Meanderings of a Minister


12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You, Part 4
July 21, 2017, 4:11 pm
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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.

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.  These are examples of how our phones are changing us.

Probably one of the insidious ways that are phones are changing us as Christians is that they are robbing us of our literacy.  When I read that statement in Reinke’s book, I had to stop and think about what he was trying to say.  As I looked at his definitions and examples, I realized he is right.  Our phones are taking the place of most serious reading and thinking.  Because they are a form of amusement, we are encouraged to check our brains at the door and just interact with what is on the screen.  This is one of the reasons that urban legends continue to make the rounds of the various social media platforms.  People read something online and no longer stop to apply the sniff test.

One area that is problematic for Christians is that we are losing our ability to read our Bibles and think deeply about spiritual matters.  In some of our churches, people even laugh and say that they do not read anymore and will wait for the movie to come out.  Men and women alike find that the amount of attention for reading expands only slightly beyond the 140 characters allowed by Twitter.

In addition to a lack of focus on serious Bible study, this slides over into prayer as well.  Many people, myself included, struggle to spend the kind of time the ancients spent in prayer because we simply cannot quiet our minds and souls that long.  Our phones encourage this as we move from image to image and sound to sound.  The constantly updating pixels work together to convince us that anything that requires effort and does not produce an immediate and measurable goal is not worth pursuing.

Another interesting correlation is that this tendency also manifests itself in the way we lack self-control when it involves a deeper and more important commitment.  We impulse buy, impulse eat, impulse attack, impulse post, impulse share, etc., with no thought about whether or not it is appropriate or the best use of our time, money, and effort.  We not only lack self-control, but to suggest someone might want to exercise some self-control seems old-fashioned or even controlling.

While many people might not see this side-effect of our phones as important like some of the other effects covered in other chapters of the book, we would do well not to pass it too quickly because our ability to read widely, think deeply, reason logically, and live self-sacrificingly is the basis of society, innovation, and survival.  If we lose it, we lose much more than we realize.

None of these effects are irreversible and none of them have to lead to destruction or even damage to our lives, but we need to be aware that they can be a tendency so that we remain vigilant to resist the pull of the digital glow.



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.



On The Road Again

As I write this article, I have been home for a couple of days and am preparing to leave on a mission trip to Haiti.  I have been to Tennessee for a week, Children’s Camp in Salina for a week, Phoenix for our denominational convention for a week, and now I will be heading to Haiti for eight days.  I have been amazed to consider what God has taught me at each stage in this journey.  While I am certain that my travels are of no consequence, I hope that the lessons I am learning will be.

First, I took a week’s vacation prior to a very busy Summer.  I am grateful to my church family for allowing us the time off prior to a very busy season of ministry.  Vacations are kind of hard for me because I like to be active for the Kingdom and vacations seem not to be this way.  Having said that, I know that this vacation was necessary prior to so much time away from my family.  Psalm 85:6 says, “Will You not revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in You?”  This time of vacation was a very necessary time of recharging both for me and for my family.  God helped me to understand that part of revival is getting still and allowing Him to work and move while you rest.

Next was Children’s Camp.  At camp, I had the wonderful privilege to pray with many children.  Some to surrender their lives to Christ as Lord and Savior.  I got the chance to love on kids by listening to their stories, watching them conquer fears, and celebrating with them as they shared their gifts and talents in worship of the King.  In the New Living Translation of the Bible, Ephesians 2:10 reads, “For we are God’s masterpiece.  He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.”  As I reflected on this verse throughout the week, I realized that part of my struggles is that I never feel adequate.  I never feel like I measure up to people’s expectations.  I always feel like I am trying to earn my place at the table with the spiritual giants.  Meditation on this verse helped me to hear God’s voice as He encouraged me to be who He created me to be.  If I live for Him and He lives through me, then I am enough because He sees me as His child.

At our convention, I was blessed to be able to listen to various preachers as they preached through the entire book of Philippians.  One of the messages that really stood out to me, the young preacher said, “The only way for Philippians 1:21 to be true is if Jesus is Who I am living for.  If I am living for anything else, then death takes away what I am living for.  If I am living for Jesus, death brings me to the One I have been living for.”  This really challenged me to ask the question, “What am I living for?”  If I am living for men’s applause, then death with take that from me.  If I am living for family, death will take that from me.  If I am living for fame, power, promotion, retirement, graduation, independence, etc., then death will take those things from me.  If I am living for Jesus and for God’s glory, then death brings that to me.

As I prepare to head off to Haiti, I am also mindful of the scripture that says, “The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.”  (Proverbs 16:9)  The last three years, I have either had to leave Haiti early to return for urgent ministry needs, or I have been prevented from flying due to weather, problems with the plane, etc.  So, I am planning to go to Haiti.  I have packed.  I have bought my ticket.  I have prepared.  I am planning to go.  But whether or not I go is up to God.  It is His mission to which we go, so it is His will and His plan for whether I get there or not.  Now, if I could just learn this in all areas of life.

So, God uses everyday events to teach us eternal lessons.  This is what Jesus did with parables and how He taught His disciples.  What is He teaching you?



On Earth As It Is In Heaven or In Heaven As It Is On Earth?

I know that I have written on this topic before, but recently, I was reading the description of the throne room of heaven in Revelation 4 and 5.  Here is what I noticed about heaven.

First, John is shown heaven, but the first thing that catches his eye is the throne and God seated on that throne.  John is nearly overcome with the scene.  He noticed the colors, sounds, and focus of heaven as being totally about God on the throne.  From rainbows, to thunder and lightning, to creatures and lamps of fire, John gives the picture that all of heaven is focused on the worship of God Almighty.

Next, John mentioned the cries of the living creatures as they proclaim the holiness of God when they say, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, Who was and Who is and Who is to come.”  They all give God glory and recognize the focus of heaven is God.

Additionally, John mentioned the twenty-four elders joining in on the worship.  They cast their crowns before the throne as they confess, “Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.”

Lastly, even when it came time to begin to open the scroll, all of heaven was focused on God the Father and God the Son as Jesus was the only One worthy to open the scroll that would mark the end of times and the judgments and deliverances that were to come.

As one looks at this version of heaven, one is left with a sick feeling that much else we have heard of heaven may or may not be accurate.  For many people, the idea of heaven is them finally getting everything they want.  They will be comforted, pampered, served, catered to, and never expected to do anything.  God will exist to serve their needs.  This is not heaven as God has described it to us.

It seems that in heaven, we will realize what it was we wanted all along.  We will finally get to see God on the throne of heaven!  We will no longer worship an invisible God, but will see Him as He is.  We will get to join in the activity of heaven and worship God for eternity.  We will know that we are in heaven because of God’s will and we will be challenged as we see Him high and lifted up.

Now, you might be thinking that this version of heaven does not sound appealing because it is not focused on you.  Perhaps the problem with much of our lives now is that we think too much should be focused on us.  As it is, we think we are owed respect.  We think we have a right to be honored.  We think others should serve us.  That is what causes a lot of the heartache we experience.  People disrespect us and we get mad.  They devalue us and we feel hurt.  They demand that we serve them and we feel cheated.

If heaven teaches us anything, it teaches us of the holiness of God and His rightful, ruling place over all creation and beyond.  We are not the focus.  He is.  For many, this is hard to take.

So, what do we do with this knowledge?  Perhaps, it is as simple as putting others first and serving them.  Perhaps it is as simple as honoring those who faithfully serve us.  There may be many other applications, but they would all seem to indicate we need to be changed so that our focus on earth is as it will be in heaven, if we know Jesus as Lord and Savior.



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.