Meanderings of a Minister


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.



Crash the Chatterbox before The Chatterbox Crashes Your Christianity

Crash the Chatterbox

Steven Furtick, known for such books as Greater and Sun Stand Still, has brought us another helpful book, Crash the Chatterbox:  Hearing God’s Voice Above All Others.

In this book, Furtick, in his normal, open style, shares his struggles as a believer and provides us with some helpful guidance taken from various episodes throughout the Bible.  Defining the thoughts that undermine our walk with Christ as “The Chatterbox”, Furtick exposes the purpose of these thoughts as well as how to counter their discouraging, distracting, and defeating effects on our lives and hearts.

He begins with reminding us that we are who God says we are and not who our past, our present, or our patterns say we are.  Many people spend a good portion of their lives trying to please others and trying to measure up to the standard others set for them as believers, but Furtick suggests that we would be better off listening to who God says we are from places like Ephesians 1 and others.  If we would realize that God not only loves the world, but that He likes us as well, we could skip a lot of the stress and exhaustion plaguing many as they try to earn what they already possess in Christ.  We are who God says we are.

Another area that believers struggle with comes from the fear of doubting God will come through in difficulty.  We are not convinced he likes us, so we doubt whether or not we can really count on Him.  Our inner Chatterbox tells us not to risk stepping out in faith because we might fall through the cracks.  Because God does not always act the way we think He should, we doubt if He will act at all.  Furtick combats that with promises of scripture taken from examples like Elijah on the side of the mountain asking God to take his life because he could not see all God was up to.  God will do what He says He will.

Next, Furtick reminds us that we are to be set free by the reminder that God says we are forgiven and all that entails.  Again, taking his examples from scripture, he reminds readers that Satan’s main job is to accuse.  He uses temptations to draw us into sin, but then he uses accusations to whisper to us that we could never be forgiven.  He brings up the pornographic image from our memory and tells us we can’t forget so we are not forgiven.  He uses the disease our sin brought on us as an accusation God has not forgiven.  He uses everything he can to get our Chatterbox going to obscure the fact that we already have the victory.

Lastly, Furtick wraps up his work with a reminder that we are more than conquerors in Christ.  This does not mean that we can do anything we want to do, but that we can do anything God wants us to do.  As we rely on His power, His plan, and His position in our lives, we surrender and accomplish more than standing on our own.  This crashes the Chatterbox of discouragement that keeps us back from trusting God to work in our lives.

Overall, Steven Furtick has written a book that is much more than just the power of positive thinking.  He uses solid Biblical examples to back up each point and does not take any liberties with interpretation or context.  He has produced a very helpful book for those who have struggled with believing they matter to God and can be used for His Kingdom.  It would also be helpful for those who are trying to encourage such people.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.