Archives For Jonathan’s Thoughts

Warning: some strong language.

Louis C. K. is back with another funny and profound look at modern life. This time he’s talking about the dangers of smartphones and why he won’t be giving them to his children.

After explaining how the lack of human contact when communicating causes all sorts of problems in the development of a child, Louis goes on to talk about how now we’re always connected we never have to feel sad, and concludes that this is a dangerous position to be in.

It was Meg Jay who told told us that ‘distraction is the 21st century opiate of the masses’ and Louis picks up on this idea well.

With all this distraction so readily available it is becoming harder and harder to be present and ‘in the moment’, something Russ Ramsey talks about here.

Have you noticed how the increasing presence of digital technology in our lives has become a hindrance to our relationships? What do you think we should do about it?

Nothing in my life and faith has been more confusing and spiritually hazardous than my pursuit of marriage. From far too young, I longed for the affection, safety, and intimacy I anticipated with a wife.

Sadly, my immature and unhealthy desires predictably did much more harm than good. I started dating too early. I stayed in relationships too long. I experimented too much with our hearts and allowed things to go too far. I said, “I love you,” too soon. And now my singleness is a regular reminder that I messed up, missed opportunities, or did it wrong.

Me too. If I could say this as well as Marshall Segal did, I would.

“You only believe in God because you want someone to be there. You want your life to have meaning and purpose, you want the comfort of knowing someone is in control of it all. In short, your faith is simply a psychological crutch.”

Have you come across some form of this argument? This common objection against faith in God seeks to argue that many people only believe because they want to believe. That is, they do not believe on grounds of good reason. Belief in God, the argument goes, typically occurs as a result of experiencing pain, or worry, or heartache – something negative – to which the person responds by choosing to believe in God to make things better.

This person is described as projecting a view of God, in much the same way, perhaps, that a child believes that good fairies are protecting them whilst they sleep from all the nasty goblins and things under the bed. It is a belief that one believes to be true in order to feel better.

The God Argument by A. C. Grayling

The God Argument by A. C. Grayling

I was at a recent talk in Oxford listening to A. C. Grayling, the celebrated philosopher and one of the so-called New Atheists, whose recent book The God Argument seeks to counter faith in religion was an optimistic view of humanism.

One of the more heavily pushed arguments from Grayling that evening was this one of ‘wish fulfilment’. Grayling actually likened the argument for the existence of God as akin to an argument for fairies at the end of the garden (a topic Sarah Abbey deals with well here).

What Does This Argument Really Prove?

Grayling was offering this argument in support of the idea that there is no God. But wait just a minute. What is the argument actually saying? It may be laid out like this:

  • Many people believe in God for psychological reasons
  • These psychological reasons aren’t reasonable
  • Without good reasons for God it’s unreasonable to say that God exists
  • Therefore God doesn’t exist

Read the whole article on the Demolition Squad blog

In our amazing era of digital immediacy, I can tell the world where I am and what I’m doing while I’m doing it. I can present myself as a busy man living a rich and full life. I can take pictures of my meals, log my locations, snap photos of the people I’m with, and weigh in on what’s happening around the globe 140 characters at a time.

But none of these things mean I’ve been paying attention.The degree to which we are able to be present in the moment, psychologists say, is one of the chief indicators of mental health and security in our personal identity. I can buy that. And I would submit that this takes a lot of courage.

Some good thoughts from Russ Ramsey.

Read the whole article on the Latimer Minster website.
Read the whole article on the Latimer Minster website.

Psalm 32 (vv. 1-6)

1. Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. 2. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit.3. When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. 4. For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.5. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin. 6. Therefore let all the faithful pray to you while you may be found; surely the rising of the mighty waters will not reach them.

Words have meaning and words have power. One of the great themes of the Psalms is the potency of the tongue. With the words from our mouths we can praise God or curse others. We can speak truth or we can spray poison.

Some times our tongues can get the better of us and before our brain has fully engaged, some half-baked sentence has left our lips and thrust itself upon the world.

And there are equally some things that are rather less forthcoming. “I love you” or “I’m sorry” typically don’t come as quickly or as frequently as they ought to. Because of pride, or fear, or stubbornness – basically sinfulness – we don’t say what we should say and furthermore what weknow we should say.

Read the whole article on the Latimer Minster website.

Read the full article on the Demolition Squad blog.
Read the full article on the Demolition Squad blog.

There was something very satisfactory about watching the Lions blow away the Barbarians in Hong Kong this afternoon. It was an encouraging start to the forthcoming tour of Australia and I think it has provoked a few headaches both for the Lions selectors as well as Aussie defence coaches.

The victory has settled the nerves and has ensured that we got off on the right foot. Serving up relief, optimism, and belief – but perhaps above all just a great feeling that we’ve won.

And men do love to win. And we love to want to win. We get inspired by great speeches – from the pages of history to the writers of Hollywood. Think of “We shall never surrender” or “Inch by inch.” These great pieces of oratorical genius get the blood flowing and focus our attention.

Read the full article on the Demolition Squad blog.

Walking with the Psalms

Psalm 28

1. To you, Lord, I call; you are my Rock, do not turn a deaf ear to me. For if you remain silent, I will be like those who go down to the pit. 2. Hear my cry for mercy as I call to you for help, as I lift up my hands toward your Most Holy Place.  3. Do not drag me away with the wicked, with those who do evil, who speak cordially with their neighbors but harbor malice in their hearts. 4. Repay them for their deeds and for their evil work; repay them for what their hands have done and bring back on them what they deserve. 5. Because they have no regard for the deeds of the Lord and what his hands have done, he will tear them down and never build them up again.

6. Praise be to the Lord, for he has heard my cry for mercy. 7. The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him. 8. The Lord is the strength of his people, a fortress of salvation for his anointed one.

I was staying with my parents for the recent bank holiday weekend. They live in the same house I grew up in during my secondary school days. Memories live in that house too and speak loudly when I visit.

Looking back I remember my teenage years. I particularly remember my thought life. “Who am I?” “What’s the point of life anyway?” were just a couple of the questions I would think on then. I remember that I strongly felt that I didn’t want to be a mere statistic in this world, swept away in the tide of soon-to-be-forgotten faces that in the end amounted to nothing very much. I wanted to matter. I wanted my life to matter. I wanted to stand out.

Yeah, teenage years can be somewhat angsty.

David was concerned with being swept away in the crowd too. Hear his cry for recognition in the first three verses. He wanted to stand out, to be recognised. After all, as David muses in verses four and five, he should stand out from the rest. They, the ones David’s talking of, are “wicked” and “do evil”. I wonder if verse 6 was more of a mutter than a bold declaration, a sort of sigh, “Because they have no regard for the deeds of the Lord” (emphasis mine).

It’s classic “us and them” language. “I’m not like that.” “I’m better.” “They are terrible.” David is seeking for recognition and ultimately his righteousness because he’s not them.

If our faith stopped at that point we would be left with just another religion based on man’s best attempts to do well and please his God as best he can

But the story doesn’t end there and instead David paints of a foreshadow of the glorious measure of grace to come which sets faith in Jesus apart from all other religious systems of the world.

“The Lord is my strength and my shield” (v.7) It is God himself who is “a fortress of salvation”. It’s not our good works; it’s not how different we look to those who practice evil in this world. It’s only by God’s strength that we can be made right.

Additionally, it’s only by God’s shield that we can defend our righteousness. We are made righteous by God’s intervening act of Jesus’ crucifixion on the cross. It’s not what we do but what He’s done. We don’t labour to defend our righteousness but rest under His shield. That is more than enough to cause our hearts to “leap with joy”.

This is part of a daily series on latimerminster.org

Walking with the Psalms

Sojourners In Our Own Land

1. The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; 2. for he founded it on the seas and established it on the waters.

Have you ever felt like you just don’t fit in to a place? As children of God our true home is not in this world. But just because our residency is now elsewhere does not mean that we don’t belong where we are right now. Our Father – who has set our eternal destiny – still owns this world. Everything belongs to Him and He retains command and authority over all things and all people. We may be fighting a battle, but we’re fighting on home soil.

Take heart that God is in control and over all. As Abraham Kuyper said:

There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not cry, “Mine!”

Holiness: The whole of our being

3. Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? 4. The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god.5. They will receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from God their Savior. 6. Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, God of Jacob.

Who is the holiest person that you know? Think about it for a moment. Now how did you come to that conclusion? What factors did you base your decision on? The Psalmist tells us of three areas that together must be pure and they are all found in verse 4 …

Read the whole article on theminster.org

As part of our daily devotional series at Latimer Minster we’re exploring a ‘Hymn of the Week’. This week I had the opportunity to reflect on one of my favourite hymns, The Advocate (Before The Throne of God Above) by Charitie Lees Smith.

I love declarative hymns. Hymns that sing of the wonderful attributes of God, which I can enthusiastically endorse in chorus with my brothers and sisters. They appeal to my soul because they take my eyes from where they’re all so easily stuck, me, and lift them towards Heaven. In the tired hustle and bustle of life which sounds like “me, me, me, me, me, me, meee …” it is a stream of ice-cold Evian in the desert to sing: “He.”

This Hymn is somewhat of an exception to my personal rule of taste. But it is one of my utmost favourites.

Read the hymn and entire reflection on the Latimer Minster website.

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This post is a Demolition Squad post for CVM. Read the whole article here.

We are a confusing country to many looking on from the outside. Our football pitches are measured in yards and our rugby fields in metres. We take our beer in pints and our petrol in litres. (Yet we measure vehicle efficiency in miles per (Imperial) gallon – what?!). It rather threatens to make a mockery of the ‘united’ part of the UK, doesn’t it?

Yes, it’s confusing all right.

Equally, within the church in Britain there is confusion in how we should go about evangelism.

I Don’t Want An Argument

“You can’t argue someone into the Kingdom of God,” says Jim at pastorate to Bill, arguing that argument is not a valid method by which to bring someone to believe.

Bill is stumped by this. He has been at his local with his mates a couple of times in the last few months and on occasion the topic of conversation had turned to his faith. His friends’ curiosity, thinly veiled behind their cheap mockery, has led them to question Bill about why he’s a Christian.

Bill at his local

Bill has gone home from these times at the pub thinking about what he can say. “Why did I become a Christian?” he asks himself, hoping to uncover some little gem of brilliance he’s temporarily forgotten with which to respond to his mates.

“If only I could find that one thing, the knockout punch, the explosive-statement. I’d throw out the pin, toss my hand grenade-of-a-thought into the middle of the group, and just walk away.”

A slight, wry smile crosses Bill’s face as he visualises the feeling he’d get from this. But the trouble is, Bill is stuck. He can’t find that grenade.

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