Meanderings of a Minister


How Is Your Phone Changing You? Part 10
September 26, 2017, 4:40 pm
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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.  Additionally, our phones are encouraging us to lose the context of meaning.  These are examples of how our phones are changing us.

One of the ways that our phone is changing us is that it is making us more and more insecure.  Most people have been in a group and found that the group had information that you did not have.  They have an inside joke, a shared story, a memory, a set of nicknames, anything that indicates there are some who are in and some who are out.  Most people have felt the sting of being out at some point in their life.  Our phones are amplifying this insecurity many of us face and have felt.

Before you roll your eyes and think that this is only a minor issue, we need to not only think about how this makes us feel, but why this would be dangerous.  First, our phones are becoming slave masters to us because we fear missing out on the latest news, score, game, event, outcome, or even gossip.  Yes, I did say gossip.  Believers in Jesus Christ are not immune to the allure of gossip.  This is one of the reasons we cannot stand to be without our phones.  Something might happen and we would miss it.

Now, again, this might not seem like that big of a deal to you, but it is actually a root cause of some of the other ways our phones are changing us.  For some, this means that they take their phone to bed with them so that they can check their phone in the middle of the night.  Some even will awaken several times a night and will respond to texts, emails and other notifications.  This means that they are awakened several times a night and are not getting the deep sleep needed to rewire their brains, renew their bodies, and revive their spirits.  This is dangerous.

This insecurity of being left out also encourages us to base our worth on our connectedness instead of the fact that we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139), we are loved and valued by Jesus, we are children of God and He has started a work in us that He will continue and complete.  In other words, we are submitting ourselves to the idol of contemporary history over timeless truths.

Another way that insecurity over being left out of recent history is destructive is that it means that are often missing out on what is going on in our current history for the sake of what is going on someone else’s current history.  This means that we are not living the life God has given us, but are, in some cases, attempting to live someone else’s vacation, time with their kids, or trips.  We covered this in an earlier installment, but it can a subtle way of envy or jealousy or can even generate pride in our lives as we compare others to our experiences.

As followers of Jesus Christ, we need to take our security from knowing that we are loved by Him.  We need to know that our standing before God and others is based upon the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross and not whether or not we saw the latest cat video or viral post.  We need to learn contentment with the life God has given us to live and the blessings He has put in our lives.  Our phones can work against this by making us feel like our value comes from being up on the latest information.

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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.



How Is Your Phone Changing You? Part 7

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

Our phones are also changing us in a way that many did not see coming.  With social media, many of us are more connected than ever before.  We have hundreds or thousands of “friends” to whom we are connected constantly.  We can look at their pictures, read their status, play games with them online.  You would think that this would mean that people would never have a chance to feel disconnected or lonely, but actually it is quite the opposite.

Recent studies have shown that the average online user actually feels lonelier than those who are not as engaged online.  How can this be?  Related to earlier articles, one of the ways that people feel lonely is that we disconnect ourselves from what is going on around us for the sake of making sure we are connected to our phones and social media accounts.  We can be in a crowd of people, but mentally (and technologically), we are alone because it is just us and our phone.  Instead of feeling the presence of people around us, we are in a virtual world that is based upon our online activity.  If people have not liked the video we posted, the quote we posted, or the picture of our lasagna, we can feel alone, rejected, isolated, and frustrated.  We can feel as though no one in the world likes or loves us even though we are in a room full of people waiting for us to engage with them.

There is a flipside to this equation that is also troubling.  Not only can we feel alone in a crowd, but we can feel crowded when we are alone.  The human brain was wired to take in incredible amounts of information, but due to the fall in the Garden of Eden, our brains do not process and store that information as efficiently as they were originally designed to do.  This means that we need down time to rethink, reprocess, and restore images and information accumulated through our busy lives.  Combine that fact with the amount of information we take in each day compared to previous generations and we need time like no one else ever has in the past.  Sadly, we do not get this time because we cannot disconnect enough to do this critical process.

Many people use their phones as alarm clocks.  To do so, the average person leaves their sounds and notifications active throughout the night and their phone within reach.  What this means is that, even asleep, we are not able to process things like we should because our phones constantly beckon us from the deeper sleep cycle needed.

Once awake, many people go straight to their cell phone to turn off the alarm that woke them up.  While there, they check email, social media, etc.  The time needed to process and plan their day is short-circuited by whatever flickers across the pixels on their screen.  This is not an isolated incident and there are very few boundaries this does not cross.

Even as believers, we find ourselves truly desirous of a deep and meaningful prayer life and Bible Study routine, but we get in the middle of our prayer and our phone beeps and we put God on hold (pun intended) to find out that we could save 14% or more on car insurance.  We try to read our Bibles only to find that our phone beckons us to a friend’s latest rave about the local Chinese restaurant.

So, our phones are encouraging us to be alone in a crowd and crowded when we are alone.  It does not have to be this way.  With a little discipline, and recognizing the problem, we can combat this by turning off our ringers or phones when spending time with God, family, or crowds we need to get to know.  It sounds simple, but our prayer needs to be, “Lord, I don’t want to miss out on the life You have given me to live because I am so busy trying to create my own online.”



How Is Your Phone Changing You? Part 6

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

Another way that our phones are changing us is very related to last week’s issue.  Reinke says it this way, “We Become Like What We ‘Like’”.  Many of us remember Middle School.  We remember trying to fit in.  We remember trying to decide if we would be a jock, nerd, preppie (Hey!  I’m old!), or some other subset of Middle School culture.  How did we make these decisions and which group did we choose?  We usually made these decisions based upon their perceived benefits to us.  If we saw a pretty girl (or handsome dude) that was a part of a subset, then we chased that particular one.  If our friends suddenly joined another subset, then we would decide if we wanted to be friends with them any longer.  If we did, we joined, or tried to join, that one.  Our phones encourage this as well.  That effect can be positive or negative, but it is an effect and it is changing us.

The Bible addresses this on a personal level when Paul said, “Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.”” (1 Corinthians 15:33, NASB95) Many of us realize this and that has some to do with why we choose the friends we choose and the places we visit, etc.  But have we stopped to think that electronic company corrupts good morals as well?  For instance, if a friend is always posted pictures of family time, we begin to feel dissatisfied with our own family time and take actions to change to align our reality with the images we have ‘liked’.  Conversely, if a friend posts pictures of their new girlfriend and the fabulous life together, all of sudden we find ourselves critical of our spouses and more demanding because our reality does not measure up to what we are seeing in social media.  The direction of the influence is not the main issue, but the fact that we are influenced is the issue.

The average reader could easily stop and see through a perceived subterfuge here.  They might be tempted to say, “But isn’t Reinke attempting to influence people through his book?”  While they are correct in assuming that the author is aiming at serious thought and potential changes in the behavior of the reader, consider that the average person doesn’t read that much anymore (see earlier article on losing literacy).  Consider also that a picture truly is worth a thousand words and it does not take one long to realize this might have potentially powerful effects.

Reinke quotes an old adage that is becoming more and more the situation in which we find ourselves.  “We are not who we think we are; we are not even who others think we are; we are who we THINK others think we are.”  While other chapters have hit upon the temptation to be inauthentic in how we present ourselves, the effect is not only on us as we present ourselves, but how we consume what others produce (last week’s article) and then how that changes the way we think.  We become like what we “like”.



How Is Your Phone Changing You? Part 5

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

Another way that our phones are changing us might not seem so obvious on the surface.  Oh, the effect will be apparent, but the deleterious aspects might not be.  Our phones are tempting us to become those who feed on the produced.  What does that mean?  I am glad you asked.

Our nation has created a class of person that other generations and other nations have not known.  We have people that are famous for nothing other than being famous.  We no longer have heroes that are actually heroic, but we have celebrities that are celebrities because of their celebrity.  In order for them to remain famous, they must remain the spotlight, in the news, or trending on social media.  How do they accomplish this?  Through produced moments in the sun.  Whether it is a contrived celebration or a made-up catastrophe, the only way for them to remain famous is the remain in the social conscious.  Not only do they benefit from this, but those who pay for endorsement deals with them must have this constant social conscious or their investments do not pay off for them.

What does that have to do with you and I?  First, we have been fed these produced moments so regularly that we find we must have them to continue to be the rabid fans of our favorite celebrities.  We find ourselves checking their social media, searching google for the latest news of their exploits or going to the latest gossip sights hoping for a glimpse into their lives.  We feel like we actually know them, but don’t realize they are feeding us the produced parts of their lives.  That is one of the reasons that we feel such shock when one of our celebrities takes his or her life or gets arrested for a heinous crime.

Additionally, we find ourselves wanting badly in their company.  No, not the way people used to stalk celebrities by hanging around outside their house hoping for an autograph, but we actually want to be in their number.  With social media, we can be.  We can get a million people to like a video of us making a sandwich and we are celebrities for an instant.  We can begin to produce our own lives and cause people to approve, which we talked about in a previous article.

Another byproduct of this effect is that many of us are not actually living in the moments we find ourselves because we are so busy trying to produce moments for others or trying to capture the moment, but paradoxically ignore the moment with our capturing.  Instead of watching our children perform in their school musical, we are busy staring at our phones to make sure they are in frame, the app is working properly, the recording is working, the lighting is right, we have zoomed into the right distance, etc.  Instead of enjoying the performance, we are distracted from the moment we are so busy producing for others.

If we are not careful, this obsession with produced moments actually can lead us to attempt to take God’s place as the Creator and Sustainer of our world and our lives.  God spoke and created everything.  Those things tell us about what He made, but it also tells us about Him.  He is creative, personal, enjoys variety, etc.  When we begin to obsess over the produced moments of our lives, we are subtly telling God what He created was fine for then, but we will take it from there.  For some, this might even mean that we are telling God that He has not done well enough for us so we have to attempt to generate more through our productions.  Ultimately, this can lead us to the point that we no longer appreciate our lives or what God has done for us.

So, the next time you are out with your children, will you be WITH your children, or will you be leveraging your time with your children for the benefit of others who are just as stuck on produced moments as you are in producing them?



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?



Joy Check Up
May 26, 2017, 2:57 pm
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In 1 John, John wrote to his readers and hearers about how to have joy in the Christian walk.  They were struggling and had forgotten the “good” part of the good news.  They had lost their joy for a number of reasons.  As you read through this list, you might stop and ask if you have lost your joy in serving Jesus for a similar reason.

In 1 John 1:4, John said, “These things we write, so that our joy maybe made complete.”  What was causing his hearers and readers to need their joy to be made complete?  I am glad you asked.

(1 John 1:5-7) First, his readers were struggling with the effects of sin in their lives.  Some struggled with living in sin as a normal way of life.  They may have figured that they were saved and had been forgiven of their sins (which is true), so it did not matter how they lived (which is not true).  As they sinned, the Holy Spirit would not leave them alone, but convicted them of sin to draw them back to God so that they felt no peace or joy.

(1 John 1:8) Others struggled with fearing that they might sin in the future and God might deny them entrance into His presence or His Kingdom.  They thought that they had to be perfect in order to earn God’s forgiveness and love.  Because they lived with this fear each day, there was no joy or peace in their lives because they could never really truly know that they are accepted and included in God’s family.

(1 John 1:10) Still yet others struggled with believing the sin of their past was forgiven.  Every time they looked in the mirror, they remembered the words they had spoken in anger, the money they stole, the promise they had broken or the life they had taken.  Since they remembered it, they figured God did as well and that they would never be free from the guilt and shame that caused them to want to crawl under the table and hide.

In the middle of all of this incredible amount of tension, weight and pressure, John dropped a truth that we often quote, but seldom actually stop and listen to.  What is that truth?

1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

You might be tempted to think, “Wait!  What?  That seems too easy!”  It could not be simpler, but it is not easy at all.  This verse is written to believers.  We are told that we need to confess our sins.  What does confess mean?  It means that we need to first agree with God about our sins.  What does God think of our sins?  They are foul, horrible, evil, and in stark opposition and an offense to His holiness and goodness.  They are so foul that they cost the life of His Only Begotten Son.  So, we must agree with Him about our sins and the evil that produces them in us.

We must also agree with Him about the need to turn away from those sins and to trust in God for His forgiveness and grace.  Notice the parts.  First, turn away from the sins.  There is no such thing as confessing sins with any semblance of an intention to continue in them.  Next, we trust in God for His forgiveness.  And then we must trust in God’s grace to carry us through.

So, how is your joy right now?  Is there something that you need to confess to God?  You don’t need to go to a priest or pastor, just talk to God and agree with Him about your sin, turn away from your sin, trust your life to God’s direction and agree with God that His grace is sufficient for your forgiveness and deliverance.  That is way to joy.  At least in the first part of 1 John.