Go Away From Me

Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.

Go away from me, for I am selfish and self-seeking
Self-admiring and self-satisfied,
Self-concerned and self-obsessed.

Go away from me, for I use others for me own comfort
The cheap labour of those in other countries
The  desperation of the poor which drives them to servitude.

Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.

Go away from me, for I am so drawn to other things
Shining bau-bauls and loud, sweetly singing toys.
Objects which neither look nor see, neither know nor feel.

Go away from me, for I prefer the creature to the creator
I will praise a man’s work, but I will forget the man.
I will joyfully give thanks for your great gifts,
but I will not remember you in the time of temptation

Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.

Go away from me, for I am full of doubt
And fear fills my heart each day
And darkness each night.

Go away from me, for I am given over to wickedness
And all my thoughts are of harm to others
And all my actions say that I do not fear God

Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.

And I have forgotten you
Bending my knee to all the deities of the day
And presumed upon your blessing
Assured myself that it would cost me nothing
And  despised those on whom my life depends.

I am a killer and adulterer
A thief and  liar,
And I want always what is not mine.

So, Lord, please depart from me.
I cannot bear your light
I cannot stand your presence
Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.

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  1. Be near me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.

    Be near me, for I am selfish and self-seeking
    Self-admiring and self-satisfied,
    Self-concerned and self-obsessed.

    Be near me, for I use others for me own comfort
    The cheap labour of those in other countries
    The desperation of the poor which drives them to servitude.

    Be near me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.

    Be near me, for I am so drawn to other things
    Shining bau-bauls and loud, sweetly singing toys.
    Objects which neither look nor see, neither know nor feel.

    Be near me, for I prefer the creature to the creator
    I will praise a man’s work, but I will forget the man.
    I will joyfully give thanks for your great gifts,
    but I will not remember you in the time of temptation

    Be near me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.

    Be near me, for I am full of doubt
    And fear fills my heart each day
    And darkness each night.

    Be near me, for I am given over to wickedness
    And all my thoughts are of harm to others
    And all my actions say that I do not fear God

    Be near me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.

    I have forgotten you
    Bending my knee to all the deities of the day
    And presumed upon your blessing
    Assured myself that it would cost me nothing
    And despised those on whom my life depends.

    I am a killer and adulterer
    A thief and liar,
    And I want always what is not mine.

    So, Lord, please guide me,
    Though I cannot bear your light
    I cannot stand your presence
    Be near me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.

    Be near me, that I may begin to change and to follow your will.

    Amen

    I have taken some liberties with your writing, which makes an excellent point. I wished to raise the other side of the same coin to the light.

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  2. Presumably Ian you don’t mean this? Can’t quite get your drift. Think the Lord knows man is by nature sinful – that’s why he died on the cross for us – and your sins are taken away – why on earth would you ask the Lord to leave you. Are you asking for the Holy Spirit to withdraw from you – are you choosing to no longer be a Christian? Don’t understand why you are writing this?

    Surely if you feel this way the one thing you would want is a closer relationship with God – not a more distanced one?

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    • Id had this poem in my mind for a while and just really wanted to write it. Post-Christmas seems like a good time because it is now we celebrate his coming.

      It’s actually a reflection on what Peter said when he experienced the miracle of the catch.

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      • Love your counter poem Jonathan.

        Ian I can’t yet understand if this is how you really think? I believe the Word tells me that I can choose to speak life or death with my words – it feels to me that your words aren’t life? I wonder what is behind you feeling the need to write like this?

        Can you explain what you actually believe. Do you actually believe it is right to ask God to leave you?

        Just trying to get to the bottom of your thinking and why you think these words are appropriate for you to write?

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      • Is this how I feel? Sometimes, sure.

        I was trying to engage with Peter’s exclamation in Luke 5:8, when he meets Jesus and begs him to go away. Perhaps a reader might also hear Isaiah, who cries out “woe is me” for he had seen the living God.

        As I was finishing it, the thought briefly occurred that I should resolve the tension in some way, but I chose not to for the simple reason that I don’t want to be a predictable, Christian writer, always saying how the sun is always going to shine and the flowers will come out and everything will be OK.

        For the disciples at the end of Good Friday, there was no resurrection and there was no hope. I think Christian writers all too easily skim over this despair in order to reach the comfort of Easter.

        Or might skim over the sinfulness of humanity to speak of how God accepts all who turn to him. For this piece, I merely chose to do away with what I see to be a tired writing convention.

        I write for those who are over-familiar with the Gospel, who have heard it so many times it has lost it’s power. I wanted to capture that single moment of despair when Jesus is before us, that moment when we – like Peter – beg him to leave us.

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      • Nope – still not hearing what YOU think Ian? I didn’t ask about literary style or predictable Christian writers or a tired writing convention or engaging in the experience of some other person (especially a pre-conversion experience like Peter’s).

        I quite simply asked what YOU think – where are YOU in this Ian – do YOU really want to ask the Lord to leave you? Do you really entertain thoughts of living an existence where you have asked the Lord to leave you? Why on earth would you ask the Lord to leave and desert you?

        And following on from that would you in your possible future role as a pastor or church leader advocate that people used this cry of Peter and asked the Lord to desert them too?

        And by the way I can’t imagine anyone who is truly in love with the Word of God EVER finding that the gospel has lost its power. My personal experience is quite the opposite. The more I engage and read the Word of God the more exciting and powerful it becomes – Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.

        And how sad that you see the truth of the Word of God (that everything WILL be alright) as not an attribute to be valued in a Christian Writer. What’s the point of Christians writing if not about Grace and Hope and Love and Faith.

        For the Disciples on Good Friday – had they had listened to the words of Jesus (John 14, 15,16) would have believed that there was indeed hope – they were quite clearly told – Do Not Be Afraid – they chose not to believe – the only reason they didn’t have hope is because they chose not to believe. And Jesus says blessed are those who have not seen me but believe – so we too should always have eternal hope.

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  3. As I said above, Beverly, sure I sometimes feel the way. I think it’s part of the Christian walk. Is everything I write a true reflection of my own beliefs? No, of course not. My purpose is not strictly to just communicate what I think, but to have an effect on the reader. Hopefully, a stirring and changing effect.

    Ignoring the wholly inappropriate nature of your question – I hope you don’t speak to people in real life like this – I shall tell you that yes, of course there have been times when the going gets tough and the world looks easier. At such times, despair cries out “leave me, leave me”. At such times I am host tormented and comforted by God’s steadfast covenant, that he chose me and abides with me according to his promise, not according to my actions or feelings.

    As a pastoral leader I would hope to give people access to the Biblical language of spirituality, giving them a vocabulary with which they can communicate with God.

    “What’s the point of Christians writing if not about Grace and Hope and Love and Faith.”

    What was the point of Jeremiah’s despair? Or Ezekiel’s words of judgement? Writing, especially in the Christian tradition, is about a trying to make sense of our experiences of God. These experiences are many and varied.

    Doubt and unbelief are no greater sins than any other. My faith is confident that Christ has overcome all these things and won a great victory for his people.

    Yes, Jesus told his disciples of his death, yet their unbelief only showed itself to be caught up in the events of the Cross. Peter’s cowardly denial, Judas’ betrayal and all these other moments of weakness are bound together in the killing of Jesus Christ. This was the death which overwhelmed the grave. This is why I feel no shame in voicing doubt.

    I disagree that a constant optimism is the visible sign of faith. This is unsustainable, wearying even. I do not blame the disciples for their lack of faith. I celebrate that Jesus overcame such things even as these.

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  4. Ezekial, Jeremiah and the other old testament prophets were not Christians – they had not the same reason to be constantly optimistic – they did not have the second covenant promise in action for them – the spirit came and went he was not abiding for ever in them like he does in us.

    That you feel no shame in voicing doubt is something I can find anywhere in the writings of post resurrection new testament. Indeed voicing doubt is declared wrong and a lack of faith – James 1 – for example. We must not voice doubt – every word is life or death – voicing doubt brings death to situations. We have no reason and no right to voice doubt if we believe in what Christ did for us.Why would we need to voice doubt if Jesus has done it all? Why would we need to voice doubt if Grace is what the Word says it is.

    Paul and Peter and John’s writings are full of command and encouragement to be permanently optimistic in the face of all that life throws – in fact we are commanded to be joyful in every situation. We have no reason not to be joyful in every situation.

    The daily Christian walk is the daily transforming of our minds to see and understand what we have in our spirit rather than dwell on our flesh – that is our daily battle – between our ears – and we are commanded not to talk of despair and despondence but to talk of joy and hope and peace – we are commanded to talk about and dwell on the fruit of the spirit – the fruit that is inside us all the time because the spirit is inside us all the time.

    To let our fleshly emotions run our lives is against new covenant teaching and if only Christians would concentrate on the fruit of the spirit and not “how they feel” then Christians would be a far better witness for Christ.

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  5. Not been on this site for a bit Ian, quite a lot of new stuff.

    Sadly, still the standing on a chair shouty comments from some (well, one I think). I admire your patience in the face of persistent angst and finger pointing.

    Beverly seems to me to be a bit like someone looking at a beautiful cut diamond – but concentrating so much on one facet that she can’t see its a small part of a whole beautiful jewel.

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  6. Hi Mike thank you for your comment. Can I take it then you also have no problem with asking Almighty God, Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit, Saviour and Redeemer of the World – to go away and leave you alone – and to encourage others to do the same?
    Just checking?
    And please guys – just an answer to my question would be good – not some airy fairy literary style.

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    • What was Simon Peter doing when he said the same?

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      • Peter was talking before being born again – things are different post born again – never again in the new testament (Acts and his letters) does Peter repeat these words – because once born again he knows the value of having God always living on the inside of him in a permanent relationship.
        How we talk prior to being a born again new creation must surely be different to how we talk once we have the Holy Spirit living permanently in us?

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  7. I think what Ian is trying to portray is that he is not actually worthy to be in the presence of God; none of us are. This poem explores that feeling before acceptance of grace when we simply cannot accept that God would want to or could abide with us. When one commits more sin I think it is possible for this feeling to occur again, because whilst you got your head around forgiveness of ‘that’ sin, you cannot get your head around forgiveness for ‘this’ one.

    So, this leads one to ask their Saviour, Almighty God, Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of power and might, to leave because of that very holiness which causes us to worship.

    I hope I have not misunderstood you here Ian, if I have please correct me. This is my own understanding of your poem and one which I felt could be helpful for other commenters.

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    • Your interpretation of the poem is as good as any, but for what it’s worth I do hold that to be true. I would go further to say that sometimes a greater awareness of God’s holiness can cause such a reaction, not just further awareness of our own sin.

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    • Jonathan – new testament new covenant biblical support for your point of view that I can examine and learn from would be good? Nothing I can find speaks of this being appropriate thinking for new creations?

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      • It seems you naturally dispense with much of the Old Testament. Why not simply turn to God taking the Hebrews from Egypt, and not allowing them to come near the mountain for they would die because of his holiness? Awareness of the holiness of God is no less in the New Testament. You will know that I was quoting Revelation when writing Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of power and might. This establishes God’s continued holiness in the New Testament.

        I would suggest that Ian’s quote from Peter would also be a useful one.

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      • Of course I don’t dispense with much of the Old Testament – but I do do what the bible tells me to – which is to see it all in context – the book of Hebrews shows quite clearly how and what we should be taking and drawing from the Old Testament shadows and types of the new testament Covenant – as instructed by God’s Word I see all the Old Testament in the light of the New Testament Covenant – and therefore – there are appropriate ways of using the old testament today which were not available or relevant back in the Old Testament. All the Old Testament points to the new testament covenant.

        What about you Jonathan – can I ask you the same question I have asked Ian and Mike? Can I take it then you also have no problem with asking Almighty God, Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit, Saviour and Redeemer of the World – to go away and leave you alone – and to encourage others to do the same? Just checking?

        All you guys – a simple one word answer is requested
        either
        Yes ( I do think it appropriate as New Covenant Christians to ask the Lord to leave us -(even though if he were to agree to our prayer he would have to break his word never to leave us nor forsake us))
        or
        No – (I do not think it appropriate as New Covenant Christians to ask the Lord to leave us (because for him to answer our prayer he would need to break his word which he can’t do because he then wouldn’t be God).)

        Are any of you brave enough to answer the question?

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      • A fisherman called Simon was cleaning his nets after a night’s work. Fishermen on the lake worked at night, because then the fish came closer to the surface – fewer predators around.

        That day a renowned teacher was coming through the town, he stopped at the dock to speak, as this was where a great many people would be anyway, coming to buy the fish caught the night before and trade other things. In order to be heard, the famous man stepped onto Simon’s boat and asked him to push out.

        They sat in the boat together and the teacher spoke to the crowds. Simon listened, being the definition of a captive audience in that instance. The teacher finished and told Simon to put the nets out, again.

        It had been a fruitless night, and Simon said so. Still, he unwrapped the nets. Was he doing it so the teacher could save face? Because he respected the teacher? Difficult to say. He responds to the words of the teacher. He obeys.

        The catch was vast, so vast that Simon could hardly believe what he saw.

        At that moment, Simon saw the teacher and beheld him with terror. What kind of a man is this? A prophet, a miracle worker that would come to him?

        Begging him to leave him – begging the Holy One to depart from this sinful soul the Holy One speaks to Simon again.

        Do not be afraid, from now on you will catch people.

        That, for Simon, might have been the most remarkable thing to come out of the Holy One’s mouth all day.

        Based on Luke 5:1-11

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      • I’m trying to reply to finger pointing and provocation from Beverly but not sure it will come up correctly in the order of comments on here.

        Anyway, this comment is in reply to the ‘are any of you brave enough to answer the question’. A bit childish and naiive to write that I feel, therefore I am also being a bit childish, but those on here who know me will realise I do not back down from a challenge very often.

        So……
        yes, I am brave enough to answer the question. I think I have done braver things in my sleep tbh.

        My answer….. in one word?….see below; however I am offended that one word will make or break someones opinion of a Christian brother or sister. It is a childish standpoint, plain wrong, and especially on such a thoughtful and thoughtprovoking blog, downright rude.
        This attitude belittles people Beverly – thats not a fruit of the Spirit. You need to take a good look at yourself (I mean more than a one word look) and how you commune with your brothers and sisters in the faith.

        This is, I believe, a site of thoughtfulness, an exploration of Christian ethics, angst and love. Whilst I totally agree with Beverly that Jesus is THE answer, I don’t agree that everything written about on here can only have Jesus as the single answer.
        From my youthwork, I have encountered growing up children who can only answer a spiritual question with ‘Jesus’ because that was always the right answer as a 6 year old in Sunday School. Even if the spiritual question was, for example, “why do people get sick?”. (I am sure Jesus is interested in sick people but actually the answer is rather bigger than one word.)

        So Beverly, get off the spiritual milk and try some spiritual solid food. Thats scriptural you know!

        My one word answer to the question posed? Yes

        If we can find a way to be thoughtful and supportive of one another, I will expand. I am doubtful its going to happen tho, sadly.

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  8. A beautiful and lovely piece of writing on a story from the Gospel leading to helpful reflection – thank you Ian.

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  9. Mike: finger pointing and provocation – Galations 4 v 16 – Am I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth? Sad you interpret my attempt to present the Word of God as finger pointing and provocation.

    one word will make or break someones opinion of a Christian brother or sister – not at all – this isn’t about my opinion – they don’t count – this is about whether or not God’s word is Truth or not – God’s Word upholds everything – if we don’t trust God’s word then what have we to trust. . Who being the brightness of [his] glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; Hebrews 1 v 3

    such a thoughtful and thoughtprovoking blog – but is it accurately presenting the Word of God in order to disciple people – if not then as a professing Christian blog it is setting out to mislead people and we as Christians are told to stand against that type of thing. If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained. 1 Timothy 4 v 6

    I don’t agree that everything written about on here can only have Jesus as the single answer. Jesus saith unto him I am the way THE TRUTH and THE LIFE – no man cometh unto the Father but by me. John 14 v 6 Jesus IS the single answer to everything that pertains to Truth Life and the Way to God. There IS NO OTHER answer.

    Even if the spiritual question was, for example, “why do people get sick?”. (I am sure Jesus is interested in sick people but actually the answer is rather bigger than one word.) Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree that we being dead to sins should live unto righteousness BY WHOSE SRIPES YE WERE HEALED 1 Peter 2 v 24 Jesus is SO interested in sick people that he has already made provision for their healing – so the answer really isn’t bigger than one word.

    So Beverly, get off the spiritual milk and try some spiritual solid food. And I brethren could not speak unto you as unto spiritual but as unto carnal even as unto babes in Christ 1 Corinthians 3 v 1 – Sadly it has proved impossible to engage with people on this blog with spiritual solid food – I have tried it many times but always the discussion is steered away from God’s Word. No-one ever seems interested in pursuing what the actual Word of God says in any situation.
    Yes – looking forward to your explanation of yes – presumably you can explain how you explain away my comments following “yes” and how these verses (amongst many others) fit into your explanation: James 1 v 6, 7, Hebrews 13 v 5, Numbers 23 v 9, Mark 7 v 13, John 17 v 17,

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  10. I will say yes.

    As I write I haven’t looked up those passages Beverly. I am going to turn to them one by one in the RSV. If I can think of a response I shall put it. If not, I shall leave it.

    James 1:6 To be honest, I do not see the relevance of this in this debate. The sentiment we are discussing, ‘Go away from me,’ is not a doubtful statement. It is, rather, the opposite. It is through revelation that one can say ‘Go away from me’ as beautifully demonstrated in Ian’s telling of the story. Peter’s realisation of truth causes him to ask Christ to leave him – at that moment.

    Hebrews 13:5 Beverly has already referred to the importance of context when discerning scripture. This verse, and it is just one verse amongst thousands, refers to money. This verse states that God will see you through financially. This might be part of Beverly’s point, however, because it highlights God not leaving. Here I will draw an analogy.

    There is an argument in the household, heated and bitter. The 7 year old son screams at his Father. He is furious and begins to hit his father. As he does so his father bends down and wraps his arms around him. ‘Get off me! Get off me!’ yells the son. ‘I will not leave you,’ the father calmly replies. ‘Get off me! Go away!’ The son is even more angry that his outburst has been shamed by his father’s love. He does not want to accept his father’s love – at that moment.

    For me, although God might not leave you, that does not prevent you from asking him to leave in a fit of shame or anger.

    Numbers 23:9 I’m afraid I completely fail to see the relevance of this verse. I think Beverly might be thinking it speaks of the visibility of God. I think it speaks of the visibility of the nation of Israel. I may be wrong. But as I cannot see the point in this verse in this discussion we will move on.

    Mark 7:13 I think Beverly is suggesting that generally some of us who comment on this blog make the word of God void. It is my opinion that we try to interpret it as best we can. Jesus goes on in this passage to speak of nothing outside a man defiling him, but rather what is inside. This seems to directly contradict his previous statement about not ignoring the word of God, which in the Old Testament, which Jesus was referring to, clearly states there are certain foods which make a person unclean. I think that, as I’m sure most Christians reading this will agree, Jesus is not doing away with the law, but is rather fulfilling its actual purpose through his words and actions. Those of us who may seem to be ignoring the word of God might rather be seeking to find its purpose, rather than following its direction without thought. It seems to me that this is what Jesus was doing in this context, and I think it is right we should do the same.

    John 17:17 Sanctification in the truth of God’s word. I myself would read the ‘word’ in this context as in John 1, where the Word refers to Christ. I have no idea if logos is the greek word used here, but from an English translation that is how I read it. This would mean sanctification through the living Christ Jesus who abides in me now, rather than the canon of scripture which teaches me a bit about this Christ but was put together 1600 years ago.

    I hope that clears up my thinking. As you can see, my answer is yes, for a moment or brief period of time I think I would encourage people to consider asking God to leave them in humility and wonder. I do not suggest this means God actually does leave.

    Mike J – Whilst you make an interesting point about how to speak to brothers and sisters in Christ it seems you fall into the trap yourself. I think you were aware of it, which perhaps makes it even more foolish. Let us please bless one another through seeking truth together, rather than cause strife amonst ourselves though highlighting our differences.

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    • OK, well I shall start by apologising for being foolish. I am sorry for letting frustration at comments on here colour my own comments. Truthfully, I had hoped to engage a little more ‘person to person’ on here in the face of what I see as some rather distant and impersonal ‘preachy’ comments.

      However, that hope seems to be nullified by the response to my offence at one word making or breaking an opinion: opinion does not count.

      I reserve my right to hold opinion: I am shaped in this by God at work in the World, by God answering prayer, and, of course, by Scripture. I have even modified or changed opinion at times on church/God/spiritual issues over my 30 odd years in the Christian walk. I think God is both interested in, and at work on, my opinions – even if to Beverly and maybe others they are irrelevant.

      My opinion of Beverly’s comments is based on an overall picture as well as each of her many comments. I have sometimes agreed but often disagreed with these comments. I would be pleased to be able to seek truth together, and accept your comment Jonathan.

      So, a couple of responses to things I’m not sure are quite right Beverly. First, if someone asked the question ‘why do people get sick’, I think answering with one word, Jesus, you would give the wrong idea to a great many people. I feel that this subject requires care, sensitivity and getting alongside the sick – in the ethos of ‘a bruised reed I will not break’. I have sat with cancer sufferers many times and it is not easy. One word is not enough, even though I agree one word is the root answer to the Christian message on this, and indeed every subject.

      Second, I wonder why scripture gives us reasonable detail on Paul’s speech to the Athenians? I’m guessing Beverly’s approach to be: he should have gone in from word one on Jesus. He didn’t have the benefit of the New Testament as it was unwritten, and I’m thinking he probably didn’t have OT scrolls to hand either. So he spoke in the fashion of those around him, and led them to see Jesus was ‘worth a look’. I wonder if this approach is still valid today – it is scriptural in the sense that its written in scripture.

      I pray we will all subscribe to seeking truth together

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      • Well said. Good questions raised.

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      • Mike – I am staggered at your suggestion that God is interested in “our opinions” – I would have thought the comment at the end of Job “where were you when I …….” was enough for us to see that God is interested in our love, interested in our devotion, interested in our faithful obedience, interested in our worship but not interested in our opinions!!

        In regard to cancer sufferers – I too have sat and held the hands of (amongst others) my mother, two mothers in law and a father in law as they were all dying of cancer so I seek not to triviualise the pain and suffering. However I also look at how Jesus dealt with sickness and how his disciples dealt with sickness and not once do I find that any of them left anyone sick and just sat at the bedside and comforted them as they were dying? As an absolute Jesus healed ALL – God is called our Healer not Our Sometimes Healer – and we are told that Believers SHALL lay hands on the sick and they SHALL recover – Mark 16 v 18 – so either the Bible is lying – which it doesn’t – or we as Christians aren’t “doing” it properly. So yes the answer IS Jesus. Jesus does not desire wish or command anyone to die of cancer – that people are still dying of cancer is a fact – but that is because us Christians aren’t actually believing and carrying out Mark 16 v 18 (and I include myself in this although I am practicing more and seeing more results).

        Again Mike I think the difference is I am drawing from what God says in the Word rather than my experience because I believe I can trust God and His Word more than I can my experience – my experience has been wrong in the past and I am sure you can think of instances when you were wrong in how you judged an experience.

        When you say Paul didn’t have “the benefit” of the New Testament. He did indeed have this benefit – the words of Paul are indeed the very words of Jesus – his revelation during his years alone with God are the further revelations of Jesus not some ponderings of a clever man. Paul tells us that clearly in so many ways. He isn’t delivering his thoughts he is delivering the message he received directly from God through Jesus. So again the answer is Yes Jesus is the only answer because that is the only answer that Paul gave us.

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      • well we have quite a few comments here, I suspect this comment will not fit into the order very well – I am replying to Beverly on her comments to me on 7th Jan. I note that a few others have suggested God is indeed interested in us and our opinions – in the same way a caring Father is interested in his child’s feelings and opinions.

        Anyway, I’m quite intrigued by some aspects of Beverly’s reply and the scripture used……

        I think you are using Old Testament on its own to disagree with my view on God being interested in a person’s opinions? You cite a snippet of Job and then move on. So am I to understand that a single verse of OT is sufficient to illustrate what the scriptures say on a matter? If so, is this a unique example, or can one in general take a verse of OT and illustrate a point?

        You then move on to cancer (I only chose this as a specific example to illustrate, originally I was raising the issues around the question ‘why do people get sick’) and quote Mark 16:18. You take from this verse ‘they will recover’ as a promise – a 100% promise if we believe enough.
        I shall not comment on the self-doubt you admit to on this subject beyond pointing out that I think I have understood what you said and might mention it in future if Ian’s blog raises the subject of self doubt…..

        Well now, you chose to then say ‘either the Bible is lying or we are not doing it right when people don’t recover’ mmmm……how do you connect this with Paul’s thorn in the flesh? Was Paul not doing it right? 3 times not doing it right? I thought Paul was reconciled to God not answering his prayers on this subject?

        The final biblical point I raised is Paul’s speech to the Athenians in Acts 17. His initial approach is very different to what seems to be his normal approach in a synagogue in the surrounding chapters of Acts. We are given a lot of detail of his speech in Acts 17:22-31, compared to his speeches week by week in the synagogues. Why? I believe scripture is there for a reason, to teach and instruct. I tried to point out that Paul did not go in with chapter and verse quotes – he could not have done this with the NT anyway as it was not written down, far less divided into chapter and verse at that time. He appears not to quote OT chapter and verse either – instead he draws on the truths of the OT and the emerging NT in a local style. A style which engaged the Athenians. I like this, it encourages me to approach the world around me with God’s story in their style. Of course, Paul would have got down to OT scripture and the revelation of Jesus in his own life with the enquirers and new believers referred to in v32-34. So I think this shows that one word, one verse, one style, one hammering out of Bible references is not the way Paul did things every time.
        In the same way, as others have commented, the Bible is not only to be used as an ‘instruction book’ single verse by single verse (we have had this debate on this site before) but it is also to be considered, prayed over and used with passages combining to give instruction. It is to be understood over a lifetime of following, with new things each day – as well as to be used for a quick word, a principle or law, or a rebuke. As you say of Paul, Beverly, delivering the message he received from God – in our own small and humble ways, its just the same.

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      • Hi Mike – quickly I would reply – I it is wrong to take one odd verse (out of context) Whenever I try to point out a biblc truth I can always think of many many verses – just don’t write them all down. I mentioned the Job one purely because it was the first to come to mind – there are many others – willing to provide if you are interested.

        Paul’s thorn in the flesh was not a physical ailment – it was a messenger from satan – it was a satanic attack (because of his telling of the Word). In chapter 12 he talks of his infirmities – in 11 he has already clarified that by infirmities he means persecutions not personal illness.

        My self doubt surely does not alter the truth of the word of God – I would always trust the Word of God against my self doubt – the fact that I am not fully exercising my faith it my fault not God’s.

        Intrigued by your interpretation of Paul’s talk in Acts 17 – from what I can see – verses 24 to 31 are all direct references to OT biblical text (the only reason he didn’t actually mention chapter and verse is because they wouldn’t be familier. I would always quote a verse to a non Christian but wouldn’t say John 3 16 but I am still quoting that verse? – and of course we have the famous verse in the very same chapter that everything we hear should be checked against scripture – so don’t see that anything Paul says (beyond starting the conversation with a local site and mentioned one verse from a known poem – he stuck to the Gospel of God – that’s all I am trying to do and encourage others to do.

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    • Thank you Jonathan for your thoughtful and helpful reply – at last I feel that it is possible to have a decent discussion about the actual points raised in Ian’s blog – I would reply to your comments on my comments(!) as follows: (When I am writing “you” I don’t mean it to come across as accusatory – merely more natural than writing “when one” .

      James 1:6 when you are asking God to leave you – is that not a prayer – isn’t prayer just a posh way of saying we are having a conversation with God? When I’m talking to God I don’t say – OK now I’m praying God so take notice? When you make this statement – are you expecting God to answer this prayer with yes ok I’ll leave you – hopefully not. – then you are asking in doubt – what’s the point of asking a prayer in doubt – you aren’t going to receive it – pointless waste of words to God? I totally agree that it may have been appropriate for Peter to ask God to leave him at that point – because that was a genuine request which Jesus could choose to act upon or not. God wasn’t yet dwelling on the inside of Peter. We never find Peter saying this same thing post Pentecost. We as Christians have God living on the inside of us – and to make light of that? (for this is what came across to me in Ian’s writing) but asking God to leave just because we feel down – seems so disrespectful of all God has done for us through grace. It’s like chucking it back in his face just because of our current mood swing. It appears to be thinking of ourselves rather than God and as Christians surely we should always be putting God at the forefront? And if we find ourselves not doing this – then we should instantly correctly this when we spot it rather than allowing ourselves and encouraging others to dwell on it?

      Hebrews 13:5 I totally concur and agree that context is important. However when God says he will never leave us – this doesn’t need to be taken in context – the word of God is the word of God regardless of the context in which it is written. This promise of God is backed up elsewhere and by Jesus himself John 14 v 16 so I consider it entirely relevant – why would anyone ask God to leave them when he has spoken his word that he won’t and he can’t break his word.

      I note your analogy but again it isn’t really an analogy because as Christians we are specifically told that we are to be dead to selves – therefore you can’t use this as an argument – because you are expressly disobeying God’s word by acting the part of the 7 year old. The world’s answer to problems in self is to talk about it – God’s answer is to say “die”. So we are entirely wrong to even think about asking him to leave in a fit of shame or anger – and if we know it is wrong – why would we even want to express it?
      Numbers 23:9 – I apologise – this should have been Numbers 23 v 19 – typo. The correct verse fits in with the theme that God can’t lie (ie say one thing and do something else) and God can’t break his word – so what’s the point of asking him to leave if he can’t Pointless.

      Mark 7:13 II Do you think not think it possible that by “interpreting” rather than just taking His Word as written and “doing” it – the danger becomes great that Christians act according to their humanly interpreted doctrines rather than the Word itself? (see verse 9).

      There are tough passages of the bible which can seem difficult at first to understand – but I don’t read in God’s word that human interpretation is the way forward – just relying on the Holy Spirit to reveal it. And the way to know if you have correctly heard the Holy Spirit is to Do it and see if it works!!

      The passages I tend to mention in this blog all seem to have a fairly straight forward and relevant message – God doesn’t lie – God won’t break his word –etc. I am merely trying to say what is the point of us expressing opinions on any Christian blog that aren’t actually in accord with God’s straightforward instructions based on his word?

      Your comments about the old testament food laws I don’t see as relevant – the bible is its own commentary and the bible is progressive as God progressively revealed his plan – so of course Jesus was pointing out that it isn’t the “actual eating or not eating of food” that was the point but the reason behind it. It was perfectly appropriate for the OT Hebrews follow the direction without “thought” and now it is totally appropriate for NT Christians to follow God’s new covenant “rules” (although I hesitate to call them rules) without thought for exactly the same reason as Jesus gave – its about our heart attitude to what we do that makes what we do right – not the outward actions. I see no conflict. If God says “do this” he still means “do this” – if Paul says “rejoice on all occasions” how can we “misinterpret” this direct instruction? It doesn’t need interpreting – just obeying – Paul is promising us that the result of obeying God’s Word will be benefit and blessing – so instead of saying – Paul doesn’t mean this because we can’t do it when we feel down – perhaps we should be saying – exactly when we feel down – we need to conquer our flesh (as instructed by Paul) and on these very occasions is when we particularly need to practice the instruction to “rejoice on all occasions” I find my life far more fulfilled far more peaceful and far more satisfactory and I find myself far more in touch with and in love with God when I just practice what I am told to do in the NT rather than “interpret” and thereby allowing me to come up with excuses as to why I shouldn’t be doing that because I don’t feel like it at that point in time.

      John 17:17 Of course the Word refers to Christ – but in exactly the same way Christ is THE WORD so anytime we read in the “written word – logos” or hear in the spoken word – rema” regardless whether it comes out of the mouth of Jesus – or is written down and recorded as The Word of God – it is still Christ – because Christ always has been and always will be The Word. That’s how come God created the world “through him” because God “spoke – ie: used his Word (ie Jesus) to bring the world into being. So I would never seek to distinguish between “Jesus” and The Word –because they are obviously one and the same thing. Jesus never “explained” himself – he always said “it is written” – he relied on the “written Word” because he knew it was “Him” – so if it’s good enough for him it’s good enough for me. Your distinction of “the cannon of scripture” is a worrying one for me – because once we seek to separate the Word of God from The Word of God – we surely find ourselves in dangerous ground. You only know that Jesus said and is because of the written word you have in front of you. You can’t distinguish between the two and still hold on to the essence of The Truth.

      So I still contend that regardless of whether you, Ian or Mike “feel” like asking God to leave – given that it is a request that is not one you would like God to obey and indeed could he obey and still be God? Then are you living within the Christian livestyle we are instructed to live in by giving time and space to your feelings? I would suggest not. The question still remains – on what biblical grounds is it appropriate for any Christian to ask God to leave them?

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      • What’s the point of asking a prayer in doubt – you aren’t going to receive it – pointless waste of words to God?

        Can you ever waste words with God? Since we do not pray as we ought in any case, his Spirit intercedes on our behalf. Maybe this means that the words we pray do not necessarily equate to action God takes. I see no reason why it should be any other way. Someone might cry out for money, when what God is going to give them is provision. Or someone might want children, but they are given a new kind of family – through adoption or some other grace. A prayer of doubt is still a prayer acceptable to God. Why? Because it still features God as the subject. Even in declaring doubt to God, one still in that instance is relying upon a faith that God hears such a prayer and might even be moved by it.

        Surely, more than any fleeting miracle or word of knowledge or anything else, to know that we are heard matters more to our souls. Who have we in heaven but him?

        So we are entirely wrong to even think about asking him to leave in a fit of shame or anger – and if we know it is wrong – why would we even want to express it?

        I find a spirituality which insists upon the denial of our feelings and experiences to be rather flat. Considering that the Scriptures are filled with stories of people sharing their experiences and feeling the feelings appropriate to human beings. I’m reading Genesis as part of my Bible in a Year plan, and I’m onto the story of Abraham.

        He heard from the Lord numerous times and he declared that he would give Abraham a son by Sarah. His lack of faith and doubt caused him not only to have an illegitimate son, but to laugh in God’s face! I raise this example because it demonstrates to me God’s intention to carry out his purposes frankly despite Abraham’s shaky obedience.

        The world says ‘talk about it’ and the Word says ‘die’.

        I am deeply troubled by this.

        Firstly, I think it’s foolish to disregard the world. God affirmed it’s goodness at every stage, and especially when he made the human race. This foundational goodness tells me that I can trust that this creation and it’s products are not evil. They can be used for evil ends, certainly, but the essence of the creation is not evil. It is good.

        Therefore, human progress and understanding is grounded in goodness. God charged the human race to cultivate the earth, and that is our blessed and sacred task. Today, that task sometimes takes place in laboratories and with experiments, so we have medicines and can make better quality food more efficiently. And also, we have grown in our understanding of ourselves. The rise of counselling and associated means of care are an extension of a blessed task.

        Much contemporary theory in counselling has abandoned behaviour modification as a reliable means of affecting change in a person. Instead, those who practice counselling speak of a ‘healing relationship’, noticing that is it the quality of relationship between the counsellor and client that results in transformation.

        We might stop and think on this, and realise that there is nothing new under the sun. Jesus seemed to practice just this with his 12. And, indeed, this is how discipleship has always worked. It’s not about reading the Scriptures and doing them, so much as it is about being in the Church, the community where the Spirit brings about the transformation from glory to glory, or the renewing of our minds.

        But guess what? A great deal of our relational contact with one another is through dialogue and sharing experiences. Many of these experiences might be negative or damaging to us. We share them to find grace, and to find healing.

        Whoever conceals his sin does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy (Pro 28:13).

        I notice that you seem to want to drive a sharp wedge between human thought and Christian practice. Firstly, that we can’t do things ‘the world’s way’, and then that we shouldn’t rely on the interpretations of others when reading the Bible.

        And then you validate such an understanding of the interoperation of scripture by saying that if it ‘works’ then it must be right.

        I present in response to this: The Jehovah’s Witnesses. They read scripture and tried their best to do what it said, and their religion is a long way away from what we understand as the tradition handed down from the Apostles. There are a great many groups in existence today all claiming to be acting in obedience to the will of God. Perhaps in one understanding of God’s will, they necessarily ARE. But in the sense you meant, there is such a diversity of contradictory practices that is becomes impossible to maintain such an understanding. Only if we decide that only our experience of Christianity is normative can we even begin to discount others. But that’s pretty proud, isn’t it?

        This is why I try to listen to the voice of tradition, those who have gone before me and have interpreted the same Scriptures in their own ages and contexts. I also try to read scripture in the context of my faith community, so others cam help me understand. I do not jettison my reason, with which I am able to comprehend things like plots and genres and characters and the difference between dialogue and prose and poetry and proverbs. By these means, scripture begins to make sense of itself (as much as a self-contained story can make sense) and then begins to make sense of MY story.

        This, I think, might be the greatest difference between the way you and I read the Scriptures: I want the narrative to impact my story, and the story of others. You seem to view it as a collection of facts about God from which to draw strength and faith for the Christian walk.

        I therefore feel great freedom in how I discuss my experience and the Scriptures, because I believe in that, I am able to meet with God. He is a good an generous Father, and the great joy of Scripture is the endless mystery it presents to me, namely Christ.

        In my understanding, it would be offensive to God as my maker and indeed to the ancient saints who wrote the scriptures for me to just ‘obey’ without thinking. There is far more to scripture than commands to obey. And in fact if thats how we view Scripture, we reduce it down to an IKEA instruction manuel: Able to be accomplished by our own works, albeit with great difficulty.

        Then are you living within the Christian livestyle we are instructed to live in by giving time and space to your feelings? I would suggest not.

        I read Psalm 6 the other day. I was very struck by it. You should read it. It’s FULL of feeling.

        on what biblical grounds is it appropriate for any Christian to ask God to leave them?

        The same biblical grounds that Peter’s first confession was for Christ to leave HIM.

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  11. A prayer of doubt is still a prayer acceptable to God – no one hundred times no Ian – you cannot interpret James 1 any other way than do not pray in doubt because you won’t get what you pray for. There are so many other verses in scripture that confirm this. This is what I don’t understand Ian – it feels to me that you seem to take the straight forward words of scripture and twist them to fit a doctrine. Why? (and I don’t mean that to sound rude – just genuinely I am confused)

    Yes of course knowing that we are heard matters – but what is the point of prayer – prayer doesn’t “move” God or “force” him to do anything. Prayer is not to inform God how bad our situation is – he already knows our need before we ask. Praying God’s solution from the Word releases life – praying negatively and focusing on our problem energises and strengthens the problem.

    I am not talking about finding our own spirituality I am talking about walking the Christian life – God is not asking us to live for Him he is asking us to let Him live through us (Gal 2 v 20) The Christian life is not a changed life it’s an exchanged life. This can only be accomplished when we act what we are (which is dead to self because we WERE crucified with him at the cross – even if we don’t feel like it) and allow the Holy Spirit to lead and empower us.

    I find a spirituality which insists upon the denial of our feelings and experiences to be rather flat ……….– that may be how you feel but that is exactly what being a Christian entails. You have chosen the Christian walk – denying our feelings and experiences in favour of letting God live through us is exactly what we are called to do – I don’t find it flat at all – I find it liberating exciting uplifting and wonderful.

    I too have just read Abraham in my Bible in a Year – and I understand from Paul in Corinthians that when I read the story of Abraham that I am to learn from his (and thereby not repeat) his experience. The stories aren’t there to stroke us and say there there we all get it wrong – the stories are there Paul tells us so that we learn from them and don’t make the same mistakes.

    Firstly, I think it’s foolish to disregard the world ……….– but the world is under satan’s control – he is the prince of this world – there are only two kingdoms – the kingdom of satan (this current world) or the kingdom of God. This world is groaning to see the sons of God manifest themselves – until we grow up and start acting like the Sons of God that we are – the world will continue to suffer under satan’s control.

    God affirmed it’s goodness at every stage……. yes at every stage before Adam and Eve sinned!! If the world is so good and to be regarded why so many instructions from Jesus and the apostles to not have anything to do with the world and its way of operating? To be In the world but not Of it. The minute we “regard” the world we associate ourselves with it.

    God’s word tells us we only have one counsellor – that’s the Holy Spirit. God’s word no-where tells us to go and sort a problem out with any other counsellor than the Holy Spirit. It tells us to share – yes but share a) only ever with other Christians (and most counsellors are not Christians and therefore do not even approach a problem from a God perspective) and b) to share the Truth – not human experience.

    It’s not about reading the Scriptures and doing them, so much as it is about being in the Church, the community where the Spirit brings about the transformation from glory to glory, or the renewing of our minds …….. again Ian – where in scripture does it say this?– No it is purely and simply about reading Scripture and doing it – what else does being a doer of the Word or following the Will of God or any of the other instructions (especially Psalm 119!) mean? (and see my further comments about what reading and doing scripture means below) Jesus didn’t focus on being in the church (and interesting phrase – we ARE the church we can’t be IN it. or in the community – he focused on being In the word – when did he ever give any instruction that wasn’t rooted and grounded straight from the word – what was the only weapon he used against satan – the word – if it was good enough for Jesus it’s good enough for me.

    But guess what? A great deal of our relational contact with one another is through dialogue and sharing experiences. Many of these experiences might be negative or damaging to us. We share them to find grace, and to find healing………. Agreed that it what we DO – but again it’s not what Jesus or the New Testament Writers (inspired by the Holy Spirit told us to do). And while we continue doing it our way instead of their way there is going to remain just as many Christians finding themselves with problems as non Christians. There is no need for a Christian to be depressed, ill, defeated etc – Christians might find themselves depressed etc but there is no reason for it – that sounds harsh but the bible says it’s true.

    Whoever conceals his sin does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy (Pro 28:13)…………. Yes agreed – but not for the point of investigation and experience sharing – but for the point of knowing we are forgiven and moving on – put it behind us not open it up and examine it – God says its buried in the deepest sea – why fish it out again. Keep short accounts.

    I notice that you seem to want to drive a sharp wedge between human thought and Christian practice………. Yes of course I do – because the Word calls on me to do that – Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind – not be ye influenced by human thought.

    And then you validate such an understanding of the interoperation of scripture by saying that if it ‘works’ then it must be right…….No – I am saying – that we should practice what Scripture tells us and we will be rewarded because if we do God’s will we will naturally (not as a reward but naturally as fruit) walk in his blessing.

    I present in response to this: The Jehovah’s Witnesses………. – what have Jehovah’s Witnesses got to do with this – their fundamental statement is that Jesus isn’t God – therefore anything they seek to do beyond that is going to be wrong. Again that’s what Jesus was talking about when he referred to the Pharisees being whitened sepulchres. When I talk about doing scripture – I assume we all understand that I am talking not just about reading and doing “a book” – that’s religion. I am talking about hearing The Living Word (Jesus) and seeking to obey the Living Word because we Love him and have a relationship with him. I don’t read scripture as a book and do my best to “do” what it says – that isn’t what I mean at all – it isn’t what James means. But being a “doer” of the word means having a living and real relationship with the Living Word and through his Words he has left written for me acting out of love and allowing him to act through me to reach others. The only way he has left for me to do this is through his Words that have been written down for me so that the Holy Spirit can use them and bring them alive for me so I can literally be a doer of the Word – not copying bland instructions from a manual – that’s not what I mean or do at all

    Doesn’t the very word “tradition” worry you – when I read what scripture has to say about “tradition” I would always always seek to refer anything that tradition says straight back to the Word and confirm it before I seek to believe it.

    This, I think, might be the greatest difference between the way you and I read the Scriptures: I want the narrative to impact my story …… – but Ian it isn’t about YOU and YOUR story and it isn’t about Me and MY story – it’s about Jesus and HIS story – we are hidden in Christ – it’s all about HIM through us – it’s never about ME it’s always about HIM – none of me and all of him – the minute I let ME get in the way problems happen – while I let HIM through and ignore ME blessing flow – the New testament is so very clear about this – I don’t understand why you don’t see this? (again not meant as a rude statement – just confused that you study Scripture so much and yet don’t seem to see this clear message in and through it)

    Your last paragraph is completely alien to my way of seeing and understanding Scripture. Of course I need to obey – with thinking – but not with my own thinking (understanding) but allowing the Holy Spirit to understand and think for me. How can it be offensive to God to allow him to do my thinking for me? The prayers of Paul in Ephesians are completely about this.

    Psalm 6 is truly an expression of how a non Christian might approach an angry God – however I am not a non Christian and God isn’t angry with me – in fact I am a Son of God I am a member of his family – I am a joint inheritor with Jesus – so I have no need to express myself to God in the same way as the writer of Psalm 6. When reading a Psalm I seek to understand what it tells me about God – not what it tells me about me except in relation to how helpless I am without God – however I am not without God. Psalm 6 asks God not to rebuke me, to have mercy on me, to heal me, to deliver me, to save me, to hear my prayer. Praise the Lord that ALL of these things the Lord in his gracious mercy did indeed deliver for me through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ – Hallelujah it is done – it is finished – it is accomplished – now I have no need to pray this prayer – because it is done for me. All I need do now is to praise and thank the Lord that he is indeed (as this Psalm tells me) – the merciful Lord the healing Lord the delivering Lord the saviour Lord the Lord who always hears and answers my prayer. Isn’t God wonderful. This is why I read the psalms – not to massage my ego not to say there there that’s ok I feel like that – but to say WOW what a wonderful Father I have.

    The same biblical grounds that Peter’s first confession was for Christ to leave HIM –…………… but once again (and I struggle with why I am not being heard on this) Peter was NOT a Christian at this point – he was NOT filled with the Holy Spirit – he was not praying a Christian Prayer – Jesus never spoke to a Christian! If you can find me one instance where the Christian Peter ever ever prayed this prayer or recommended any other Christian pray it then I am totally one hundred percent with you – but until then – I will continue in my stance that what Peter said to the Lord is NOT a Christian response to the Gospel – because whilst in the time and place Peter was at it was a historically accurate statement – it does not make it an accurate statement for a Christian to say today and we as Christians MUST make this distinction if we are going to be an effective Witness for Christ in this World.

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  12. Well done Ian for your VERY provocative poem and well done Jonathan for your ‘flip side version.
    I LOVE them both! xxx

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  13. Aaaaaaaaghhhhhhhhh. I have just read through all the comments. There’s so much I want to say but I am almost too weary. Suffice to say that I loved the poem. I understood what Ian was getting at.

    I also loved the analogy someone gave several billion comments ago – about an angry/shamed child kicking out at a parent. The parent WON’T leave, (the child doesn’t really want him to) – but in that moment, the child is so full of shame and rage that he can’t tolerate the close attention of the parent.

    Being a parent sheds an awful lot of light on how I read the Scriptures and how I understand what it means to be a daughter of God. I agree with Beverley that Jesus’ story is what counts – but I also believe that He cares passionately about every one of our stories, including our opinions, just as I care about my kids’ opinions.

    We are created for relationship with Him. I don’t believe He wants robotic children who do the right things at all times because they’ve been told to in the manual. He wants real children, real people, real relationship. Ian’s poem is about being real.

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