This book . . . it is fantastic. Let me give you three reasons why you should read it, if you haven’t already.
First, this book is highly educational. It is apparent that Reinke did a tremendous amount of research about our phones, how we interact with them, how we use them as tools, and even how they can potentially rule us, if we’re not careful. Everything he included is eye-opening and helpful, but not all of it leaves you feeling safe. I knew in my heart that phones, and our constant access to information, had the potential to be dangerous, but I’d only ever waded into the water of those thoughts. Reinke took me all the way in, neck deep, and helped me to see just how my phone has been shaping my life. It would do the same for you.
Second, this book is convicting–the sort of convicting that makes you literally wince as your eyes pass over the pages. This is not to say that Reinke is condescending or judgmental; rather the opposite, he is the first to reveal the unpleasant phone habits he has picked up along the way. But he points out tendencies of smartphone use that can be clearly connected to changes in our relationships with people or, even worse, our relationship with God. You will appreciate the way 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You will, well, change you. The table of contents gives you a taste of the topics:
Third–and this might seem a little nerdy–the book was deliberately written with a chiastic structure. (Chapter 1 relates to 12, 2 relates to 11, 3 to 10, and so on.) On the surface, this might not seem like a reason to pick up a book. But there is something satisfying about a book beginning and ending in the same place. It gives a sense that the journey is complete. You have come full circle. And that is precisely how one feels upon finishing 12 Ways.
That, and perhaps ready to throw her phone in the Ohio River (or at least turn it off for a while).
I received a complimentary copy of this e-book from Crossway.
I was torn yesterday morning between believing, as I do, that throughout this last week the Spirit was guiding my preparations to preach from the letter of James, and, at the same time, desiring to say a word about the events of the last weekend within this nation – events centered in Charlottesville, VA – and what that says about our nation, and about other evils that have transpired throughout the world this last week, in places like North Korea, and what that says about this world.
And so, before turning to the letter of James, I briefly addressed these matters.
In our time together last Sunday morning, we spent quite a bit of time examining the book of Job and the book of Ecclesiastes – two of the books of wisdom found in the Old Testament. Not so much the proverbial wisdom of the book of Proverbs – meaning principles for wise living – but rather the contemplative wisdom that tries to respond to the brokenness of this world where things don’t go the way they should.
Tightly related to the contemplative wisdom of Job and Ecclesiastes are the songs of lament found throughout the Bible. Cries to God asking one of two questions: “Why, O Lord,” or, “How long, O Lord?”
Not, “Why have these things happened?” That’s not the question, for it’s evident why: the hearts of men and women are corrupt and full of evil (Gen 6:5) – the evil of pride and hate – hate for anyone who is different from yourself, thus exalting yourself in your own eyes.
Hate-filled pride – this is the root of racism, nationalism, and terrorism. The question is not, “Why have these things happened”, but, “Why, O Lord, have You allowed them to happen,” and, “How long, O Lord, will You allow this evil to continue?”
What answer do we find in the books of Job and Ecclesiastes, or the songs of lament? God does not explain Himself. He instead draws our attention to the ways that He has already proven His wisdom, goodness, and power in the things He has made, and in the works of redemption that He has performed. He asks us to humbly trust Him.
In the letter of James, God offers us wisdom, if we will ask for it in faith. If we are willing to lay aside our complaints against the way that He is ruling this world, He will grant us the wisdom to see His proven character and to trust Him for what we cannot see and do not understand.
It is right for us to lament and to ask ,“Why, O Lord,” and, “How long, O Lord”, granted that we do so in faith, humbly submitting to His purposes for this world and asking for the wisdom to trust Him. Let us do so now.
Father, we cry out to you, with hearts burdened by the brokenness and the evil that surround us.
We yearn to know things that we cannot know – to know why, and how long.
Lord, help us to hold fast to what we do know: We know of your wisdom, your goodness, and your power, for you have proven these in sending your Son to live, to suffer, and to die in our place, so that undeserving sinners such as us may be forgiven our sins – though we deserve death.
Lord, grant us the wisdom to see you so clearly that we are then empowered and inclined to trust you for what we cannot see.
We plead with you, Lord, that the most vile, proud, and hate-filled men and women of this world would cease from their reign of terror and would be given new hearts transformed by your love, as our hearts have been transformed by your love. We pray that you would glorify yourself in their salvation, as you have glorified yourself in our salvation, and that you would spare others from any further suffering at their hands.
Lord, help us to see the ways that we can confront hate-filled pride wherever it may be found, especially if it be found in us.
Lord, by your Spirit, help this family of faith to be a beacon of light in the darkness – a picture and foretaste of the diverse gathering of the saints in heaven where people from every race and culture and nation and language will worship before the throne and before the Lamb forever (Rev 7:9).
In and for the name of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior we pray, Amen.
Soli Deo Gloria,
As a pastor’s wife, I always have one eye open for devotional books that are easily accessible, theologically sound, and deeply encouraging to people fighting the battle that is the Christian life. I found such a one in this book by Michael Branch.
“True Stories” is a delightfully convicting treasury of devotionals, which draw on the author’s life experiences and the truths about God that he finds in them. I think this is Branch’s elegance as an author: He sees through the messiness of life, fixes his eyes on Jesus, and magnifies the Savior by masterfully preparing a banquet of words for the rest of us to feast on.
The book is structured as such: Each narrative is preceded by a Scripture verse. After using a surprisingly small number of words (for the conviction wrought) to point the reader to Jesus, the author then offers a small word of challenge or encouragement for the day, along with a brief statement that reveals a pertinent facet of the gospel. Each story is quick—I took my time and rarely spent more than two or three minutes on one. I think this makes “True Stories” an excellent accompaniment to one’s quiet time—or a great book to keep on hand for down time throughout the day.
In particular, I was most spiritually challenged by the sections entitled “True Freedom” and “Hurting, Hoping, Heaven”. These sections stayed with me the longest, perhaps due to their vulnerable nature and my own experience with suffering. They forced me to linger on the hard questions they ask. When you buy this book, anticipate being moved by these accounts.
If you are in the market for a solid, joyful, Gospel-centered devotional to enliven your daily walk with the Lord, this is the one.