiful? ;)

One thing worth nothing about EveryDollar…

One of my reservations with it could be alleviated with an EveryDollar Plus subscription (currently $99/year). EveryDollar Plus will automatically import transactions from your bank so that you know every transaction has been accounted for.

However, the benefit is contingent on EveryDollar supporting your bank. Smaller banks or credit unions may not be supported which would defeat the purpose of having a Plus subscription.

And $99/year is a terrible deal compared to a one-time fee of $54 for YNAB (normally $60 but you get $6 off with this link).

I would wholeheartedly recommend YNAB to anyone serious about getting their money under control.

Unfortunately, I would not recommend EveryDollar to anyone.

While it excels at simplifying the initial creation of a budget, it does not provide useful features/tools to keep the budget going strong over time.

EveryDollar is great for your first month’s budget, but terrible from month-to-month. And that’s where you absolutely need a budgeting app to excel in.

What budgeting tool do you use? What do you like about it?

You and I Are Both in Full-Time Ministry

Let’s play a word association game. What’s the first thing that comes to mind when I say the following words/phrases.

  • Hipster
  • Netflix
  • Full-time ministry

My answers would be: skinny jeans, binge watching and working at a church.

Since I work at a church, people often ask me what it’s like to be in full-time ministry.

I hate this question.

It implies I’m in full-time ministry and you are not. Here’s the truth. If you’re a Christian, you are in full-time ministry.

So how about you tell me, what’s it like being in full-time ministry? What are ways we can all have that mindset each day?

The Secret Sauce to Spiritual Growth

Lately, I’ve been on a kettlebell kick.

I’m fascinated by the lure of just two kettlebell exercises causing a “what the hell?” effect.

The What the Hell Effect is well known throughout the kettlebell community. Doing kettlebell work, specifically kettlebell swings and turkish get-ups, has a way of improving all sorts of other physical activities that seem to be unrelated. (from Premeditated Fitness.)

Living in the world of kettlebell swings and turkish get-ups has surprisingly brought clarity to a question Christians often wrestle with. How do we grow in our faith and mature in our relationship with Christ?

The answer begins with those two exercises.

Turns out those two simple exercises are very challenging, technically. Do the turkish get-up wrong and you’re going to have brain matter splattered all over the floor. On the plus side, you won’t have to worry about becoming a zombie afterward.

All that to say, you need good form and technique. So I spent a lot of time reading and looking at YouTube videos.

Too much time.

As Christians, how often do we equate knowledge with spiritual growth? Deep doctrinal understanding with maturity? Or assume consuming spiritual content means we’re growing?

I’m following a YouVersion reading plan, listening to Tim Keller’s podcast, worshiping to Bethel Music and reading John Piper.

I’m growing!

Not necessarily.

It doesn’t matter how much I know about proper kettlebell technique. Until I start doing the exercises, I’ll never experience growth. I’ll never get stronger.

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. ~James 1:22 (NIV)

Your spiritual muscles don’t get stronger just by reading this passage.

“Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. ~Matthew 18:21-22 (NIV)

You have to actually forgive.

Being aware of your sins doesn’t matter much. You have to actually confess and turn from your sins (Proverbs 28:13).

Knowing we are to be like Christ isn’t enough. You have to actually demonstrate love. Humble yourself, serve others and be willing to make sacrifices (Philippians 2:5-8, Ephesians 5:1-2).

People who do those things are the mature.

Honestly, I got more excited about learning kettlebell technique than the idea of getting healthier, fitter and stronger.

I want us all to have spiritual “what the hell?” moments.

Times when we look back on our actions and wonder how in the world did our faith get so strong? Where did the courage to invite someone to church come from? When did we feel confident enough to lead someone to Christ? How did we know to encourage someone with that specific Bible verse?

Those “what the hell?” moments only happen when we start doing. So here’s my challenge to you. Pick a verse and live it out this next week!

How have you seen your faith grow as you’ve been more obedient?

Photo courtesy of Rob Chandanais.

6 Uber-Practical Steps to a Spiritually Significant Fast

Fork and Watermelons

Honestly, I don’t ever look forward to starting the year with a 21 day fast. Yet I’ve done it the past eight years.

I don’t look forward to it because what should be a deeply spiritual act nearly always deteriorates into nothing more than a shift in what I eat.

I keep trying year after year to raise the spiritual bar, but haven’t quite nailed it (yet). What I have nailed is a few practical pointers that I hope will help on your next fast.

Here’s hoping year nine (finally) makes me look forward to fasting in year ten! :)

1. Jesus, Only Jesus

There’s no spiritual benefit to just not eating. So don’t get too caught up in the details of what (you’re fasting) and forget the why (deeper intimacy with Christ).

That’s why I recommend a food and reverse fast.

In short, a reverse fast is when you intentionally make time during your day to seek God more than you would typically. Where people tend to spend most of their time focused on the food-aspect of a fast, a reverse fast reverses the priorities and places it on God.

It’s been, by far, one of the more practical things I’ve done to increase spiritual engagement during a fast. Read about it.

2. Focus Your Fast

Fasting in the Bible always accompanied a specific reason.

Write down 1-3 main things you’re praying and believing God for during your fast. Be bold. Dream.

Give the fast a reason to matter personally and spiritually to you. Spend time praying for these things, listening for God’s direction (if applicable), reading related Bible verses, etc.

Know what you’re fighting for. It provides purpose and motivation. When you have a reason for going into battle, you’ll fight harder, longer and with more passion.

 3. 100%, Not 98%

Right now, commit to yourself and God that you’re going to honor your chosen fast 100% of the time. Not 98% or any other number lower than 100%.

Why?

Let’s be honest, when you make an exception due to “extenuating circumstances,” the odds of you completing the fast go down drastically. If you justify doing it “just this once,” there’s nothing keeping you from doing it again.

The next couple tips will help you stay at 100%.

And even if you do drop below 100%, start over again that day. You’re now back at 100%. God extends grace. Take it. ;)

4. Make an Allowed List

Make a list of the foods you’re allowing yourself to eat and only eat foods from that list. And be specific. Specific types of foods (e.g., apples, bananas) within specific food groups (e.g., fruit).

Do this before you start your fast. Alternatively, make a list of fast-approved recipes and only eat those recipes during the fast.

Inevitably, you will ask yourself the question: is this allowed? I guarantee you’ll ask that question multiples times as you’re presented with catered work lunches, dinner out with friends or cooking at home.

The list is designed to make that decision extremely easy; saving your time and energy for much more important things – seeking God (remember #1).

On the list, eat it (yums). Not on the list, nope.

And as you’re making the list, don’t get too caught up in the details of what’s allowed or what’s not in XYZ fast. For example, does whole grains include whole grain pasta or just whole grain rice? It doesn’t matter. Put it on the list or don’t. You choose for yourself.

5. Plan, Plan, Plan

Create a daily calendar. Every day, every meal. Answer the question: what are you going to eat?

Again, it’s all about making decisions at the start which drastically reduce the number of stressful game-time decisions. Game-time decisions are often when you’re the most tired, have the least amount of energy and and zero willpower to stick to your fast. (It’s called decision fatigue.)

Cook as many meals in one marathon cooking session as you can. Store it and have it ready to eat when you need.

Identify potential roadblocks. Where in your schedule will you run into some challenges during the fast? Maybe it’s a work party or out-of-town travel.

What are you going to do in those situations. See #3. Stick to your fast. ;)

You can create a detour now that you know where the roadblocks are. Pack your meal for those occasions. Have something ready to eat when you arrive at a roadblock.

#problemsolved

 6. Jesus, Only Jesus REEEEEEMIX

With all these practical tips, let’s not forget why we’re fasting in the first place. To know Jesus more intimately. To see Him work in our lives on a much greater level.

How can we do that?

Spend more time in prayer, worship and the Word. You created margin for those things with a reverse fast, right?

Those three things should be staples of your spiritual diet. Want those things just as much as you want food. Oh, and don’t forget to give God an opportunity to speak. Be intentional about listening for His voice and the Holy Spirit’s promptings.

If you need some worship music, follow whichever of my 30 Minute Worship Playlists (#1-6 and #7-9) floats your boat.

Use a daily reading plan during your fast. Try 21 Day Fast, 21 Days of Powerful Breakthroughs or any of these 23 plans.

Fasting is hard. You’ll be tempted. You’ll feel like a failure at times. Embrace your weakness because Christ’s power is made perfect in it (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Fasting enables the Holy Spirit to reveal your true spiritual condition, resulting in brokenness, repentance, and a transformed life. (from Why You Should Fast)

Fasting changes us. It breaks down the idols in our lives. Forces a reliance on God. Brings about humility.

But you know what the cool thing is?

Even though it changes us, fasting (in God’s goodness) can also lead to answered prayers.

Ezra 8:23 (NIV)
So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and he answered our prayer.

That’s humbling and also demonstrates the spiritual significance of fasting. Let this verse motivate you to honor your fast, seek Him more and pray for bold things!

What are some other tips that have helped you be more successful in your fast (both practically and spiritually)?