Meanderings of a Minister


How Is Your Phone Changing You? Part 3

I recently came across a book by Tony Reinke entitled, “12 Ways you 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.

Two weeks ago, we looked at the issue of our addiction to distraction.  In addition to this, phones also encourage us to ignore flesh and blood relationships in favor of virtual relationships.  This happens for several reasons, some of which can provide quite the minefield for a follower of Christ.

Last week, we looked at this issue of how our phones are training us to ignore flesh and blood in favor of virtual relationships.  This is shone through many avenues, but we looked at distracted driving, ignoring the safety of others, distractions from personal interaction, rudeness, and other aspects of treating people in the virtual world with more importance and urgency than even God.

The next way Reinke listed as a result of how our phones are changing us in the area of causing us to crave immediate approval.  As we look at social media, we are constantly checking to see if we have more friends, followers, mentions, downloads, likes, and other electronic measures that would indicate that we are worth someone’s time and effort.  We check our phones constantly to get a sense of our importance, value, or worth.  And we are becoming more and more addicted.

One way that this particular aspect of how our phone is changing us that can become actually physically dangerous is how people are having to find more and outlandish ways to get noticed.  Used to be that we could post a picture with our pet and we would get a certain number of likes from friends, pet enthusiasts, and parents.  Now, we have to find ways that are grotesque, outlandish, or just plain weird.  For instance, some girls are trying to make their waists smaller and smaller to make their pictures and videos catch people’s attention so that they might become celebrities.  One particular girl went so far as to have her bottom ribs removed to enable her to have a smaller waist.  Doctors have suggested that this is dangerous for the organs those ribs are supposed to protect, but the girl got her 1 million shares and her fifteen minutes of celebrity.

Another aspect is how we have taken to concept of celebrity and elevated its importance to go far beyond the neurotic actor or actress that has to be the headliner on the marquee.  Now, the average public can compete for this title.  How do they do so?  Not by being self-sacrificing or heroic, but by being noticeable.  Recently, a man went live on Facebook to show himself shooting a crowd of people and then turning the gun on himself.  Viewers were shocked and horrified by the violence; however, they also shared the video hundreds of thousands of times.  He achieved his celebrity and it was mostly not even questioned as to whether or not it was infamous to do so.

Another particularly dangerous area where this aspect is hurting individuals and families, even within the church, is that people are turning more and more to online friends for comfort.  You might not think that is such a big deal, but what does this do to developing fellowship in the local church?  How does it affect families?  Couples?  How many times have we heard the story of the man that comes home and tells his wife that he met someone online and is leaving her to be with this online person with whom he has been having an online affair?

Additionally, anything that we turn to for comfort that did not live a perfect life, die, and conquer death for us is not worthy of our worship.  Turning to someone or something for comfort is a form of worshipping that someone or something.  That something does not live forever and does not stand at the right hand of the Father interceding for us.  Simply put, to give anyone or anything God’s place in our hearts, schedules, or lives is not wise because they will not meet the need we are looking for them to fill.  Only God can do that.

When we look for constant approval, we are focused on ourselves, our wants, our needs, and our demands for attention.  This necessarily means that we are not living otherworldly lives.  We are focused on here and now and ignore eternity and the needs of others.  This is not how we are commanded to live as believers.

Our phones are changing us into attention-addicts who, like children, constantly say to the virtual world, “Hey!  Look at me!”  In the meantime, they are yelling the same and relationship is lost in the ensuing contest for attention.  This is not good and we better be careful.



How Is Your Phone Changing You? Part 2

I recently came across a book by Tony Reinke entitled, “12 Ways you 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.

Last week, we looked at the issue of our addiction to distraction.  In addition to this, phones also encourage us to ignore flesh and blood relationships in favor of virtual relationships.  This happens for several reasons, some of which can provide quite the minefield for a follower of Christ.

The first way that our phones encourage us to ignore flesh and blood relationships is the way that our phones encourage us to ignore laws against distracted driving.  No matter how many ad campaigns we see, stories of tragedy we hear, or laws that are passed against it, our addiction to distraction carries over to us while we are steering a multiple thousand-pound missile through the streets and highways of our land oblivious to our surroundings for “just a quick check”.  As believers in Jesus Christ, we are expected to obey the government, but our phones trump the law and God’s Word without us even realizing it.  Romans 13 tells us to obey the government, but we find ourselves checking Facebook, responding to a text or email, or even playing a game while driving despite the laws against such behavior.  I say, “we” because I also am guilty.

Another part of ignoring flesh and blood relationships is the way many people engage in viral anger in ways they never would if the person they were addressing were standing in front of them instead of checking a message many hours later.  We know that Jesus told us to do unto others as we would have them to unto us, but we cannot seem to pass up the opportunity to go off on someone who is not standing in front of us.  We are more critical, use harsher language, care less about potential hurt, and the list goes on and on.  James said that cursing and blessing ought not come out of the same mouth, perhaps we should apply that keyboards as well.

Still yet another area that indicates we might be tempted to ignore flesh and blood relationships can be seen by the fact that many of us even screen calls so that we do not have to have an unrehearsed conversation with someone in which we might reveal more of ourselves than we do when we can type, delete, edit, or dress up our virtual posts.  Someone calls and you can choose not to call them back.  James tells us not to neglect doing good for someone in need, but we can filter out the needs because we are hiding behind our keyboards and phones and pretend that the virtual need being expressed is not the same thing as seeing it before it.  If we don’t want to deal with it, we just pretend we didn’t see the post, receive the email, read the text, or get the phone call.  That is plainly ignoring the flesh and blood people in our midst.  It would seem that Jesus told us if we did not do it to the least of these, we did not do it to Him.

Finally, another area that indicates that we are ignoring flesh and blood relationships is the way that we lack opportunity to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice.  Sure, we can read their rants, cries for attention, and silly emoji posts, but that is hardly the same thing as putting an arm around them, looking them in the eye, and praying with them.  We are being trained to no longer value this type of interaction because it is messy, unscripted, and belies a potential for embarrassment over an inability to understand or empathize.  When our relationships are little more than pixels of information, we miss an opportunity to connect on a personal or spiritual level.

So, our phones are helping us to be or become addicted to distraction.  They also might be encouraging us to ignore flesh and blood relationships.  We would be wise to be aware and fight the temptations this might provide.



How Is Your Phone Changing You? Part 1

I recently came across a book by Tony Reinke entitled, “12 Ways you 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.

The first way that our phone is changing us is that we are all becoming addicted to distractions.  If you have a smart phone, think about this.  When you get a notification sound that something has happened in your digital world, how long do you take to check it out?  For most of us, we have become programmed like Pavlov’s dog.  The bell goes off and we expect a treat, so we drop what we are doing and check our phone.  We can be in the middle of a movie, asleep, having a meaningful conversation with a loved one, or even using the restroom and we will disengage from our immediate surroundings to check what has just happened in our virtual world.

With the advent of people using their phones and tablets for electronic versions of their Bibles, this addiction to distraction is even causing us to disconnect from worship.  We may be in the middle of a worship song and our phone vibrates and we turn our attention from focusing on the infinite God of the universe to find out that 8 people liked our post on Facebook, or that our friend will meet us at the restaurant after church.  We can be sitting under the careful instruction of God’s Word and get distracted because our Amazon order has shipped, the weather is going to be cooler tomorrow, or we have two new emails.  We are addicted.  This distraction is taking its toll on marriages, families, employers, classrooms, and even Bible study groups.

So, we are addicted.  Say that with me.  We are addicted.  You might be thinking, “Okay.  I am addicted, but what can I do about it?”  I am glad that you asked.  Part of breaking any addiction is admitting that we need help.  Who do we seek help from?  First, we confess our sin to God.  Did you read that right?  Did I just call our addiction to technology a sin?  Well, if it is where we go to feel important, valued, or included, then yes, that is a sin because it is an idol.

Having confessed to God the sin of turning to something or someone other than Him for our comfort, belonging, or value, our next step is to begin to establish a plan of discipline to deal with our addiction.  We have to be so affected by our addiction that it drives us to change.  The only way change will happen is for us to become desperate for change and take action that will lead to change.  What are some steps we can take to begin to deal with our addiction?

When with family members, friends, at work, or in worship, we should put our phones in airplane mode so that the notifications can’t distract us.  Some phones have a “do not disturb” setting.  We could set that setting when going into a situation that deserves our full attention.  Even as you have read that statement, you might have begun to sweat a little bit because of all of the notifications you could miss during that time.  Don’t worry.  That is just a sign of withdrawal.  We could leave our phone in our vehicle while at work or in class or worship.  This is a more radical solution, but can be helpful.  There may be many other ways to deal with turning off the distractions.  Be creative, but be purposeful.

Finally, to deal with our addiction, we can turn to others who can help us by holding us accountable for making the changes we say we want to make.  Sit with someone at church that will check to make sure you aren’t on your phone dealing with distractions.  Give your phone to someone before going into work, starting your prayer time, or going into class.  Turn your phone off and have someone periodically check with you to see that the phone is turned off.

You might not think that this issue of addition to distraction is that big a deal, but what if God were talking to you and you missed it because you were busy checking a notification that someone posted another recipe or cat video?  You would walk away and quote Jacob from Genesis 28:16, “Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, ‘Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.’” Sobering thought.



Children’s Book or Serious Question?

In the book, What If He Had Not Come?, David Nicholson has undertaken the task of updating a well-known story that has captivated everyone from children to theologians for many years.  The question is:  what if Jesus had never come?  What would change?  Before you jump to the conclusion that it is just churches or religious stuff that would change, Nan Weeks first suggested that many other things would be affected including:  hospitals (most were started by churches or Christians), shelters for homeless people (most have Christian roots), retirement homes (mostly started by Christians as well), etc.

The pictures in this version are simple and yet effective at helping the reader picture what the main character goes through when being faced with the situation if Jesus had never come.

While I received the eBook of this title, I am sure that board book version would be just as helpful and durable for many readings which could even lead to a family tradition.

Nicholson’s version also comes with a discussion and study guide for those interested in using this to study together as a family or in a Sunday School setting.

This book will certainly help to focus the minds of young children on the real reason for which many families celebrate Christmas.

*This ebook was provided for review by BookLook*



My Bible Adventure: Much More Than A Book of Children’s Bible Stories

I recently received a copy of My Bible Adventure Through God’s Word.  I anticipated being a bit underwhelmed by yet another simplified and dumbed down children’s Bible, but I was completely pleasantly surprised.  This Bible is so much more than that!

First, you actually get some Bible.  Many of these Bible books don’t actually give you any Bible.  They just give you a pre-digested version.  This one actually gives you some text.  Additionally, the book gives you an explanation or commentary on the Bible passage.  It is written on the child’s level, but does not assume the child needs things so watered down as to not be recognizable.

After the commentary, comes a prayer that you can pray with your little one.  You can either have them read it and pray it or, as we do with my 7-year old daughter, you can pray the prayer together.

Lastly, the Bible has a feature that I have not seen before.  It is a section called, “Take It With You”.  This is a short restatement of the key truth from the passage you have read that night.  This helps to make sure that you can remember and restate what you have read.

The book is broken up into 52 weekly readings, but we have used it nightly and it has not been too much.

I would say this Bible is usable and helpful for preschoolers up to about 8 or 9 years old.

I received this book from Book look in exchange for my honest review.



Ever Wish You Knew the Bible Better?

Have you ever wanted more out of your Bible reading, or have you ever wondered why it seems that others get so much when you get so little?  Perhaps you should do more than read.  Perhaps you should think deeply about scripture, spend time with it, replay it throughout the day, or meditate on Scripture.

I know that you might be thinking, “That is too hard or complicated!   I wouldn’t even know where to begin!”  Actually that is the very reason that Robert J. Morgan wrote the book, Reclaiming the Lost Art of Biblical Meditation:  Find True Peace in Jesus.  Morgan’s book is like having a master walk beside the reader to help with Biblical Meditation.  The book is a treasure trove of information, inspiration, illustration, and rumination, with absolutely no condemnation for any who have not tried to spend more or more serious time in God’s Word.

Each chapter is designed to give the reader a benefit of Biblical meditation.  In the chapter, Morgan tells the reader why they should meditate on scripture and gives examples that flesh out the ideas into actual life lessons.

In addition to the chapters, there is also scattered throughout the small volume, on the green pages, specific suggestions for how to get started.  This helps to make sure that the whole process does not seem to be just for the professionals, but puts the cookies on the bottom shelf for the rest of us.

Additionally, there is a 10-day meditation guide at the back where Morgan walks the reader through the method with helpful pointers and suggestions along the way.  Each day gives the reader a scripture, context, and some thoughts to help with the meditation process.

As bonus, at the end of the book, Morgan gives the reader an additional list of scriptures so that the process can become a habit for life.

I have been meditating on scripture for years, and I found this book to be simple, yet helpful.  I found it to be inspiring without being so far above everyone’s heads to make it unreachable.  I also found it so immediately applicable and practical that there really is no reason that a person could come away from the book questioning the importance, impact, or impassable process so crucial to Christian Growth.

This would be a great book to read on your own or with your children.  It would also be great to be used in church or in a small group setting.  It could also be incorporated into a discipleship strategy for new believers, but that is only the benefit to be had outside of the reader’s heart and mind.  Inside the heart and mind, there is no way to estimate its value or exhaust its uses.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”



What Makes A Healthy Church Member?
August 4, 2016, 9:58 am
Filed under: Articles, Book Review | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

What Makes a Healthy Church Member

Years ago, Thabiti M. Anyabwile wrote a book with that title.  On behalf of the IX Marks ministry, Dr. Anyabwile attempted to sit down and formulate what a healthy church member looks like.  His findings were a challenge to me personally, for in our denomination, I am a member of our local church.  Here is a synopsis of what he found.

First and foremost, a healthy church member is one who listens expositionally.  What does that mean?  Listening this way is akin to critical listening skills in other disciplines.  A healthy church member knows their Bible and can evaluate whether or not the sermon is accurate to the text because they are familiar with the overall story of the Bible.  Like the Bereans in the book of Acts, healthy church members should be able to search the scriptures to see if these things are so.

Similarly, the healthy church member should also be a Biblical Theologian.  This means that they are knowledgeable enough of the character and activity of God so as to be able to critically evaluate not only the Biblical message of the church, but also the lives of their fellow members to help them with any blind spots that might exist.

The healthy church member both understands the gospel and has personally had it applied to their heart and lives and are seeking to model it as well as share it with others.  A healthy church member is someone who understands that his or her sins have been forgiven and know what they deserve in separation from God.  Since they have been given grace, they extend it to others without simply turning a blind eye to sin around them or in their own lives.

The healthy church member is also a committed member.  Now, this does not mean just that they attend church every time the doors are open.  That was the old metric.  They attend, yes, but it is much more than that.  They are committed to following their leaders as long as their leaders are following Christ.  They are committed to sharing their gifts and talents in service to others.  They are committed to give to their church financially as much more than just the required ten percent.  They look for ways to help financially and even sacrifice their own plans for the sake of what God is doing through their church.

The healthy church member seeks out accountability and welcomes discipline when appropriate.  No one likes discipline. (Hebrews 12:11)  But the healthy church member realizes that her own heart might deceive her into thinking she is doing great when she actually is living wrongly.  (Jeremiah 17:9)  The healthy church member has a desire to live a holy life as a means of thanking Jesus for the cross and for the freedom we have been given.  Because of this, any pain or inconvenience the discipline of others brings is worth it.

The healthy church member is hungry to continue growing.  Whether it is effectiveness in prayer, understanding of scripture, development in evangelism, or discovery and deployment of spiritual gifts, the healthy church member wants to continue to grow.  They want to continue to mature in their belief and practice alike.  They read, study, pray, serve, and more for the purpose of growing in Christ.

The healthy church member is a humble follower who prays for their church.  They put the needs of others ahead of their own in practice and in prayer.  The healthy church member will embrace music that is not their style for the sake of those who might need it to connect them to ministry and the church.  The healthy church member would rather than church building be worn out by teeming masses being brought in than to keep it an unstained museum to the greatness of their sacrifices to build a nice facility.

While this is only a very brief synopsis of Anyabwile’s book, What Is A Healthy Church Member?. It begs the questioning of our hearts to ask if that is healthy, am I?