My Phone, Christ’s Home II
Posted on 24 Jul 2022
By Raymond Kwok
Raymond was with the Military Navigators in the 80’s and subsequently with the NavAlumni. Discipleship became a lifelong journey and he served in the Boys’ Brigade for 25 years. He has 2 grown daughters and is now “semi-retired” but never retired.
The Devil’s Conference, that was held at the end of every few centuries, was reaching its climax. It was time to unveil the next great weapon to inflict upon mankind for the 20th century. The Age of Reformation (14th-15th century) was spectacularly successful in splitting the Church into some 40,000 denominations. The Age of Enlightenment (15th-16th century) exceeded expectations with the rise of exploration and reasoning, resulting in the assertion of Self-Belief. The Age of Progress (17th-19th century) saw the rise of nationalism, the evolution theory and 2 great World Wars that reconfigured the World — promoting secularism and liberalism.
The drums rolled softly as Lucifer took the stage. As the drum beats heightened, the legions of demons gnashed their teeth and trembled with frenzied excitement. What will be the new weapon for the 20th century? Weapons of mass destruction? Destroy the traditional family unit? Lucifer grinned gleefully, baring his long, protruding fangs. He had an ace up his sleeve. It will surpass everything else with its power of entrapment.
As with all things that were created “good” (food, television etc.), the devil can turn it into “bad”: addictive and abused.
It was pure genius. A mobile, palm-sized device that only requires one to click away with one touch. It will be omnipresent and omniscient — a new “god”. A rich billionaire and a poor cleaner will own one. A young child and an old grandfather will know how to use one. You can’t leave home without it. It provides easy and instantaneous access to everything. It puts WWW1 at your fingertip.
Imagine: Merely 2 centuries ago, it took 3 months for a letter from Stamford Raffles to reach England by sail ships, and another 3 months before he received a reply. A visitor from Raffles’ times would go bonkers in our Internet Age. Today, about 78% of the world’s population owns a mobile phone.
Without a doubt, our Lord faces a ginormous challenge to get our attention:
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hears My voice…’’ (Rev 3:20).
Can anyone hear any knocking with all the clicking? We are too busy, too engrossed, too progressive.
Yet He continues to pursue our hearts relentlessly, till we cry out: “Where can I flee from your presence?’’ (Ps 139:7).
Does what I do with (and what’s in) my phone relates to what’s upon my heart? What we give priority to, often best describes the state of our heart. Audaciously, He knocked on my door one day and asked to check out my personal phone! Dare I let Him do so?
Communication and Social Media (The Living Hall)
The first question that the Master asked me was, “What do you use the phone for, mostly?’’
I replied smugly, “Connecting with the world, obviously!’’
To Alexander Bell, the inventor of the telephone in 1876, that’s the basic function of a phone. The mobile phone only swept the world in 1973 — an invention by Motorola. Today, it has taken centre stage, like the Living Hall where guests gather, where we connect and communicate.
But now there’s much more furnishings. We have Email, Skype and best of all, it’s all for free! You may have forgotten how expensive overseas call charges were in the past. Social Media platforms, from WeChat to Instagram, turns the art of yakking2 into fast-finger texting, and our fingers have not stopped texting since.
The Master checked my contact lists and (gasps!) what I texted on my various apps. I grimaced glumly as I remembered some of the jokes or messages that might offend Him. Fortunately, most of them were nothing too foul.
He searched through the pictures and videos stored under various files. I was flabbergasted to realise that He knows the smart features so well! He searched every nook and cranny like a Pro. I was beginning to profuse a little. I cracked my head to recall if there were any “unfit” items that I may have forgotten to delete. He paused to show me some pictures that I would rather not see.
I tried to divert His attention: “Would you like to see some of the strategy games I play on the phone?’’
He cast me a glance that reminded me of the one He once cast on Peter in a courtyard (Lk 22:61). I thought it wise to speak only when spoken to.
He pressed on, “Are you connecting and communicating? Huh? Any difference?”
He said my messages were mostly on trivial matters…and gossips! With plenty of frivolous fun thrown in: jokes, shopping, best makan3 places, et cetera. There was little in them that was edifying or of encouragement to others. He pointed out that the last call I made was a fortnight ago.
What do I communicate? Who do I communicate with frequently? How much time am I spending texting? Checking for messages?
A way to reduce its tenuous grip on us may be to consciously limit reaching out to the phone.
Be it via text, call or Facetime, He was ultimately asking: Am I making wise use of my time? Am I with Him in His business of relating with people and meeting their needs?
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also’’ (Mt 6:21).
Internet WWW (The Study Room)
This is like my Study Room and Library with the encyclopaedia at my fingertips.
Everything I want to know can be found here, even how to build a nuclear bomb. The Internet is a monster that buzzes 24/7. Every second, some 6,000 tweets are sent; 40,000 Google queries are searched; and more than 2 million emails are sent.4 It is so invasive and pervasive.
People surf the internet while crossing the roads, exercising, having meals together, and even at traffic light stops. It crept into the worship services too. It is a common sight to see people surfing the net when the preacher becomes a tad long-winded; even when the bread and wine are being passed around.
Fidgeting with the mobile became addictive and habitual — the first thing we turn to when awake, and the last thing we caress before turning in. One research showed that globally, in 2019, people spent an average of close to 7 hours a day online.5 This will translate to about 40% of our productive time.
The Master searched out some websites and said, “There is a humongous amount of knowledge on the internet. You can improve your skillsets or learn a new hobby.’’
He elaborated, “The Internet is basically an engine — a tool for good or for evil.”
He warned about the negative effects from surfing the Internet, which are like the effects of watching too much television. It’s primarily passive, such that it can overwhelm your brain, making it numb. You consume but you don’t process or create anything.
He said, “It can make you a Hikikomori.’’ 6 (Wow! He even knows modern slangs!)
“So,” he asked, “How can you make good use of the Internet? You can learn to be a theologian or an internet apologist.’’
Make use of the internet’s potential — wisely.
YouTube and Entertainment Apps (The Play Room)
This is my Play Room for music, games and videos.
Most of them are free of charge too. YouTube took off with its first video in 2005 and since then, there are now more than 37 million YouTube channels out there. It has more than 2.3 billion users in over 100 countries7 — astonishing on every count. And of course, there is free online pornography that even minors can easily access. About 35% of all internet downloads are pornographic.
Lucifer sorely remembered the lost bet he had with God about Job. Grinning elatedly, he gloated over the winning ace he now holds in his palm.
It’s big business too. Global consumer spending on Mobile Apps reached $133 billion in 2021.8 Clash of Clans made more than US$7 billion in revenue.9 Online Games are extremely addictive and have led to suicides and depressions. Laws were recently passed in China to limit minors to just three hours of online game playing a week.
Dr Joseph Chandler tells NBC News: “Any gamification platform is explicitly designed to make you want to not put it down and is designed to stimulate the reward pathway in your brain which can suppress your perception of time. Your brain stops keeping track of time and instead measures units of pleasure in the game.’’10
The Master turned to me and asked if we should watch some videos that were saved on my Watch List.
“Oh,’’ I replied awkwardly, “I’m a little busy now as I’ve yet to prepare my Bible Study. Can we do it another time?’’
I underestimated His persistency, “It wouldn’t take long. I’d just like to do a quick preview of your Favourites.’’
My apprehension betrayed me. He had eyes that seemed to look through me.
Resignedly, I replied, “You can look through my Search List too. But there are some things there that I’m ashamed of. You know it all.’’
Instead of reproving me, He simply asked, “What do you want me to do for you?’’
Unlike Bartimaeus, I could only whisper, “Lord, I want to see!’’ (Mark 10:51).
Applications and Transactions (The Workshop)
These Applications bespeaks of my Workshop.
The reality is that we simply can’t do without it. It’s used for all sorts of transactions from Pay Now to Trace Together. We use it to shop, pay bills and even to place bets on football matches. Physical presence is no longer required in most instances. It has become a mobile office and we can work from anywhere.
But beware, you can also make one wrong click and scammers can wipe out your entire savings!
Remember the tough times tediously pouring over maps and street directories when we drive overseas — not too long ago? Now we can close our eyes and follow the precise directions given from the mobile. A sweet voice will instruct us: “Please turn right at the next junction in 100 meters.’’
The mobile is a Swiss knife: a map, compass, flashlight, camera, GPS and almost everything that a Scout loves. We can only imagine what’s next to come.
In his signature classic booklet Born to Reproduce, Dawson Trotman challenged potential missionary candidates with this question:
“How is your devotional life? How many people do you know by name today who were won to Christ by you and are living for Him?”
The majority had to admit that they were ready to cross an ocean and learn a foreign language, but they had not won a soul for Christ for a long while.
The question is rhetoric: What are you really living for? What drives you and takes up most of your leisure time?
We are reminded that only 2 things last forever: People and the Word of God.
By now, I was quite washed out, yet He was still clicking away. He had the fastest fingers I’d ever seen.
Furtively, I was relieved that I hadn’t harboured too many “secrets”. I wondered, who’s worse? But He exposed my innermost thoughts like the Pharisee that I was.
Finally, I ventured a question: “Lord, is there any chance that You would like to take ownership of my phone?’’
He shook His head gently and handed the phone back to me. Stencilled on its back was a verse:
“And we pray this in order that
you may live a life worthy of the Lord
and may please Him in every way:
bearing fruit in every good work.’’ (Col. 1:10)
you may live a life worthy of the Lord
and may please Him in every way:
bearing fruit in every good work.’’ (Col. 1:10)
“My Phone, Christ’s Home” is a rewrite of the Navigators’ perennial favourite, “My Heart, Christ’s Home”, in celebration of the Singapore Navigators’ 60th anniversary. #SingNav60
- WWW – World Wide Web
- Yakking – Slang for ‘talking, talking and more talking’
- Makan – Malay word for ‘Eating’
- Internet Live Stats, a website of the international Real Time Statistics Project
- About half of this time is spent on mobile devices. Datareportal.com/reports/digital-2019-global-digital-overview.
- “Hikikomori” – Japanese word describing a condition that mainly affects adolescents or youths who live isolated from the world
- YouTube Statistics 2021
- Assistant professor of psychology at Birmingham-Southern College. NBCnews.com/better/lifestyle/why-mobile-games-are-so-addicting-how-reclaim-your-time-ncna1031266