Monday, 25 November 2013

Mary, did you know?

Great song, great lyrics

(originally by Mark Lowry (lyrics ) and Buddy Greene (melody ))

Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy would one day walk on water?
Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy would save our sons and daughters?
Did you know
that your Baby Boy has come to make you new?
This Child that you delivered will soon deliver you.

Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy will give sight to a blind man?
Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy will calm the storm with His hand?
Did you know
that your Baby Boy has walked where angels trod?
When you kiss your little Baby you kissed the face of God?

Mary did you know.. Ooo Ooo Ooo

The blind will see.
The deaf will hear.
The dead will live again.
The lame will leap.
The dumb will speak
The praises of The Lamb.

Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy would one day rule the nations?
Did you know
that your Baby Boy is heaven's perfect Lamb?
The sleeping Child you're holding is the Great, I Am.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

When 'ministry' masks immaturity

Hebrews 6:1 NIV
Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity......

I am not a one to take an overly individualistic view of what it means to be,and develop, as a Christian. I am well aware of the 'plurals' in much of Paul's writing and of the importance of the body,the church, in our journey together. However, there are also certain crucial areas as Christians where only we,as individuals, can make the decision, take the action or say the words that are required. 

In the natural world I can't imagine much that would cause parents more distress than their lovely and loved baby not growing, not maturing.... Having to watch their child move towards adulthood in terms of years but still displaying all the characteristics of a baby. Those same things that were once cute and normal become a sources of pain and distress. There is no diminishing of parental love but there is pain for a child who is just not developing and experiencing the richness and variety of life, of emotions, of relationships....

Imagine, a 40 year old child - old in years but in every other respect immature. Reacting as a child reacts to circumstances they face, the tantrums when they can't get their own way, the selfishness that always assumes what they like should be what everyone else likes, the belief that they are always right and so we could go on. All of those characteristic, when displayed by a young child, are a normal part of parenting and educating a child- nothing to worry about. Unless of course they remain unchanged in the adult. 

Maturity, like wisdom, is not about the number of years we have behind us,not about the fact we have had lots of 'life experiences' ( we may have dealt badly with all of them and not learned anything - no wisdom in that). 

In terms of our discipleship maturity is about the closeness and consistency of our relationship with Jesus, it is about the extent to which we really are 'keeping in step with the Holy Spirit' , it is about the depth to which we actively seek and allow the living Word to shape and mould who we are, it is about remaining in Him and retaining our first love.

There are many reasons that can contribute the the '40 year old child' syndrome in terms of our Christian maturity. The most obvious of which is simply ignoring what, for 2000 years, have been known and proven as spiritual disciplines and are the foundations of Christian maturity. These will not change, there are no shortcuts, regular immersion in the Word of a God, a heart to understand the meaning and apply it, a life that consists of personal prayer as a conversation with our Father, not always an emergency cry for help, an active involvement in the prayer of the church and regular fellowship around God's Word and prayer with other Christians.

These areas are the foundations for maturity, they are also the essential bedrock for real worship. Songs that we sing apart from this are, at best, a poor attempt at worship, at worst, an attempt to mask the poverty of our relationship with Jesus.

A Christian life not built on these things is very much the 'house built on sand', a rickety shack, a vulnerable place.

There are many ways in which the '40 year old child' compensates for the lack of, or crumbling, foundations. Firstly it is evident to everyone else although the child does not see this. The child has a frightening ability to filter and reinterpret their own actions and words so that they are always right. 

There are those in this position who simply fade to the periphery of family life, having just enough foundation for them not to be able to leave but not enough for them to mature and enjoy fullness of life. These are sad cases, and we have a Father who is longing and reaching out in love, but they are not the circumstances I want to address here. Often people in this position are well aware of where they are, they are not self deceived, but they cannot be bothered, the road back to the Father seems just too hard or not worth the effort.

However, there are those children who run around with hyperactivity, involved in all manner of 'ministry' like Martha on speed, as if the activity of ministry somehow builds the foundations or makes up for lack of them! And this is where they differ from those who simply fade to the periphery. 

They begin to act as if our Father gives us a sort of multiple choice option in which there can be more than one right answer....sort of 'you can do foundations or you can do ministry and mission activity- which do you prefer?' 

Anyone reading this in cold black and white will obviously see that it is folly, that God gives us no such choice, but we all know how quickly something that stops us short when we read it or hear it can be left at the door as 'normal service resumes'

Ministry or 'Christian activity' that is not based on, and flowing from, a life in which the foundations are being built and strengthened is no more than mere activity.
Ministry or 'Christian activity' that is not based on, and flowing from, a life in which maturity is becoming more evident, in which the activities and reactions of childhood are moved aside for the increasing out flowing of the fruit of the Spirit, is merely a distraction.

Luke 10:38-42
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things,but few things are needed---or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

It's our choice. Maturity AND ministry is the way, neither must be neglected or both become less than God desires for us. 
The road back is not long or hard, in fact it is a surprisingly short road. At whatever point we make a heart decision to turn around we will find our Father right there, arms outstretched waiting to embrace us again.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Bits from Psalm 19

Just read Psalm 19 in The a Message, what a great way to start a day:

(Psalm 19:7-9, 11-14 MSG)

The revelation of God is whole and pulls our lives together. 
The signposts of God are clear and point out the right road. 
The life-maps of God are right, showing the way to joy. 
The directions of God are plain and easy on the eyes. 

God ’s reputation is twenty-four-carat gold, with a lifetime guarantee. 

The decisions of God are accurate down to the nth degree and there’s more: 
God’s Word warns us of danger and directs us to hidden treasure. 
Otherwise how will we find our way? 
Or know when we play the fool? 
Clean the slate, God, so we can start the day fresh! 
Keep me from stupid sins, from thinking I can take over your work; Then I can start this day sun-washed, scrubbed clean of the grime of sin. These are the words in my mouth; these are what I chew on and pray. Accept them when I place them on the morning altar, O God, Rock, God. 

Friday, 25 October 2013

Final cry of the prodigal

Darkness trails after me
like a shadow
stalking my every turn
inwardly, trudging through life
though to all the world I dance

Soul weighed down 
by selfish obsession
that too easily masqueraded
as obedient devotion

A man, less purpose
with a heart, less love
a soul, less substance
and a life, less God

The prodigal ....
who just kept on walking
away from the Father,
farther and farther
into the depths of despair
never turning round

And now,
it's not hard 
to understand
how someone so shallow
could just drift effortlessly,
into a distant land

But with one 

Father, are you there?

And quiet as the breeze 
came His reply

Yes, take my hand
Let's walk together
My long found friend

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

How come?

How come, so often, both inside and outside the church those of us who condemn people for a particular thing suddenly find it entirely justified in us when we engage in the same practice?

You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. (Rom 2:1)

When those who hate gossip, themselves become the 'gossip mongers' spreading rumour and acting upon it, they not only get affronted when confronted but they often produce some convoluted self justification based on the fact that what they were passing on to others (not gossip, never gossip, not rumour always 'fact') was of such import or was so bad that they are actually doing everyone a service! 

When those who are so quick to jump to their own defence, often with anger in their hearts (they call it passion)when they are the subject of rumour and uninformed or just ill judged comment become the ones talking in angry or uncharitable terms about others it's amazing how,suddenly, it is entirely justifiable based on the other persons attitude or actions ......

When those who are the subject of someone else's warranted or unwarranted anger, the one expressing the anger is always out of order, but when they express anger it is always 'righteous'

Those who condemn the visible sin in others but happily continue committing hidden sins themselves act as if their 'actions in the night' are somehow more acceptable than others 'failings in the light'

The sins of some are obvious, reaching the place of judgment ahead of them; the sins of others trail behind them. (1 Tim 5:24)

Anyway, that's enough about me...........

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. (Prov 4:23)

Sunday, 12 May 2013


Thoughts from a member........

I like living in Britain. I can never understand why anyone would want to move from Britain to another country. I think of myself as British (not English) because the internal boundaries (with Scotland and Wales) are non-existent, there is free movement and intermarriage between people born in different sections of Britain is common. People complain about British weather but, because of its lack of extremes, it is probably one of the best in the world for everyday living.

I always take a great interest in how British (again not just English) sports teams do. Unlike most newspapers I like them to win. (Newspapers seem to prefer them to lose so they can tell them how rubbish they are). There is a built-in wish for Britain and British people and institutions to do well.

But I know it is wrong. Separate races ceased to exist centuries ago. Nationality is just an administrative label rather than a racial description. Everyone in the world is now mixed race. Nationalism was a major factor in the two world wars of the twentieth century and, in any case, in that form only goes back a few hundred years. At least three times in his letters in the New Testament Paul says that there is no longer any difference between Jew and Gentile. In other words race no longer matters. Since everyone is now mixed race then it can’t matter anyhow. Anything that creates a barrier between any people or individuals is bad and nationalism is one of those barriers.


Everyone has two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents etc. If you go back one thousand years and assume three generations per century then everyone had one thousand million ancestors alive at that time. If you go back just two hundred more years then they had over sixty-eight thousand million ancestors alive at that time. One thousand years ago there were not even one thousand million people in the whole world so obviously any individual alive today was related to some individuals who were alive one thousand years ago in many different ways. I expect I am descended from both William the Conqueror and King Harold (If Harold had any surviving children) and everyone else on both sides of the Battle of Hastings (well, all those who had any children).

So am I a Saxon, a Norman, a Viking, a Celt, a Roman, one of the Belgae...? I am none of them and all of them – a bit of each and of many more besides.

Going in the opposite direction isn’t as straightforward. Not many people have two children, four grandchildren etc. Nevertheless, any person in Britain one thousand years ago, who had any children, is probably related to everyone alive in this country today. You may want to exclude immigrants from this but there will be many of those who are also direct descendants of people alive in Britain a thousand years ago. This is because many British people have gone abroad, not only to the former Empire but to many other places as well. Some will have married people abroad or at least become the parents of children in other countries. A number of programmes in the BBC series “Who do you think you are?” have shown this.

I have seen it written that, before the Industrial Revolution, only ten per cent of the population moved away from home in their lifetime. That would mean that, in theory, every ten generations (or 300 to 400 years) the whole population had moved. Even though it will not have happened as uniformly as that, once an incomer has arrived, then there is a good chance that he or she will marry a local person and so within a few generations many of the people there will have ancestors from another part of the country simply because of that one incomer. In mediaeval times some wealthy people had estates in more than one part of the country and they would travel from one to another. They would not take all their servants with them because some would be retained at each place, but they would have some people travelling with them and it is highly likely that that would also mean there were children with parents from different parts of the country.

Because of the existence of the Bible it is easier to trace things relating to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. I emphasise that I am using this example simply because we have information (in the Bible) about these descendants. There is no reason at all to suppose that it was much different in any other group that has existed over the last few thousand years. The Old Testament gives many examples of people who married people from other races – Moses, Boaz, Ahab and all those mentioned at the end of the Book of Ezra. Because of the effect of what I have mentioned above then it is inconceivable that there are still any people who are completely descended from Abraham etc. and with no outside ancestry. On the other hand, Paul at least three times wrote in his letters that there is no longer any distinction between Jews and Gentiles. Presumably he also taught this when he was preaching and teaching. Those early Christians were from both categories and, because of Paul’s teaching, it is almost certain that they would have married without bothering whether the person they married was a Jew or a Gentile. Two thousand years later, even one marriage would have many millions of descendants alive at this time. In all probability, at least half the world’s population are directly descended from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Now obviously there will be those who are more Jewish than others but it is virtually certain that even Adolf Hitler was partly Jewish – maybe less than one percent, but still partly Jewish. I would also imagine that it is highly unlikely that anybody now is as much as 80% Saxon, Norman, Celt, Jew or any other ancient grouping. I have no scientific reason for this particular point but, because of the intermarriage and other interbreeding over the millennia I think the statement could well be correct. DNA testing can give some information but it has its limitations. One of the problems is that some tests (e.g.) only trace through the male line. Because this ignores who the male married it only tells part of the story. Some historians (as opposed to DNA experts) have tried to use DNA research to prove things which it cannot actually do.

As I said earlier, I used the descendants of Abraham etc. simply because there is the written evidence of the Bible to help. There is no reason to suppose any other nation was different. Separate races ceased to exist many centuries ago and the idea of a nation now is simply an administrative label for purposes of the laws in any one country. It’s not as though even national boundaries are fixed long term. Apart from the small countries such as Andorra and San Marino only about 10 European countries kept the same boundaries throughout the twentieth century and two of the bigger countries only came into being in the nineteenth century. Island nations are a bit different but normally, national boundaries are arbitrary and fluid. The fluidity of national boundaries and its odd results is well illustrated by the life of Albert Schweitzer. He was born in Alsace Lorraine in 1875. Up until 1870 it was part of France but became part of Germany after the defeat of France. Albert Schweitzer spent most of his adult life in a French colony in Africa. During the First World War, because he was technically German, he was interned as an enemy alien. After the end of that war Alsace Lorraine became part of France again so in the Second World War he was no longer an enemy alien!!

Separate races ceased to exist many centuries ago and the modern administrative notion of a nation is arbitrary. Doesn’t that make racism extremely silly?

What about the future? People still seem to want to categorise people by their colour and some application forms go to extreme detail to try and cater for every possibility. Increasingly that will become impossible. If a person of one colour marries a person of another colour then all their descendants for ever more will be mixed colour. Everyone already is mixed race so that description is not helpful. Probably, in a few hundred years time, it will be impossible to categorise people by colour because every person will be a different combination of the colours of their ancestors. That makes prejudice on the basis of skin colour just as silly as racism.

What I have written here only touches a small part of the subject. There are very many other illustrations of how intermarriage has meant that races ceased to exist a long time ago – e.g. the free movement of peoples throughout the Roman Empire which included parts of the Middle East, a lot of North Africa and large parts of Europe. Race and nationality are not very meaningful terms anymore. Where we live is not “our country”. It is just that little bit of the world where we happen to have been born or happen to live and we are given a label for administrative purposes only.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Sheep,wolves,snakes and doves

It may sound like the beginning of a trip to the zoo, but it is,of course, the heart of the content of Matthew 10' particularly around v16......

'I am sending you out as sheep amongst wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves'

I have heard (Christian) people take the latter half of that verse 'wise as serpents and innocent as doves' then cut it in half, leaving only the 'wise as serpents' and go on to apply it to a situation in their own lives that invariably justifies an action that serves their own agenda,often at the cost of somebody else.

For instance they may owe some income tax but there is an unintended loophole in current legislation which can legally be used (until it is closed down) but which nonetheless was never intended to be used. Out comes the half phrase, misquoted and ripped out of context - 'ahh, but the bible says we are to be wise (or cunning in some translations) as serpents'.... Or, perhaps, if they are of a more spiritual (albeit mildly cowardly disposition) they may use it to justify why they should NOT engage in any risky mission activities.

This is certainly neither the intention behind,nor the context of, Jesus teaching.
The context is that the twelve have already been commissioned and sent 'on mission' as it were. Instructions and guidance had been issued and they were in no doubt that general danger and unpleasantness lay ahead, so this was not really up for debate. So, the context to which this,full, saying is spoken by Jesus is that of believers who have already been commissioned for a potentially dangerous and difficult mission. Any use of it by Christians outside of this context is therefor a no no - especially if it is designed to be purely self serving in its application and outcome.

After v16 the text goes on to say that the “wolves” will deliver the “sheep” to courts, and flog them, and drag them before governors, friends and family will hate them, they will be persecuted, maligned and killed! (Matthew 10:17-31). So it is pretty clear that when Jesus says he is sending them (or us?) as sheep among wolves, he means that we will be treated the way wolves treat sheep!

Although sheep are proverbially stupid—which, on the face of it, is what it looks like when they walk into a pack wolves and not away from them—Jesus counters that notion by saying “be wise as serpents.” This means that vulnerability, not stupidity, is the point of calling us sheep. Be like snakes, not sheep, when it comes to being smart.

So, yes, we are called to 'go among wolves' and be vulnerable as we preach the gospel, but when they lunge at you (as they will), step aside. When they open their mouths, don’t jump in. Take all measures to avoid persecution or harm when doing so will not dilute or compromise the integrity of the gospel. Don't be a total prat and pick the wrong battles or in what we say and how we say it so that we unnecessarily inflame and invite persecution (then wrongly revel in the fact that we are suffering for the gospel, blind to the fact that we are suffering for being stupid not vulnerable!

Jesus adds, 'be as innocent as doves'. That is, don’t give people any legitimate reason to accuse you of injustice or immorality. Keep your reputation as clean as you can. On a more personal level, whatever your presuppositions or prejudice (about the wolves), be prepared to take them at their word until such time as you have reason not to do so (always being ready to step aside in an instant....) Act towards them with a presumption of grace....

So the snake-intelligence and the dove-innocence are both designed to keep the sheep out of unnecessary trouble. Jesus does not mean for us to get ourselves into as much difficulty as possible. He means: Risk your lives as vulnerable, non-combative, sheep-like, courageous witnesses, but try to find ways to give your witness in a way that does not bring down unnecessary persecution.

That is the context and out working of what started out as a trip to the zoo!
(With thanks to John Piper)

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Never got out of the boat.....

Here is a poem read by Ness Wilson from Open Heaven (@openheaven) at Spring Harvest this year. It speaks for itself.

To sinful patterns of behaviour,
that never get confronted and changed,
Abilities and gifts
that never get cultivated and deployed –
Until weeks become months
And months turn into years,
And one day you’re looking back on a life of
Deep intimate gut-wrenchingly honest conversations you never had;
Great bold prayers you never prayed,
Exhilarating risks you never took,
Sacrificial gifts you never offered
Lives you never touched,
And you’re sitting in a recliner with a shrivelled soul.
And forgotten dreams,
And you realise there was a world of desperate need,
And a great God calling you
to be part of something bigger than yourself
You see the person you could have become but did not;
You never followed your calling.
You never got out of the boat.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Soul Cry

Listening to Soul Cry (Psalm 42) by Misty Edwards on the train, and again I was struck by the truth and challenging power of the words and particularly one phrase:

'hunger is an escort to the deeper things of God' 

......and I was struck very powerfully by a simple and uncomfortable truth - I am simply not hungry enough!
I know that God will more than satisfy the deepest hunger for Him and that He places no restrictions on the depths we can go 'in Him'. However if we keep our hunger and our passion for Him simply to levels that are comfortable for us, if we keep Him at arms length in areas He wants to challenge and change we will remain fundamentally and forever unsatisfied......
Another line in the song - the title - is sung as a refrain: 'my soul cries' - and you know what, often mine doesn't ....because I am far too content with where I am, far too comfortable with the sin that, although dealt with on the cross, still represents a barrier to becoming the person God intends.... my soul cries for little, or certainly does not long for God 'as the deer pants for water'
None of this means I am not walking with God or that I am being entirely ineffective in my discipleship but it does mean that I am not walking as closely as He would have me and my 'kingdom' effectiveness can be measured in fractions of a percentage compared to what His ability actually enables - were I as hungry as I could be and did my soul cry out with passion and intensity....
My prayer, from the words of two other songs:(Awaken my Soul & Fiery Love,Jeremy Riddle, Samuel Lane, Dan Wheelan )
Awaken my soul , come awake
to hunger, to seek, to thirst
Awaken first love, come awake
and do as you did at first
Spirit of the living God come fall afresh on me
Come wake me from my sleep
Blow through the caverns of my soul
pour in me, to overflow
Lift me from my grave, hold me up
with hands that hold the stars with fiery love
Holy Spirit come and light me up
with hands that hold my heart with fiery love
Fiery Love
Soul Cry

Friday, 4 January 2013

A 'thorn in the flesh' you say.....

I have been struck (again) recently by the way a 'popular folk understanding' of scripture can become so associated with the verse it is (usually) misinterpreting that people inextricably link together the verse and its(often) misconceived meaning.

One of the results of this is that the interpratation is no longer questioned but is just assumed to be true. Rarely is this as obvious as it is regarding Paul's 'thorn in the flesh' - however I believe that the interpretation that seems to have become the accepted norm, that the thorn was an illness, is based more on assumption than it is upon anything else. Frankly it's a bit of a lazy approach to scripture.

Worse than that however, is the fact that it is so often used, erroneously in my view as a 'faithing undermining' caveat at the end of prayers for healing..... I wonder what Paul would have made of that?

Here is a starter in our thinking:

"Thorn in the Flesh" is a colloquialism used to describe a chronic infirmity, annoyance, or trouble in one's life. It is most commonly used by Christians. The source of this expression is Paul of Tarsus, who uses it in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10: And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. (KJV)

An more recent translation of the same fragment is: Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness." So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong. (NRSV)

Paul's use of the phrase may have its origin in a Hebrew saying, common in the Old Testament, ie: Ezekiel 28:24 And there shall be no more a pricking briar unto the house of Israel, nor [any] grieving thorn of all [that are] round about them, that despised them; and they shall know that I [am] the Lord GOD.

or Joshua 23:13 Know for a certainty that the LORD your God will no more drive out [any of] these nations from before you; but they shall be snares and traps unto you, and scourges in your sides, and thorns in your eyes, until ye perish from off this good land which the LORD your God hath given you.

Notably, Paul does not mention the nature of this "thorn," and his other letters do not address the topic directly. Through the centuries Christians have speculated as to the nature of the "thorn." Common interpretations include:

1. A common interpretation is that the thorn describes the persecutions and unfortunate accidents that characterized Paul's life after his conversion to Christianity; as laid out in the preceding chapter of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians.

2. Some Roman Catholic writers think that it denotes suggestions to impiety.

3. Martin Luther, John Calvin, and other Reformers interpret the expression as denoting temptation to unbelief.

4. Others suppose the expression refers to "a pain in the ear or head," epileptic fits, or, in general, to some severe physical infirmity, which was a hindrance to the apostle in his work (comp. 1 Cor. 2:3; 2 Cor. 10:10; 11:30; Gal. 4:13, 14; 6:17). It has been suggested that his malady was a defect of sight caused the dazzling light which shone around him at his conversion. This would account for the statements in Gal. 4:14; 2 Cor. 10:10; also Acts 23:5, and for his generally making use of the help of an amanuensis (comp. Rom. 16:22, etc.).

5. Another view which has been maintained is that this "thorn" consisted in an infirmity of temper, to which he occasionally gave way, and which interfered with his success (comp. Acts 15:39; 23:2-5). If we consider the fact, "which the experience of God's saints in all ages has conclusively established, of the difficulty of subduing an infirmity of temper, as well as the pain, remorse, and humiliation such an infirmity is wont to cause to those who groan under it, we may be inclined to believe that not the least probable hypothesis concerning the 'thorn' or 'stake' in the flesh is that the loving heart of the apostle bewailed as his sorest trial the misfortune that, by impatience in word, he had often wounded those for whom he would willingly have given his life" (Lias's Second Cor., Introd.).

6. A highly controversial theory has been proposed by Bishop Spong in his book Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism (ISBN 0-06-067518-7) which suggests that it refers to homosexual desires. Paul strongly condemned acting on such desires in his other writings. (Romans 1:26-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9, and 1 Timothy 1:10)

7. A meaning accepted by many Christians was that Paul had a person in his life that annoyed him. Paul would then sin (in what way is unknown, probably acting out in anger). This would show him he is man and fallible, still in need of Christ. It kept him from becoming prideful from his many glorious experiences.

8. Another view is that the thorn was a person who opposed Paul's ministry wherever he planted a church. 9. Another view is that the thorn in the flesh refers to the inability Paul had to share the Gospel with his own people the Jews.

(Thanks to Wiki, )

So, for me the conclusion is that we know Paul had an 'affliction' of some sort, but we are simply not given sufficient detail to say with certainty that it was. I can live with that. Let's not use it for a purpose for which it was never intended- a get out clause when we can't understand the mystery of healing....

We do know that Timothy was ill :-D and what the recommended medicine was.