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.


Ten Commandments of Christian Social Media, Part II
April 11, 2016, 3:21 pm
Filed under: Articles, Book Review | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,


Last week, we started looking at Craig Groeschel’s book, #struggles.  At the end of this book, Groeschel gives Ten Commandments for how Christians should use social media so that the usage matches their claim that Jesus is Lord of their lives.  The first five were as follows:

  1. Put God first in all you say and post.
  2. Love others as you want to be loved.
  3. Use social media to facilitate, not replace, real relationships.
  4. Use social media instead of being controlled by it as an idol.
  5. Turn your virtual other cheek to posts that offend you.

Sixth, do not post out of emotion.  When you are emotional, this is not the time to address sensitive issues in real life.  What makes us think it would be any better online?  If you are mad, sad, way too glad, or some other emotion you may be feeling extremely high or low, this can be a dangerous time to post.  Much like the syrupy love letters you wrote in middle school, emotional posts can be an embarrassment later.  The difference is that they live on forever in cyberspace and you never know when they will come back to haunt you.

Seventh, always reflect Jesus, loving God whether online or off.  The hallmark of a believer in Jesus is that they ought to love God, Jesus’ Father.  They ought to love Him in the way He desires to be loved.  How is that?  1 John 5:3 says, “For this is the love of God; that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.”  So how do we love God?  By obeying God.  How has God told us to treat others?  With love (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).  How has God told us to use our mouths?   Cleanly (Ephesians 5:3-5).  How has God told us reflect His character?  In truth (Colossians 3:9).  Make sure that the posts, texts, emails, pins, and anything else you do online reflect your obedience to those commands.

Eighth, do not use social media to fuel temptations.  Wait!  I know many people are automatically going to think of pornography when they read this statement, but temptations do often include pornography, even for believers.  Nearly one half of all website visits each year are for the purpose of pornography.  80% of Christian men responded to a survey from Focus on the Family indicating they had visited a pornographic website in the previous week.  But temptation does not only come from pornography.  For some, it is visiting and shopping.  For others, it is and shoes.  For some others, it is online gambling.  For still others, it is the temptation to be fake on social media to impress people and make people think you are better, richer, prettier, stronger, or more connected than real life.  Paul told Timothy, But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.”  (1 Timothy 6:11)

Ninth, form your own opinions and don’t just follow the crowd.  For many people, seeing the trends of online activity causes them to want to adopt the same thoughts, values, or opinions.  For instance, many people were doing the bucket challenge to raise awareness of ALS.  Soon, celebrities were posting their videos as well as just about everyone.  People donated a lot of money to the research for ALS until they realized some of the money was used to harvest embryos for stem cell research.  Another trend is the self-promotion that comes from selfies.  Should we always be shouting to people, “Look at me!”  Should we instead have the same attitude as John the Baptist, “He must increase.  I must decrease.”

Lastly, do not base your identity on what people think of you.  Many people can become joyful of depressed depending upon the number of people who “like” their pictures, repin their pictures, retweet their tweets, or mention them and their blog.  We need to be careful that we don’t make public acceptance the measure of our worth.  Some people spend their time worrying what people think of them until they realize how seldom others actually do.  Instead, why don’t we adopt the stand of David in Psalm 139:14, “I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well.”

Let’s use social media, but let’s make sure it matches the rest of our lives in living for Jesus.


A Key Ingredient for Fireproofing Your Relationships
November 8, 2013, 1:22 pm
Filed under: Articles | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,


Have you ever tried to make or build something only to find out that you were missing an ingredient or a part?  How frustrating!  You set out with grand thoughts of riding your bicycle, watching a video or tasting some warm, fresh, straight-from-the-oven brownies only to have your hopes dashed on the rocks because there was something missing.  You could go and get it at the store, and you will, but it is just not the same because the anticipation subsides.

 What in the world does this have to do with relationships?  I am glad that you asked.  The one ingredient that can be missing for relationships, and cause those same relationships to lose their appeal, is forgiveness.  Yes, I said, “Forgiveness.”  Forgiveness is often missing from relationships because we do not understand what forgiveness is or are confused about how to forgive.  In some instances, we don’t even understand why we should forgive.  This issue is very important to preserving relationships.

 First, let’s start with why we should forgive.  Jesus told the story of the servant who owed his king 10,000 talents of gold in Matthew 18:21-35.  I would suggest stopping now to read it.  In the story, the servant was forgiven a huge sum, but refused to forgive his fellow servant for 100 days wages.  This seems wrong to us because of the amount the king had forgiven for the servant.  That was Jesus’ point exactly.  When we define sin as anything other than absolutely perfect (for this is what the word for sin in Greek actually means), it does not take a stretch of the imagination to realize we owed much more than just 10,000 talents of gold for the myriad of sins we have sinned.  If you have a relationship with God, through His Son, Jesus Christ, then all of those sins have been forgiven.  The least we can is to forgive others for the amazing small debt they owe.  We forgive because we have been forgiven.

 We also forgive or God will not forgive us.  That may sound shocking, but that is what Jesus said right after teaching us how to pray in Matthew 6:1-15.  We must forgive in order to maintain our fellowship with God and with others and we must forgive to prevent Satan from driving a wedge in our relationships that would cause people to look down on our faith and our God.

 What does it mean to forgive?  Simply put, the word for forgiveness in the Matthew 18 passage we have already read is the word Aphoken.  It is a Greek word that means to send away.  What do we send away?  We send away our feelings of wanting to hurt someone that has hurt us.  We send away our need for revenge.  We send away the anger and bitterness that have built up in us.

 Forgiving does not mean forgetting what happened.  This is a fallacy that the enemy of our souls uses to keep us chained to unforgiveness.  You may be thinking, “But Jack, haven’t you read Isaiah 43:25 (NIV) ‘I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.’?  What does that mean if not that God forgets our sins and we must be willing to forget others’ sins if we are to forgive.  First, consider that God could not forget anything.  If God were to forget something, then there would be knowledge that God does not know.  It would mean that He is not omniscient and, if not omniscient, then not God.  When He says He forgets the sin, He means that He does not choose to remember the revenge that the sin calls for.  He does not hold it against us is another way of expressing this truth.  Forgiveness does not mean forgetting.  Nor does it mean offering complete trust.

So how do I forgive?  Follow these simple steps.

1.  Pray and ask God to help you forgive.
2.  Make a decision to forgive.
3.  Say the words (if only to yourself) that you have forgiven.
4.  Forgive completely.
5.  Realize you might have to forgive repeatedly.
6.  Thank God for His forgiveness.
7.  Repeat steps 1-6 as needed until you have conquered the feelings of revenge and hurt that you would like to seek against the offender.

 Now that you know how…what will you do?