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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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 Has God Changed Your Life?
June 15, 2017, 3:11 pm
Filed under: Articles | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Yes, that might seem like a strange question.  Let me explain where this question comes from so that you will be able to answer the question adequately.

I run into people all the time that tell me they are Christians.  They will tell me stories about how they went to church as a child.  They will tell me about praying a prayer with a preacher, Sunday School teacher, or some other significant adult in their life.  They might even tell me about how much they used to go to church or all the ministry they did when they were teens, young adults, adults, or some other period of life.  They might even tell me that they used to be a Christian, but are doing their own thing right now, but they will get back to being a Christian later.

Sadly, most people, when asked this question, do not even understand the question, let alone how to answer it.  When I ask this question, I want to know how your relationship with Jesus is changing your life right now?  Matthew was a tax collector who collected no more taxes.  Peter was a fisherman who Jesus turned into a fisher of men.  Saul was a Rabbi who was so zealous for the Law that he killed Christians for claiming Jesus to be God.  He became a believer, missionary, writer, and church leader.  All these men took seriously Jesus’ call to, “Come, follow me!”

I used to be a drunken sailor with a foul mouth.  I had stolen, committed adultery, and constantly used people to prop me up because I did not believe I was ever enough.  I no longer drink.  I have not touched a drop of alcohol since 1992 (okay, so I gargle with Listerene©).  I no longer even think curse words.  I have not stolen anything in many years (again, maybe a pen from the bank, but I just forgot to put it back).  I am deeply committed to and appreciative of my wife.  We have been married for 30 years this October.  Those are the conquered sins.

I still struggle with feeling adequate for life.  I am not the father, husband, pastor, man, or Christian I want to be.  When I get down about any or all of these, God confirms me and encourages me by reminding me that I am not who I am going to be, but I also am not who I used to be.  God is at work in me.  (Phil 1:6)

So, have you placed your faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?  Have you repented of yours sins and placed your faith in what Jesus Christ did for you when He died on the cross?  Have you made that decision public through baptism?  Are you striving to know God and His Word so that it transforms your daily life, speech, spending, speeding, and spelunking for meaning?  How so?

How has God changed your life?  How is God changing your life?  Many people think of following Jesus as the finish line.  They think, “Good.  Now that I am a Christian, I am holy and forgiven and there is nothing left to do or accomplish.”  That could not be further from the truth.  While the decision to follow Jesus as Lord and Savior is paramount, there is much else that must be decided and it must be decided faithfully each day.  How is God changing your life right now?

Can you point to a way that others would say is proof that you are less focused on yourself and more focused on others?

Does the way you spend your money tell others that Jesus is your Lord?  Do you give 10% of your gross income to your church?  Do you give offerings above that?  Do you also help people when you see legitimate needs?

Do you hunger for the Word of God?  Do you feel incomplete on those days when you can’t spend time reading, studying, meditating upon, and memorizing God’s Word?

Do you pray?  When was the last time you fasted and prayed?

Do you tell others about Jesus?

Or are you just everyone else?

How has God changed your life?

How do you want Him to?



For Better or For Worse

A number of years ago, a Washburn Rural High School Junior from Topeka made a terrible decision that God used for amazing glory.  Perhaps you read the story in the papers after Joe White, and three friends, decided to try to act out some of the stupid stunts they had seen in a movie appropriately titled for a beast of burden not normally known as intelligent.  During a night that involved drinking and false courage brought upon by the encouragement of “friends”, Joe jumped from a moving vehicle only to end up with a brain injury that made him totally have to relearn everything he had known in life.  In addition to the brain injury, he also suffered paralysis of his right side which, being right handed, required him to relearn even the motor skills needed for basic bodily functions.

I met Joe White at Super Summer, our denomination’s youth camp, in Salina, Kansas.  He spoke to the kids about his dumb decision, which he called stupid.  He told them to be safe and don’t do it.  Never, never, never, never do it.  He struggled to complete sentences and got sidetracked at times, but was able to communicate the basic message that he was thankful for this episode because God had used it to get his attention so that he could find out about Jesus and accept Him as his personal Lord and be saved.  He wished he had known Jesus before and did not have to go through it, but he always has a smile on his face when talking about Jesus.

Why do I tell you his story?  Simply because most of us are fair weather friends when it comes to the Lord.  If life gets tough, we want instant delivery.  If we lose something, we pray for it to be returned.  Many of us even go so far as to get mad at God for anything that happens not in accord with our wishes.  Joe White praises God even though he will always have to have an adult escort wherever he goes.  He loves God even though he cannot raise his right hand.  He is dedicated to Christ even though he often can’t remember what he started to say or do.  Do you?

What is there on your list for life in the future that you could not love God without?  Let me ask it a different way.  What is there in your life that you are not willing to give up to Him?  Your children?  Your health?  Your job?  Your income?  Your retirement?  Your reputation?  Your position?  Your house?  Joe would say not to hold on to something so tightly that you cannot keep and lose something you cannot afford to lose.  Jesus said it this way:  For what does it benefit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul?



Listen Carefully and I Will Tell You Exactly Who to Vote For
June 30, 2016, 9:36 am
Filed under: Articles | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Election-Day1

Unless you have been completely disconnected from any kind of media, you no doubt already know that the election season is upon us.  Here in our county, we will vote in primaries on August 2nd.  From the presidential election all that way down to smaller county offices, we will be called upon to vote our conscience when it comes to the various candidates.  But how are we to vote?

Before you raise a flag of undue concern, allow me to acknowledge that I am running for County Commissioner in District 5 of our county and this is not a shameless plug for your vote.  Actually, I am running unopposed, so there is no need.  That being said, who should you vote for?

From the beginning of our nation, we have been a republican style of democracy.  What does that mean?  It means that the citizens of this great nation have been given the privilege to actually cast a ballot for its leaders.  While it might not seem like it at the national level due to the electoral college issues, the reality is that each legally recognized citizen is afforded the privilege of voting.  As this is the foundation of a democracy, this right is one of the rights most often cited when thinking about the many men and women who have died defending our freedom.

So, why would I begin with such a pedantic reminder?  Good question.  Most importantly, because it has become increasingly in vogue in recent years to refuse to vote.  There are many reasons cited for this, such as not having a candidate that you personally like, apathy towards the future of the nation, cynicism towards the voting records of those elected, and on and on.  Many people reason that if they don’t vote, then they cannot be blamed when things go wrong.  These same people then go on to bemoan the condition of our nation.

While there is no direct verse addressing voting, there are some principles that we can apply from scripture.  One of these can be understood from Jeremiah 29:7 which says, “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare.”  While it is beyond the scope of this article to fully expound this verse and its context, we at least see a foundational concept of doing what we can to help the land in which we live until we get to go to the promised land, which for us is heaven.  The most important part of this is to pray, serve, and love the people who make up this nation.  After that, we must go our part to make sure we help the nation move forward because in its welfare is our welfare.

So what does voting have to do with the welfare of our nation?  If those for whom the current direction of our nation is a concern stay home from voting, the only people to vote are those for whom the current direction of our nation is desirable.  It might not be our nation, but our community for which you are concerned.  Again, to refuse to vote is to allow those who are pleased to continue unchecked.  You might say, but wait!  What does my one vote really matter?  Whether it adds to a total, reverses a decision, or has any impact at all, the bigger issue is to ask if you have done all you can to love your fellow man as yourself, to pray and be involved in helping to bring welfare to the land in which you find yourself sojourning, and to let your voice be heard concerning righteousness in our land.

So, all of that is to provide the background to tell you exactly who to vote for.  Are you ready?  When you have prayed, investigated the candidates, become familiar with the potential issues facing the office being voted upon, and having done all in your power to be informed, then you should go and vote for the person or persons God directs you to vote for based upon that information.  It might not be the same person or persons I vote for, but make sure it is based upon inspiration and information.  Above all…make sure you vote!