12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You: My Thoughts

12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You

If you’re like most people, you check your phone every 4.3 minutes of your waking life, check email and social media before reading the Bible, and scroll through facebook for nearly an hour every day.

These are just a few of the consequences explored in Tony Reinke’s 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You, a wonderfully written, thoroughly researched, and practical guide to that thing in your pocket right now (or maybe your hand) and its impact on Christians – with a pretty awesome cover.

It’s broken into twelve chapters and I’ll share a few thoughts from the ones that struck me most and sum it up with my main takeaways.

We Are Addicted to Distraction

This shocked me: “We check our smartphones about 81,500 times each year, or once every 4.3 minutes of our waking lives”. The fact that a little piece of technology invented a decade or so ago captures our attention every couple of minutes of our conscious life is mindblowing. And scary.

I must admit, I checked my email and texts once or twice while editing that last paragraph!

But, why do we give in to distraction? How are we so addicted that we check our phones tens and tens of thousands of times a year? According to Reinke, the three main reasons distractions lure us are: they keep work away, people away, and thoughts of eternity away.

We Ignore Our Flesh and Blood

This chapter focuses on issues that affect other people, like texting and driving and digital anger.

It finishes by talking about finding true joy in Christian fellowship: “If anger is the viral emotion of online disembodiment, then joy is the Christian emotion of embodied fellowship.

We Crave Immediate Approval

This chapter is all about addiction to immediate approval, likes, shares, and comments through social media.

Another great quote: “If you follow Christ, the world will unfollow you.”

We Lose Our Literacy

The average Christian reads 1 nonfiction book per year. And nonchristians read even less!

Quick, easy, light digital distractions seem more attractive than the slowness of longform, extended reading.

Trip Lee said this about digital vs paper reading: “The more time I spend reading ten-second tweets and skimming random articles online, the more it affects my attention span, weakening the muscles I need to read Scripture for long distances”

We Get Comfortable in Secret Vices

I think this quote sums up this section perfectly: “To live an abundant life in this insatiable consumer society, we must plead in prayer for God-given power to turn our eyes away from the gigs of digital garbage endlessly offered in our phones and tune our ears to hear sublime echoes of an eternal enthrallment with the transcendent beauties we “see” in Scripture”

We Lose Meaning

The chapter focuses on trivial, novel noise overload online compared to wisdom.

We must learn to treasure what is most valuable in the universe—God. When we turn to God, we find that the most precious wisdom and knowledge is not hidden under a mountain or embedded in the newest device, but found in Jesus Christ.15 He defines the purpose and meaning of all life. He orients what is truly important and valuable for us in the digital age, and in every age.

We Fear Missing Out

Fear of missing out is a very common problem – but the only FOMO that truly matters is the fear of eternally missing out.

We Become Harsh to One Another

With technology and anonymity, we become harsh and outraged more easily towards each other.

as children of the sovereign King, who has already won the climactic victory in the universe, we have no cause for pessimism. We have every reason to joyfully and optimistically “stick to the script.”

We Lose Our Place in Time

This final chapter is about wasting time.

“I am not my own. I am owned by my Lord. I have been bought with a price, which means I must glorify Christ with my thumbs, my ears, my eyes, and my time.”

Conclusion: Living Smartphone Smart

I know I’ve included a lot of quotes from the book but I think these 12 suggestions Tony ends with are too valuable to leave out:

  1. Turn off all nonessential push notifications.
  2. Delete expired, nonessential, and time-wasting apps.
  3. At night, keep your phone out of the bedroom.
  4. Use a real alarm clock, not your phone alarm, to keep the phone out of your hands in the morning.
  5. Guard your morning disciplines and evening sleep patterns by using phone settings to mute notifications between one hour before bed- time to a time when you can reasonably expect to be finished with personal disciplines in the morning (9 p.m. to 7 a.m. for me).
  6. Use self-restricting apps to help limit your smartphone functions and the amount of time you invest in various platforms.
  7. Recognize that much of what you respond to quickly can wait. Respond at a later, more convenient time.
  8. Even if you need to read emails on your smartphone, use strategic points during the day to respond to emails at a computer (thirty minutes each at 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. for me).
  9. Invite your spouse, your friends, and your family members to offer feedback on your phone habits (more than 70 percent of Christians in my survey said nobody else knew how much time they spent online).
  10. When eating with your family members or friends, leave your phone out of sight.
  11. When spending time with family members or friends, or when you are at church, leave your phone in a drawer or in your car, or simply power it off.
  12. 12. At strategic moments in life, digitally detox your life and recalibrate your ultimate priorities. Step away from social media for frequent strategic stoppages (each morning), digital Sabbaths (one day offline each week), and digital sabbaticals (two two-week stoppages each year).

This book was amazing. I love Tony Reinke’s writing style and I love how both research-based and technical this was and how practical it was at the same time.

My biggest takeaway is definitely action #12 on that list right above. I’m going to schedule in a few weeks where I just don’t use technology (or use it just for school).

And the biggest thing I learned is just how much impact these little, seemingly harmless devices can have on a Christian.


How to find a single passion to live by

Don’t Waste Your Life

So what’s this book about?
The preface says “This is not a book about how to avoid a wounded life, but how to avoid a wasted life.” In short, How To Not Waste Your Life. And it explores that a lot. “The path of God-exalting joy will cost you your life. Jesus said, ‘Whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.’…It’s better to lose your life than to waste it. If you live gladly to make others glad in God, your life will be hard, your risks will be high, and your joy will be full”.
And that’s what this book is all about!

My Search for a Single Passion to Live By

Chapter 1 tells the story of him growing up, searching for what life was all about.

-“Only one life, ’twill soon be past; Only what’s done for Christ will last.”
-There is truth, a point, and purpose.

Breakthrough-the Beauty of Christ, My Joy

“God’s aim was that his people delight in him with all their heart.”
Enjoying God in everything we do shows his supreme value.
In Jonathan Edwards’ resolutions, he listed “Resolved, to endeavor to obtain for myself as much happiness, in the other world, as I possibly can, with all the power, might, vigor, and vehemence, yea violence, I am capable of, or can bring myself to exert, in any way that can be thought of.” That resolution might make him seem like he’s a super-self-centered maniac, but in fact, when you dig deeper, you see that he saw being happy in God as the way we glorify him.

Or, in Piper’s words, “Seeking happiness in God and glorifying God were the same.”

John Piper talks about how he was stuck between whether he should live to be happy or to glorify God, until he found that “God created me-and you-to live with a single, all-embracing, all-transforming passion-namely, a passion to glorify God by enjoying and displaying his supreme excellence in all the spheres of life.

This was one of my favorite quotes from the chapter: “God created us for this: to live our lives in a way that makes him look more like the greatness and the beauty and the infinite worth that he really is.”

Boasting Only in the Cross, The Blazing Center of the Glory of God

This chapter really hit me; I wrote an article for theRebelution.com with its inspiration.

“Life is wasted if we do not grasp the glory of the cross, cherish it for the treasure that it is, and cleave to it as the highest price of every please and the deepest comfort in every pain.” 

Our single purpose, passion, goal is to boast only in the cross, the blazing center of the glory of God.

Here’s why: without the cross, we’re only condemned. Everything we enjoy as a Christian is by the cross.

And the only place to boast in the cross is on the cross: when we become a Christian we are crucified with Christ, raised up with Christ, and now exist to live for Christ and boast in him alone.

“Therefore every enjoyment in this life and the next that is not idolatry is a tribute to the infinite value of the cross of Christ-the burning center of the glory of God. And thus a cross-centered, cross-exalting, cross-saturated life is a God-glorifying life – the only God-glorifying life. All others are wasted.”

Announcement: Here’s Where You Can Find My Writing From Now On

I’ve pulled back from regular blogging to take more time to submit better articles to other publications and focus on my email list this year.

If you’d like to read future articles from me, please visit this link to join my email list where I share my best content once a week.

We (the email list) are currently going through 27 books recommended by theRebelution.com for Christian teens this year. Every couple of weeks we pick up a new book and talk about it. I’d love to have you – join here!

And, as always, if you’d like to contact me personally, my email is zach@zachphilip.com

In Christ,


Dear Teenagers: Advice From Screwtape


I originally wrote this post for TheRebelution. You can find the original article here.

Editor’s note: The Screwtape Letters is the title of a book by C.S. Lewis in which an older demon gives advice to a younger tempter through a series of letters. Needless to say, the advice given is exactly what we should guard against as Christians. This article is written in the style of a Screwtape letter, addressing the subject of teenagers. “The Enemy” refers to God, and “Our Father Below” is Satan.


It has come to my attention that the youth have been much ignored in these letters in which we have engaged. As you know, young people are like young trees, which can be bent and stay bent in nearly any direction. Therefore, these several suggestions have been penned that they may avoid The Enemy for these present years.

Plant these several thoughts in their minds diligently–it is to our advantage that these thoughts shape their minds and cause them to turn from Our Mutual Enemy altogether.

1. Remember to remind them that they only live once–giving much reason for them to do what they please in their short time alive. Thankfully they often believe that they ought to do whatever suits them–encourage this by all means and at all cost! You must bring them to think that the highest, most noble aim is the pursuit of their own pleasure. If you succeed, they may see Our Father Below himself in a short matter of time.

2. These young creatures are inclined to believe that their feelings are their best guide. Encourage this–for the more they follow their hearts, the more, as you well know, they will find themselves following us.

3. Avoid expressions of “grace” and “mercy,” but rather keep their focus on themselves and not The Enemy. The phrase, “God helps those who help themselves,” is a useful tool here. Don’t have them see Christianity as God’s grace through the cross to save hopeless sinners. Instead, show them a Christianity of a distant God whose primary purpose is to be their non-judgemental cheerleader or arbitrary rule-giver.

4. Many young people believe that The Enemy has too many rules by which He robs them of true happiness. This is one of the simplest strategies we have found against this particular group of humans. They are young, strong, free. We must use this to our greatest advantage. This is one of the strongest arguments to keep these teenagers away from The Enemy and on our path. Encourage them to disregard The Enemy and His ruthless rules. Rather tell them that true happiness comes in freedom from His rules. This alone is usually enough to win them over.

5. Every time the teenager is inclined to do something for which they presume they will be caught, make them believe that no one will find out and that even if they are found out, they will be happy, and that that is all that matters. Tell them that they’re too sly for those old people anyway. Encourage them, always encourage them, to do whatever it takes to be happy as they define it, and not as our Enemy defines it.

6. Remember to glamorize rebellion against all our Enemy has decided. Encourage them to be a rebel, not to obey their foolish authorities or the church, and especially not The Enemy himself. Living in their own way is a wonderful path to us. This path is straighter than measuring tape–and perfectly in line with these teenagers’ wishes.

7. Be sure to remind them that life is meaningless. There is no God who orchestrates things for his “glory”! Though we know that Our Enemy calls Himself God, and He certainly does have such power, we must affect their young minds so that they think that His existence is mere folly. Always bring to mind the meaninglessness of life–that you live and die, and there is no heaven or hell, just a brief shadow between Birth and Death.

8. In their current culture, largely to the credit of Our Father Below’s multigenerational work, to take the virgin birth, the resurrection, the sufficiency of Scripture, and God’s power as literal is considered stupidity. This greatly excites me! Reinforce that believing anything literally equals religious extremism. Remind them that because they are rational and intelligent, they would never dream of taking these things literally.

Above all, remember that teenagers are young. They are at the perfect age to mold and shape for a lifetime. If you wish to secure some young people, now is the time when they are most easily molded. Has not Our Enemy Himself said, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”? Have them follow their heart, seek after their own pleasure, rebel against their parents and authorities, and think rationally like us–believing that they only live once, that life has no purpose, and that foolish Christian doctrine isn’t meant to be taken literally.

Get them now and you will keep them forever.

Your affectionate uncle,


Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 5:8-11)

Christ Alone & Why it Matters for Teens


It is not written, “He that believeth on Jesus nine parts out of ten, and on himself for the other tenth.” No! “Whosoever believeth on him”−on him alone. Jesus will never be a part Saviour. We must not rest in part upon what we hope to do in the future, nor in part upon the efficacy of an outward ceremony. No! The faith must be “on him.” – Spurgeon

“I must listen to the gospel. It tells me not what I must do, but what Jesus Christ the Son of God has done for me.” – Martin Luther

The gospel isn’t about us or our decision.

It’s completely about Jesus alone. He didn’t save us because of how special and wonderful we are. He saved us despite everything about us.

We trust in Christ and Christ alone, and nothing else. We can’t trust in ourselves, our works, our decision, outward ceremonies, or anything else but Him.

We simply look to Jesus, the author, and finisher of our faith. He saved us alone.

He alone saved us because he wanted to. God could have just as easily not not sent his Son. He decided to because he decided to.

We had no reason to be saved. But God saved us.

We hated God. But he loved us to the point of death.

We rejected Him. But he chose us.

We can rest in Christ. He has redeemed us from our slavery. Our salvation is complete and finished. Jesus paid it all.  And nothing can separate us from him. (Romans 8:38-39).

As we go through life, we know that we have Jesus on our side – who loves us, guides us, and will ultimately bring us home.

Jesus died for you. The author of life itself was murdered for you. And your salvation is found in Him alone.