March 19, 2003
One of the genuine joys of producing these Reflections is the daily interaction they have brought from readers throughout the world. Since beginning this ministry almost four months ago, hardly a day has gone by that didn't bring some exciting and encouraging correspondence from some searching soul in some corner of the globe. I can confidently declare that this email outreach has become one of the most personally rewarding endeavors in my almost thirty years of active, full-time ministry to the Lord. Hearts are being touched and lives are being challenged and changed, and there is a growing hunger and thirst for responsible reformation. Reflections #1 was sent to just a handful of people .... sent off on a whim and with a prayer. Less than four months later the readership numbers in the thousands throughout the fifty states and in far off regions like Australia, Africa, Japan, the Middle East, Europe, and Asia. This is a testimony not to Al Maxey, but to the fact that God's people have a deep longing for greater relevance of biblical Truth to their daily lives. This longing has not been satisfied by the tedious tenets of traditionalism, thus those fleeing from out of their bondage to the laws of men unto the freedom found in the grace of God are increasing exponentially day by day. They long to reflect upon matters of greater substance than the putrid pablum with which they have been spoon-fed by their religious leaders. These Reflections are designed to offer some spiritual meat for these starving souls to chew upon. As these Truths are digested, and as the famished become increasingly nourished in spirit, positive change will ensue.
In this special issue of Reflections I would like to share with you small portions of three emails I received just the other day, all of which were sent within a period of about three hours one morning. They come from vastly different parts of the world, but they reflect a common passion and longing. This is just what came in from abroad in the course of one morning, but this sampling is reflective of so many more that arrive daily. There is a spiritual yearning in our world, and our Father has provided a great many of us with the means to reach such persons almost instantly with the message of GRACE. May we have the spirit of Isaiah who, when presented with an equally great challenge for ministry to a people in need of reform, humbly responded, "Here am I. Send me." (Isaiah 6:8).
I share your sadness for the divisions that exist within the One Body of our Lord Jesus Christ. Imagine the ache in the heart of Paul as he penned these words --- "Now I exhort you, brethren ... that there be no divisions among you. ... For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe's people, that there are quarrels among you" (1 Corinthians 1:10-11). Such schisms are not only a result of a lack of knowledge, as this brother suggests, but also a lack of love. Undoubtedly the two are inseparably linked --- we don't love our brethren because we don't know our Father. "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love" (1 John 4:7-8). "If someone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also" (1 John 4:20-21).
I also agree with this brother with regard to the problem of differing traditions among disciples of Christ. Too often we have allowed such to foster factions. I am personally convinced that when brethren divide over their preferences with regard to traditional practices this is once again simply a demonstration of their lack of love one for another. When you love someone, you work through the differences; you learn to accept one another. As someone once observed, "You don't have to be my twin to be my brother." Those who can only love a twin have no concept of family. Instead, they promote a faction filled only with those willing to mindlessly march to their own drum beat. Anyone "out of step" is perceived as the enemy, and rather than battling Satan they begin to battle their siblings, unable to perceive the distinction between the two.
Like this brother from Japan, I am simply a Christian. Nothing more, nothing less. All others who are born of the Father are my brothers and sisters. We don't have to look alike, we don't have to talk alike, we don't even have to have all the same likes and dislikes. We simply have to have the same Father!! This notion that when we look a brother in the face we must see ourselves is arrogance. When I look a brother in the face the only image I must see is Christ Jesus. My brothers and sisters don't have to look like me, they only have to look like HIM.
Well, I just wanted to say hello and thank you for the
outstanding help you have provided from your web site.
I have really enjoyed it, and it has provided me with a
wealth of information that has helped me in my studies.
Stay encouraged and please keep the Faith.
First, I would like to thank this brother in Christ for his devoted service to our nation. I served two tours in Vietnam and know firsthand the sacrifices one must make to serve a higher cause than self. At a time when too many are protesting our current national resolve, seemingly having forgotten the basis for our own freedoms, I applaud our brave soldiers, sailors and airmen who are willing to place themselves in harm's way that others might know freedom. I pray you will soon be home safely with your family, brother.
May I also applaud your service to an even greater cause, and your willingness to wage war in an even greater army --- the army of the Lord. Your loyal service to the Supreme Commander will not go unrewarded. I preached for a military congregation in Germany for a few years, and I can attest to the fact that Christian military men and women are among the "cream of the crop." They are quite often "missionaries in uniform," and are frequently zealous in reaching out to those about them as the military sends them throughout the world. Several military men I have known have later gone into preaching after their military careers have been completed. I'm thrilled to see this brother thinking along the same lines.
I believe this man has already "attended a school of biblical studies" --- it is called LIFE. Over many years he has diligently studied and applied the Word of God. He has been on the mission field, and he has led men and women to Christ Jesus. He has preached for congregations and provided spiritual leadership and counsel. This man already has his education, in my opinion, and would be best utilized in going directly to a congregation or mission area (wherever the Lord leads him) and beginning his ministry there. There is certainly nothing wrong with furthering one's education, and I would not discourage such, but there are times when LIFE is a far better educator than academicians in a classroom.
As for schools of preaching, or schools of biblical studies, I too don't have a "warm fuzzy" for such institutions. I don't condemn them as sinful, nor do I actively oppose them. Some, I am sure, are reputable and have noble aspirations to train men to proclaim the Word of God, or what they perceive the Word of God to be. My own personal belief, however, is that one would be much better served, and far better equipped, by seeking a university, or liberal arts, education. It is much more rounded. In far too many cases that I have observed, schools of preaching are little more than institutions of indoctrination. These students are implanted with the party perceptions and preferences and then sent out to regurgitate that with which they were filled, which is frequently little more than tradition and dogma with a thin religious veneer. These institutions produce Church of Christ preachers more often than Christ-filled, Christ-centered preachers, and this does indeed promote sectarianism since these preachers will not typically be leading people to Christ, but rather to the Church of Christ .... and there is a significant distinction.
Yes, some preaching schools may indeed promote what some call "liberalism," however they are few and far between. Most promote the other extreme --- ultra-conservatism. When comparing a university with a "preacher factory," the former, in my experience, more often trains one in HOW to think, rather than in WHAT to think. Thus, if one is inclined to higher education, and desires a well-rounded one, I would strongly recommend the former path over the latter. Both the student, and ultimately the church, will be better served, in my opinion.
The debate to which this Scottish brother refers is my published debate with Thomas Thrasher, who serves the Lord in the state of Alabama. The reader may examine this in-depth study by clicking on the following link:
I am encouraged to find more and more disciples of Jesus Christ embracing the Truth on this most important biblical subject. The godless teaching of paganism has prevailed too long in Christendom, and it is time for these twin false doctrines of immortal soulism and the perpetual torture of the wicked to be exposed for the Satanic lie they are. Thus, I would encourage everyone to please study carefully the evidence presented in the above debate. I believe your eyes will be opened even more to the matchless grace of our compassionate Father.
I'm encouraged by the response to these Reflections, and am also thrilled by the creative use to which they are being put. Many of the readers are forwarding them on to family and friends. One congregation is using them as weekly studies among the leaders (elders, deacons, ministers). Some have been translated into other languages for use on the mission field. Now, we see that in a small groups format in Scotland (as pointed out in more detail in this four page letter) they are being used as discussion starters for those saints assembled. This is all most encouraging.
Again, I think this is merely reflective of a tremendous hunger and thirst worldwide for both relevance and reform. It is time for the people of God to embrace responsible change, to leave their isolation from the world about them and to become relevant in their communities. The "salt of the earth" will not have much positive impact unless it gets out of the pretty crystal shaker and begins functioning as it was intended. I applaud the brethren in Scotland for their wonderful spirit.
From a Reader in Michigan:
I appreciate your recent Did God Overreact? The Controversial Death of Uzzah. Well-intentioned members of a Church of Christ pointed me to the account of Uzzah when I first visited their congregation in 1990. It was a very scary story to me at the time, but your commentary has prompted me to study it in-depth with the maturity that I have gained in the past 13 years. Thank you!
I am also struck by one point that I would like to share with you. If such "deadly deeds" as using multiple cups in the Lord's Supper, having Sunday School classes, eating in the building, and using pitch pipes really were irreverent to our HOLY God, wouldn't He have specifically told us not to do such things? Unless I am missing something, I do not see such specific instructions in His Word.
From a Reader in New Mexico:
Al, you did a good job in your reply and I agree with you fully. We loved the Uzzah story when I was exclusively with the non-Sunday School faction, and we used it to condemn the Sunday School. God told the church to come together in "one place," to "speak one by one," for only men to teach, women to be silent. But our brethren "tampered with God's plan" and used a "new cart" = the classes or Sunday School. We thought we had exclusive rights to Uzzah and the "new cart" story!!
From a Reader in New Hampshire:
Dear Mr. Maxey, I want to thank you from the bottom of my soul. A friend forwarded me your last Reflections and told me by accident that you had written a book about marriage, divorce and remarriage. He gave me the link to Down, But Not Out so I could take a look at some of your comments. I broke down and cried for 2 hours. No one in the church has ever given me hope to not be condemned to hell for my divorce. I never knew anyone in the Churches of Christ had ever even addressed this problem with anything but judgment and condemnation. My friend led me to your book, and after only a few minutes reading your studies and comments, I dropped to my knees in gratefulness and relief for God's grace. For the first time since 1983 I am free. I thank God everyday for leading me to people like you. Thank you for your courage, candor, intelligence, and insight that has led me back to the path of righteousness.
From a Reader in Oregon:
Dear Bro. Maxey, The question you received from the editor of a noted conservative Christian publication about Uzzah's punishment prompts me to contact you with a heart-felt thought. We Christians have limited the scope of worship that our God intended. We have limited it to a time and a place instead of the totality of our lives. It appears to me that, for a Christian, their life is worship. From all that I can see, when we come out of that watery grave of baptism, we begin worship. As far as I can tell, we are never dismissed from that worship. And yet it appears to me that we have used the assembly to draw lines of fellowship.
I sincerely appreciate your Reflections, and am grateful for the time you take to read and respond with such caring to those who write to you. I pray your writings will help others see the importance of worshipping God with all our being.
From a Minister/Author in California:
Al, Excellent treatment of the subject matter where Uzzah is compared to a set order of worship, especially involving musical forms. Maybe some light will filter into the head of that conservative editor.
From Dr. Dallas Burdette in Alabama:
Al, I want you to know that you do a wonderful job of communicating the truths of God. Your essay was excellent. You are a clear and insightful writer. You are also a good thinker, which can get one into trouble. One of the greatest problems we have within the Christian community is not knowing how to read the Word of God in context. Many Christians today are still concerned about the traditions of the so-called restoration movement within the Churches of Christ, which they identify as the Word of God. Jesus had to deal with 200 years of tradition -- a tradition that was later codified in what is known today as the Babylonian Talmud. We, too, are having to combat 200 years of tradition.
Within the Christian community today, one might say, "One of the greatest errors that a brother or sister can be guilty of is to study his/her Bible more than his companions, or at least to surpass them in the knowledge of Christ." I pray that God will continue to use you to promote unity and to build up the kingdom of God. Again, I thank you for all your insightful essays.
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