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.



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.



Where Is Your Focus?
May 3, 2012, 3:25 pm
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Dr. Thom Rainer, the President and CEO of Lifeway Christian Resources, recently wrote on his blog in which he listed ten ways you can tell if your church is inwardly focused or one that understands both the Great Commandment and the Great Commission.  While not intended to be a reproduction of that article, I thought it would be helpful to consider these signs and evaluate our own churches to find out where our focus is and what we should do about it.

#1 – Worship wars.  Do you hear frequent complaints from people about what music your church is doing or not doing?  Do you hear frustration over what instruments are used, how fast or slow the music is sung and whether or not you should have a choir or praise team?  Are you locked into a certain order of worship?  If so, put a one in this column.

#2 – Meetings that have to meet, whether there is anything to talk about or not.  Do you have committees or teams that meet because it is on the schedule?  When you do meet, what is the topic of your meetings?  Is it to talk about reaching the lost or other inconsequential concerns?  Do you have so many meetings that people don’t have time to lead their families, reach their neighbors or be involved in their community building relationships with the lost?  If any of this is true, put a one in this column.

#3 – Do you choose not to do certain activities that will reach people because of its potential impact on your church facilities?  In other words, do you not want to dirty up and wear out your carpets, dishes, chairs, tables or bathrooms?  If so, then your facility has become your focus and it is being seen as sacrosanct instead of being seen as a tool to reach your community.  If this is true of you, put a one in this column.

#4 – Do you have programs that have little or no attendance, but you have to have them?  For instance, at our church, we had only about 4 or 5 people coming to prayer meeting on Wednesday nights.  Our AWANA program was growing and we needed workers.  We chose to cancel prayer meetings and ask all of those coming to work in our AWANA program and we have gone from 50 kids to as many as 130 kids!  Would your church do such a thing?  If not, then put a one in this column.

#5 – Take a look at your church budget.  Do you spend all your money on your own people?  What percentage is spent on missions?  On outreach?  Benevolence?  Events designed to reach people?  Other churches?  If you look at this and the amount being spent outside of the church seems to be too little, then put a one in this column.

#6 – Does everyone in your church want pastoral care?  I don’t mean that they want a pastor to visit in times of difficulty.  Do they want the pastor to visit them just because they are members?  If this is the general expectation of your church, put a one in this column.

#7 – Do you ever hear, or do people generally have, an attitude of entitlement for those in the church?  It might apply to music, time, meetings, programs or any other of a plethora of areas.  If this is the case, then put a one in this column.

#8 – Greater concerns about change than about the lost.  When you mention change, do you get more people involved and excited than when you have an evangelism challenge?  Than when you have a scripture memory challenge?  Than when you have a tithing challenge?  If so, put a one in this column.

#9 – Anger and hostility.  Do you encounter anger from the members of your church?  Whether it is over change or not, is there a lot of anger?  If so, put a one in this column.

#10 – Are you personally, and is your church corporately, apathetic about reaching the lost?  I don’t mean do you talk about it.  I mean, do you do it?  Are you intentional about it?  If not, put a one in this column.

Now, add up all of the ones.  If you have more than 8, your focus is extremely inwardly focused.  If you have 5-8, you have a great tendency towards looking inwardly.  If you have 2-5, then you are either heading towards being inwardly focused or are recovering from it.  If you have 0-1, you are outwardly focused and should be or about to see God do an amazing work.
Where do you want to be?