Meanderings of a Minister


How Is Your Phone Changing You? Part 8

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

Yet another way in which our phones are changing us may seem like nothing new.  Our phones, tablets, and ubiquitous internet access give us the ability to engage in secret vices with virtually no accountability.  Before you brain automatically jumps to pornography as the only application of this statement, the issue is much more than pornography.

Back a few years ago, everyone was shocked when the Ashley Madison became a household name for nefarious reasons.  Ashley Madison was a website people could register with, and pay a fee to, that would allow them to be listed as a married person available for an affair.  Tens of millions of people, including Christian businessmen and women, Christian leaders, and even pastors, registered for the site.  Many people registered, paid the fee, and then had second thoughts about what they had done.  They deleted their accounts, but the company never deleted them from their servers.  In 2015, a group of hackers broke into the databases and released the names to the general public.  A website was created that allowed people to go and check to see if their spouse had been a part.  Many families were destroyed because the portability of access to the internet provided a false sense of secrecy that emboldened people, Christians, to engage in secret vices.

And it is not only sexual issues that are vices that are enabled and encouraged by our phones.  Online shopping, escapism, and many more opportunities exist as well.  For instance, the husband that is trying to hide spending from his wife no longer has to wait until she is out of the house to order his next model airplane or computer game.  He has access to do so when no one is around because the computer is in his pocket.  Nowhere is this seen more prevalently than when it comes to online gaming.  A person downloads a “free” game only to find that there are in-game purchases required to continue playing the game.  Some people simply click to buy without thinking about the true cost.

We could also add some of the previous topics to this list of secret vices.  What about the middle-aged woman who is bored with her marriage and life and escapes into Facebook to secretly engage in coveting her neighbor?  What about the teenagers that can listen to music with objectionable lyrics without their parents’ knowledge because the connection to that music no longer has to be purchased and stored in a CD (or cassette) rack to be perused by a concerned mother or father?  And what about the young man or lady that is questioning their sexuality or religion and accesses information contrary to scripture and their parents’ instruction because it is always just there?

How does a young man keep his way pure?  This was a question posed by Psalm 119:9. By keeping their way according to the Word of God.  So, when one delves into the secrecy their phones affords them, they ought to begin with the reality that God sees all, knows all, and is everywhere all at the same time.  We ought to punctuate our time online with the same phrase with which we often end our prayers.  “In Jesus’ Name” Additionally, we need to think about why we do what we do where we do it online.  And we need to submit our plans, ways, and clicks to God’s Lordship in our lives.

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Hurdles that Keep Us From Following Christ with All of Our Hearts
May 15, 2015, 4:43 pm
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hurdles

One afternoon, I was at the cafeteria of our fine hospital, Southwest Medical Center.  While there, I was trying to decide what I would have for lunch prior to our Liberal Ministerial Alliance meeting.  I made the comment that I couldn’t decide whether I was going to be good or bad.  Ann Holman, the pastor of Risen Glory, laughed and said I should write about that choice as part of my article.  She is getting her wish.

So much of life is filled with choices to do what is right or do what is wrong, but sometimes things keep us from choosing right.  Even Christians face these “hurdles”.  In Matthew 13, there are a number of hurdles to living for Jesus with all of our hearts.  The first three come in the first few verses of this rich chapter.  Read Matthew 13:1-3a and verses 10-17.

Jesus began to teach the crowds in parables.  The word, parable, comes from a combination of two Greek words:  ballo – meaning to throw and para – meaning alongside.  Putting the two together, a parable is meant to throw an earthly story alongside a heavenly truth for the purpose of both revealing and concealing its meaning.  According to Mark’s version of this event, the disciples came to Jesus after the crowds dispersed and inquired why He taught people in parables.  Jesus response just might shake some of us up a bit.  He said that the truths of the parables were meant for the disciples, but not for the crowds.  He quoted Isaiah 6:9-10 in saying that God’s truth goes out to all, but is not understood or received by all.  The first hurdle that some people face, that keeps them from following Christ with all of their hearts, is they are not part of the Kingdom of Heaven.  By Kingdom of Heaven, Jesus did not mean that they are not in Heaven yet.  That would be all of us reading this article.  Neither did He mean that they were outside of God’s sovereign rule over the universe.  This applies to all of us reading this as well.  What He meant was that Kingdom that was initiated with Jesus’ first coming and will continue until there is a new Heaven and new Earth.  Some people are not in that Kingdom and never will be.  Paul said they could not receive truth because it is foolishness to them (1 Cor. 2:14)  Since Jesus said that no one can come to the Father except through the Son (John 14:6), they cannot follow Jesus with all of their heart because they do not know Him (Matthew 7:21-23).

The second hurdle in this passage comes from the observation that some people cannot follow Jesus with all of their hearts because they simply don’t care.  This applies to believers as well as non-believers.  For believers, this comes in the form of comfort.  Like Paul in Romans 5, they think, because Jesus has forgiven all of their sins, past, present and future, then it really does not matter how they live or whether or not they grow as a believer.  Paul responded best to this in Romans 6:1-2, “What shall we say then?  Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?  May it never be!  How shall we who died in sin still live in it?”  In other words, people that become complacent or apathetic in their Christian devotion to the Savior that saved them, are living in sin and must either show their faith by their actions (James 2:18) or admit “they were never of us” (1 John 2:19).  Apathy can be a major hurdle in the lives of believers that have become enamored with the things of this world because Jesus told us, “Where are treasure is, there will our hearts be also” (Matthew 6:21).

The last hurdle in this passage that keeps us from following Christ with all of our hearts is related to the last hurdle.  The crowds went on about their ways because they were distracted by other pursuits other than following Christ.  They had care for what they would eat, wear, drink and do.  These distractions kept them apathetic towards Christ.  In our town, we run this same risk.  So many people in our community do so many things to provide the excellent environment in which we live that many of them often find themselves so busy in service organizations and promoting special events, that they have no time for Christ.  They would like to do better and often set goals to do so at the beginning of the year, but fail because everything else comes first.  Let us not be those that see, but don’t see.  Let us not be those that hear, but don’t hear.  Perhaps we need to focus on Christ.  That’s right…FOCUS ON JESUS!

Which of these hurdles affect you the most?  Do you have a relationship with Christ?  Are you focused on and interested in growing in your faith?  Do you see signs that your faith is growing?  Perhaps we had better apply the words of 2 Corinthians 13:5, but only if we are sure we have that relationship.  Perhaps then we will make better decisions about whether to be good or bad.  Thanks Ann.