Meanderings of a Minister


How Is Your Phone Changing You? Part 9
September 18, 2017, 1:06 pm
Filed under: Articles, Book Review | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I recently came across a book by Tony Reinke entitled, “12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You”.  The title intrigued me because I have suspected some of this has been going on for years.  In the book, Tony is not anti-phone, but encourages the reader to be mindful of changes that are happening in us because of our use of our cell phones.

So far, we have considered that our phones are encouraging us to become addicted to distraction, have encouraged us to ignore flesh and blood relationships that require effort and risk on our part, and that they have encouraged us to crave immediate approval.  We have also seen that our phones are changing us is that they are robbing us of literacy and causing us to feed on the produced images others want us to see as well as changing us to become what we spend time with online.  Our phones are also making more connected when alone and more alone when we are with others.  They also give us the ability to engage in secret vices with virtually no one near us knowing what we are up to.  These are examples of how our phones are changing us.

Another way that our phones are changing us is in the way that our phones encourage us to lose context crucial to meaning.  People post information on social media at an alarming rate.  It is amazing that there is just over 7.5 billion people in the world.  2.5 billion of these have social media accounts.  That is 1/3 of the earth’s population.  On just Facebook alone, there are 2.4 million status updates every minute.  That is 144 million an hour. 3.5 billion per day, and 1.3 trillion per year.  Yes, trillion.  And that is only Facebook!  Twitter sees 6000 tweets per second.  That is 360 thousand per minute, 21.6 million per hour, 518 million per day, nearly 190 billion per year.  Add the rest of the social media platforms, and there is a deluge of information like no other time in history.

What does this deluge of information produce in the hearts and minds of consumers?  First, it contributes to a desensitizing of our hearts.  We talked about this in a previous article, but it causes us to lose our ability to empathize because we simply don’t have the time.  We have to move on to the next article, post, tweet, snap chat, or pin.

Additionally, sense most of what we read on social media is not mentally nutritional, it affects our desire for deeper, more complex, or mentally stretching information.  When given the choice between reading about what celebrities of our day look like now and reading about the newest technology for more efficient delivery of clean drinking water to East Africa, most consumers follow the stars.  While this is not an absolute statement, the statistics show us that this is the behavioral choice for most in this situation.

A corollary to this is the fact that most information is accept at face value with no thought of context, truthfulness, or even applicability.  When the consumer consumes hours of product commercials, kid videos, cat videos, or other such input, there is no thought as to if this is a true representation of a product, life, or pet behavior.  There is also no thought as to how God might call one to act to help in a situation.  For instance, you read a post about girls being sold into sexual slavery right here in Liberal, Kansas.  You read the article, shake your head for a moment and then move on to the next post about the football team, weather, or something else unrelated.  Rather than contemplating what God might be saying about the establishment of a new ministry, or your personal involvement in a new issue, we move on without feeling what we should.

News outlets realize this and capitalize on it for their own profitability.  For instance, a story is run with some unverified aspects of the story because we have to get the information out there.  In years gone by, there would have been people on the ground.  They would have been verifying facts, getting names, dates, and other pertinent data before presenting the story.  If there were facts that we errant, they would have come back at a later date and apologized for the mistake.  Now, the information is broadcast immediately because it has to be.  There is no checking of facts, or very little.  When there is a mistake, there is no mention or it is blamed on some other issue.  Combine this with the hapless consumer and you have a dangerous situation that teaches us to either not trust or not care.

The only counterbalance I know to this effect is to follow Proverbs 1 and seek for wisdom and treasure wisdom and choose to be selective on what and when we read.  We need to pray and ask God for discernment and wisdom and submit our ways to Him.

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Cry Out America

This coming Monday, we will remember the horrific terror attack on our nation.  Terrorists flew hijacked airplanes into the World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon, and presumably wanted to fly one into the White House, but were prevented by heroic passengers who gave their lives to save countless others.  Cottonwood Elementary School will host their annual Patriot Day Celebration at 9:30 AM to thank veterans, servicemen and women, law enforcement officials, firefighters, and emergency services personnel.

Another event that will happen is a corporate prayer time at the County Courthouse at Noon.  18 churches from the Liberal area will join together to pray for our nation.  All are invited to take an hour out of their lives to pray for our nation.

As I think about this gathering, I am mindful of how Paul prayed for those with whom he worked.  Read the following list and see if some of these prayers might be appropriate for us to pray over our churches and over our nation.

Paul’s prayer for the Corinthians was (2 Cor 13:7-10): they would do no wrong, they would do right, they would be made complete in their faith in Christ.
Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians was (Ephesians 1:15-19): God would give them a Spirit of wisdom, God would reveal Himself to them, God would reveal to them how to live for Him, God would enlighten their eyes to see all He is doing, they would know the hope that comes with being called His kids, they would know the riches of the glory of their future inheritance, they would know and experience the surpassing greatness of God’s power towards them.
Paul’s prayer for the Philippians was (Phil 1:9-11): that their love would abound more and more, that their love would be based in knowledge of God and discernment of what is right and wrong, that they would approve what is excellent, that they would be sincere and blameless until Christ’s return, they would be filled with the fruit of righteousness, they would live to the glory and praise of God.
Paul’s prayer for the Colossians was (Col 1:9-12): they would be filled with the knowledge of God’s will, they would have all spiritual wisdom and understanding, they would walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, they would please the Lord in all aspects of their lives, they would bear fruit in every good work, they would increase in the knowledge of God, they would be strengthened by God, they would attain steadfastness and patience
Paul’s prayer for the Thessalonians (2 Thess 1:11, 3:5): That God would count them worthy of His calling, that God would fulfill their desire for goodness, God would fulfill their desire for the work of faith, with power, that Jesus’ Name would be glorified in them, that the would be glorified in Him, God would lead them into greater love for God, God would lead them into the steadfastness of Christ.

In addition, Paul asked the Thessalonians to pray for him (2 Thess 3:1-2): that the word of God would spread rapidly, that the word of God would be glorified in them, that they would be rescued from evil and perverse men, in the church.

How many situations and people in your life could benefit from these prayers?

As you pray for others, keep these things in mind and plan to join us the Liberal Ministerial Alliance for a prayer time on Monday, September 11th, at noon, at the County Courthouse.



Where Is God?
September 7, 2017, 11:58 am
Filed under: Articles | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

This last week, I have been saddened, horrified, and greatly disturbed and drawn to prayer for the state of Texas and the Houston area as Hurricane Harvey has devastated the area.  Over 300,000 homes without power.  Over a trillion gallons of water have fallen.  People have had to be rescued from their houses with air mattresses floating down rivers where streets once were walked.  The devastation from the storm is perhaps even greater than Hurricane Katrina that hit New Orleans and its surrounding area in recent history.

As I have thought about this storm and its terror, I have been drawn to scripture to consider God’s perspective.  I certainly don’t want to be flippant or trite in my approach to this question, but I was drawn to another storm in scripture to find comfort.

In Acts 27, Paul had been arrested, jailed, threatened, and had to appeal to Caesar to keep from being turned over to an angry mob that wanted him dead because he was telling people Jesus is the only way to Heaven.  As he was traveling to Rome, he advised not to try to travel by ship because of the weather, but was ignored.

As they were traveling, they ran into a storm.  The ship couldn’t possibly make it to their intended port.  They were battered for over 14 days and went without food out of desperation.  They finally found land and headed for it only to run aground on a sandbar.  The storm was so ferocious that the stern of the ship was literally being torn apart by the force of the waves.  The soldiers were going to kill the prisoners, but were prevented by the office in charge.  The entire group of 276 jumped over the side of the ship and swan or floated ashore.  When they got there, it started to rain and the temperature dropped.  The natives built a fire to make them warm.  As Paul gathered sticks for the fire, a snake crawled out and bit him.  The people assumed he was a murderer and that fate was getting even.  When nothing happened to him, they changed their minds and thought he was a god.  Eventually, Paul traveled on to Rome where he was imprisoned until his execution.

As I thought about this story, I realized a few things that apply to the current situation in Texas and in many of our lives.  First, Christians are not immune to the storms of life.  Contrary to prosperity doctrine, suffering does not only come to those who do not have sufficient faith.  Storms come on everyone.  Some of them are more severe than others, but we are not immune.

When storms come, we also realize that God is with us.  It might not feel like it.  It might not seem like it.  We might not see Him.  We might not hear Him.  We might not feel Him, but He is there.  He sent an angel to comfort Paul.  He told Paul they shouldn’t take the trip.  He sent an angel to tell Paul they would survive.  He was there when Paul was bit by the snake and protected him from losing his life.

God was there for Paul and God is there in your storm as well.  I know that the future will display stories of God at work rescuing people, protecting people, and providing for people in Houston.  Sometimes it is hard to see God until the dark skies of the storm adjust our eyes to be able to see His glory.

If God is in the storm, then there is always hope.  When God told Paul they would survive, Paul was able to pass this along to the others.  They ate food, were encouraged, and were able to go on.  Why?  Because of hope.  Because they could believe that there was a better future ahead of them.

For those who are in Christ, the future is bright.  No, we might not be delivered in this life.  We might not be promised to survive the storms we face, but when we close our eyes in this life, we open them to see Jesus.  That is a bright future.  This isn’t home, but heaven will be forever.  Sometimes we need to be reminded of this.  Especially in the storms of life that hurt the most.

Lastly, we see that God had a plan.  God had a purpose in what He allowed.  This is the hard part with storms like Hurricane Harvey.  I can’t imagine any scenario that would allow God to have a plan in the devastation that He is allowing.  For those who have lost every, I can’t imagine any feeling but loss and frustration, fear and anger, hopelessness and gloom.  But that does not change the fact that God is good, sovereign, and still saves.  Did God bring the storm?  Some will say that.  I am not sure.  But what I do know is that no storm, however big, can overcome God’s position on the throne.

If you are facing a storm right now, cling to the reality that you are not being punished for not having enough faith.  If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you still face storms.  God is there.  There is hope.  God has a plan to get you out.  It might not be realized this side of heaven, but you will not stay in the storm forever.  It might not seem like it, but you won’t.  Look up to God and hold on to Him for He is certainly holding on to you.



How Is Your Phone Changing You? Part 8

I recently came across a book by Tony Reinke entitled, “12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You”.  The title intrigued me because I have suspected some of this has been going on for years.  In the book, Tony is not anti-phone, but encourages the reader to be mindful of changes that are happening in us because of our use of our cell phones.

So far, we have considered that our phones are encouraging us to become addicted to distraction, have encouraged us to ignore flesh and blood relationships that require effort and risk on our part, and that they have encouraged us to crave immediate approval.  We have also seen that our phones are changing us is that they are robbing us of literacy and causing us to feed on the produced images others want us to see as well as changing us to become what we spend time with online.  Our phones are also making more connected when alone and more alone when we are with others.  These are examples of how our phones are changing us.

Yet another way in which our phones are changing us may seem like nothing new.  Our phones, tablets, and ubiquitous internet access give us the ability to engage in secret vices with virtually no accountability.  Before you brain automatically jumps to pornography as the only application of this statement, the issue is much more than pornography.

Back a few years ago, everyone was shocked when the Ashley Madison became a household name for nefarious reasons.  Ashley Madison was a website people could register with, and pay a fee to, that would allow them to be listed as a married person available for an affair.  Tens of millions of people, including Christian businessmen and women, Christian leaders, and even pastors, registered for the site.  Many people registered, paid the fee, and then had second thoughts about what they had done.  They deleted their accounts, but the company never deleted them from their servers.  In 2015, a group of hackers broke into the databases and released the names to the general public.  A website was created that allowed people to go and check to see if their spouse had been a part.  Many families were destroyed because the portability of access to the internet provided a false sense of secrecy that emboldened people, Christians, to engage in secret vices.

And it is not only sexual issues that are vices that are enabled and encouraged by our phones.  Online shopping, escapism, and many more opportunities exist as well.  For instance, the husband that is trying to hide spending from his wife no longer has to wait until she is out of the house to order his next model airplane or computer game.  He has access to do so when no one is around because the computer is in his pocket.  Nowhere is this seen more prevalently than when it comes to online gaming.  A person downloads a “free” game only to find that there are in-game purchases required to continue playing the game.  Some people simply click to buy without thinking about the true cost.

We could also add some of the previous topics to this list of secret vices.  What about the middle-aged woman who is bored with her marriage and life and escapes into Facebook to secretly engage in coveting her neighbor?  What about the teenagers that can listen to music with objectionable lyrics without their parents’ knowledge because the connection to that music no longer has to be purchased and stored in a CD (or cassette) rack to be perused by a concerned mother or father?  And what about the young man or lady that is questioning their sexuality or religion and accesses information contrary to scripture and their parents’ instruction because it is always just there?

How does a young man keep his way pure?  This was a question posed by Psalm 119:9. By keeping their way according to the Word of God.  So, when one delves into the secrecy their phones affords them, they ought to begin with the reality that God sees all, knows all, and is everywhere all at the same time.  We ought to punctuate our time online with the same phrase with which we often end our prayers.  “In Jesus’ Name” Additionally, we need to think about why we do what we do where we do it online.  And we need to submit our plans, ways, and clicks to God’s Lordship in our lives.



How Is Your Phone Changing You? Part 7

I recently came across a book by Tony Reinke entitled, “12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You”.  The title intrigued me because I have suspected some of this has been going on for years.  In the book, Tony is not anti-phone, but encourages the reader to be mindful of changes that are happening in us because of our use of our cell phones.

So far, we have considered that our phones are encouraging us to become addicted to distraction, have encouraged us to ignore flesh and blood relationships that require effort and risk on our part, and that they have encouraged us to crave immediate approval.  We have also seen that our phones are changing us is that they are robbing us of literacy and causing us to feed on the produced images others want us to see as well as changing us to become what we spend time with online.  These are examples of how our phones are changing us.

Our phones are also changing us in a way that many did not see coming.  With social media, many of us are more connected than ever before.  We have hundreds or thousands of “friends” to whom we are connected constantly.  We can look at their pictures, read their status, play games with them online.  You would think that this would mean that people would never have a chance to feel disconnected or lonely, but actually it is quite the opposite.

Recent studies have shown that the average online user actually feels lonelier than those who are not as engaged online.  How can this be?  Related to earlier articles, one of the ways that people feel lonely is that we disconnect ourselves from what is going on around us for the sake of making sure we are connected to our phones and social media accounts.  We can be in a crowd of people, but mentally (and technologically), we are alone because it is just us and our phone.  Instead of feeling the presence of people around us, we are in a virtual world that is based upon our online activity.  If people have not liked the video we posted, the quote we posted, or the picture of our lasagna, we can feel alone, rejected, isolated, and frustrated.  We can feel as though no one in the world likes or loves us even though we are in a room full of people waiting for us to engage with them.

There is a flipside to this equation that is also troubling.  Not only can we feel alone in a crowd, but we can feel crowded when we are alone.  The human brain was wired to take in incredible amounts of information, but due to the fall in the Garden of Eden, our brains do not process and store that information as efficiently as they were originally designed to do.  This means that we need down time to rethink, reprocess, and restore images and information accumulated through our busy lives.  Combine that fact with the amount of information we take in each day compared to previous generations and we need time like no one else ever has in the past.  Sadly, we do not get this time because we cannot disconnect enough to do this critical process.

Many people use their phones as alarm clocks.  To do so, the average person leaves their sounds and notifications active throughout the night and their phone within reach.  What this means is that, even asleep, we are not able to process things like we should because our phones constantly beckon us from the deeper sleep cycle needed.

Once awake, many people go straight to their cell phone to turn off the alarm that woke them up.  While there, they check email, social media, etc.  The time needed to process and plan their day is short-circuited by whatever flickers across the pixels on their screen.  This is not an isolated incident and there are very few boundaries this does not cross.

Even as believers, we find ourselves truly desirous of a deep and meaningful prayer life and Bible Study routine, but we get in the middle of our prayer and our phone beeps and we put God on hold (pun intended) to find out that we could save 14% or more on car insurance.  We try to read our Bibles only to find that our phone beckons us to a friend’s latest rave about the local Chinese restaurant.

So, our phones are encouraging us to be alone in a crowd and crowded when we are alone.  It does not have to be this way.  With a little discipline, and recognizing the problem, we can combat this by turning off our ringers or phones when spending time with God, family, or crowds we need to get to know.  It sounds simple, but our prayer needs to be, “Lord, I don’t want to miss out on the life You have given me to live because I am so busy trying to create my own online.”



How Is Your Phone Changing You? Part 6

I recently came across a book by Tony Reinke entitled, “12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You”.  The title intrigued me because I have suspected some of this has been going on for years.  In the book, Tony is not anti-phone, but encourages the reader to be mindful of changes that are happening in us because of our use of our cell phones.

So far, we have considered that our phones are encouraging us to become addicted to distraction, have encouraged us to ignore flesh and blood relationships that require effort and risk on our part, and that they have encouraged us to crave immediate approval.  We have also seen that our phones are changing us is that they are robbing us of literacy and causing us to feed on the produced images others want us to see.  These are examples of how our phones are changing us.

Another way that our phones are changing us is very related to last week’s issue.  Reinke says it this way, “We Become Like What We ‘Like’”.  Many of us remember Middle School.  We remember trying to fit in.  We remember trying to decide if we would be a jock, nerd, preppie (Hey!  I’m old!), or some other subset of Middle School culture.  How did we make these decisions and which group did we choose?  We usually made these decisions based upon their perceived benefits to us.  If we saw a pretty girl (or handsome dude) that was a part of a subset, then we chased that particular one.  If our friends suddenly joined another subset, then we would decide if we wanted to be friends with them any longer.  If we did, we joined, or tried to join, that one.  Our phones encourage this as well.  That effect can be positive or negative, but it is an effect and it is changing us.

The Bible addresses this on a personal level when Paul said, “Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.”” (1 Corinthians 15:33, NASB95) Many of us realize this and that has some to do with why we choose the friends we choose and the places we visit, etc.  But have we stopped to think that electronic company corrupts good morals as well?  For instance, if a friend is always posted pictures of family time, we begin to feel dissatisfied with our own family time and take actions to change to align our reality with the images we have ‘liked’.  Conversely, if a friend posts pictures of their new girlfriend and the fabulous life together, all of sudden we find ourselves critical of our spouses and more demanding because our reality does not measure up to what we are seeing in social media.  The direction of the influence is not the main issue, but the fact that we are influenced is the issue.

The average reader could easily stop and see through a perceived subterfuge here.  They might be tempted to say, “But isn’t Reinke attempting to influence people through his book?”  While they are correct in assuming that the author is aiming at serious thought and potential changes in the behavior of the reader, consider that the average person doesn’t read that much anymore (see earlier article on losing literacy).  Consider also that a picture truly is worth a thousand words and it does not take one long to realize this might have potentially powerful effects.

Reinke quotes an old adage that is becoming more and more the situation in which we find ourselves.  “We are not who we think we are; we are not even who others think we are; we are who we THINK others think we are.”  While other chapters have hit upon the temptation to be inauthentic in how we present ourselves, the effect is not only on us as we present ourselves, but how we consume what others produce (last week’s article) and then how that changes the way we think.  We become like what we “like”.



How Is Your Phone Changing You? Part 5

I recently came across a book by Tony Reinke entitled, “12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You”.  The title intrigued me because I have suspected some of this has been going on for years.  In the book, Tony is not anti-phone, but encourages the reader to be mindful of changes that are happening in us because of our use of our cell phones.

So far, we have considered that our phones are encouraging us to become addicted to distraction, have encouraged us to ignore flesh and blood relationships that require effort and risk on our part, and that they have encouraged us to crave immediate approval.  We have also seen that our phones are changing us is that they are robbing us of literacy.  These are examples of how our phones are changing us.

Another way that our phones are changing us might not seem so obvious on the surface.  Oh, the effect will be apparent, but the deleterious aspects might not be.  Our phones are tempting us to become those who feed on the produced.  What does that mean?  I am glad you asked.

Our nation has created a class of person that other generations and other nations have not known.  We have people that are famous for nothing other than being famous.  We no longer have heroes that are actually heroic, but we have celebrities that are celebrities because of their celebrity.  In order for them to remain famous, they must remain the spotlight, in the news, or trending on social media.  How do they accomplish this?  Through produced moments in the sun.  Whether it is a contrived celebration or a made-up catastrophe, the only way for them to remain famous is the remain in the social conscious.  Not only do they benefit from this, but those who pay for endorsement deals with them must have this constant social conscious or their investments do not pay off for them.

What does that have to do with you and I?  First, we have been fed these produced moments so regularly that we find we must have them to continue to be the rabid fans of our favorite celebrities.  We find ourselves checking their social media, searching google for the latest news of their exploits or going to the latest gossip sights hoping for a glimpse into their lives.  We feel like we actually know them, but don’t realize they are feeding us the produced parts of their lives.  That is one of the reasons that we feel such shock when one of our celebrities takes his or her life or gets arrested for a heinous crime.

Additionally, we find ourselves wanting badly in their company.  No, not the way people used to stalk celebrities by hanging around outside their house hoping for an autograph, but we actually want to be in their number.  With social media, we can be.  We can get a million people to like a video of us making a sandwich and we are celebrities for an instant.  We can begin to produce our own lives and cause people to approve, which we talked about in a previous article.

Another byproduct of this effect is that many of us are not actually living in the moments we find ourselves because we are so busy trying to produce moments for others or trying to capture the moment, but paradoxically ignore the moment with our capturing.  Instead of watching our children perform in their school musical, we are busy staring at our phones to make sure they are in frame, the app is working properly, the recording is working, the lighting is right, we have zoomed into the right distance, etc.  Instead of enjoying the performance, we are distracted from the moment we are so busy producing for others.

If we are not careful, this obsession with produced moments actually can lead us to attempt to take God’s place as the Creator and Sustainer of our world and our lives.  God spoke and created everything.  Those things tell us about what He made, but it also tells us about Him.  He is creative, personal, enjoys variety, etc.  When we begin to obsess over the produced moments of our lives, we are subtly telling God what He created was fine for then, but we will take it from there.  For some, this might even mean that we are telling God that He has not done well enough for us so we have to attempt to generate more through our productions.  Ultimately, this can lead us to the point that we no longer appreciate our lives or what God has done for us.

So, the next time you are out with your children, will you be WITH your children, or will you be leveraging your time with your children for the benefit of others who are just as stuck on produced moments as you are in producing them?