by Al Maxey

Issue #281 ------- December 27, 2006
Ours is the age which is proud
of machines that think, and
suspicious of men who try to.

Howard M. Jones {1892-1980}

Keyboards for Jesus
Survey of Internet Involvement

Havelock Ellis (1859-1939), in the year 1922, in one of his countless, classic Little Essays of Love and Virtue, made a most insightful, and even somewhat prophetic, observation. He wrote, "The greatest task before civilization at present is to make machines what they ought to be, the slaves, instead of the masters, of men." Had Ellis lived to the present day, I wonder if he would feel mankind had succeeded. My guess is that he would not. After all, who among us has not, to some degree, experienced the tyranny of technology? Yes, it can truly be a tremendous blessing and an invaluable tool, when wisely employed, but it can also be a cruel taskmaster when men surrender themselves to its control.

The Internet, which certain gullible segments of our society actually believe was invented by former Vice-President of the United States Al Gore, has come to be a medium whereby almost instant access to information and individuals throughout our world is only a keystroke away. Such technology boggles the mind. I don't even begin to grasp the intricacies of it. However, many years ago I did grasp the opportunity such technology provided for reaching the world with the message of God's grace. Since then I have made a conscious effort to daily take advantage of every open door the Lord places before me to try and make a difference in the lives of His people, and those yet to claim His grace, via interaction with them through the Internet. Yes, one can quite easily become enslaved to the World Wide Web, and it can also lead one down pathways where even angels would rightly fear to tread. Almost unimaginable evil lurks about in Cyberspace, and it has destroyed countless lives. One must be very careful not to succumb to such temptations as they seek more noble use of this medium. In other words, we must master it, rather than allowing ourselves to become its slaves.

With the above having been said, precautionary warnings clearly in place, we must nevertheless acknowledge that we live in fascinating times; an era of instant global communication that would have made the apostles and early disciples of Christ literally tremble in anticipation of the possibilities that lay before them. I have long been convicted in my heart that for us today to fail to avail ourselves of this technology borders on sin; it is at the very least poor stewardship of the resources with which our Lord has blessed us. Our Lord has commissioned us to go into all the world with the good news, and never before in the history of mankind has that been easier to do than today. One can literally reach into every corner of the globe from the comfort of his/her own home, and with just a few keystrokes on a personal computer one can share the glorious gospel of our Lord Jesus with, and provide guidance and encouragement to, people one would normally never have had the opportunity to meet. Not to make use of this technology to His glory would be, in my view, the height of irresponsibility. Brethren, I am going to be very blunt here: It is my conviction that when God places such a tool within our hands, and we fail to use it to further His cause, we will answer to Him one day for that failure! With the blessing of such technology comes the obligation and responsibility, and yes even the privilege, to use it. "For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more" [Luke 12:48].

Several weeks ago a subscriber to these Reflections from colorful Colorado wrote, "Al, I'm wondering how you and your subscribers use the Internet. It might be interesting to hear from them on this, if you don't think it is too far afield from your core purpose." I too thought it might be rather interesting to hear from you on this, so I sent out a special request for input. As always, you provided me with a wealth of information, and for that response I extend to you my heartfelt Thanks! Many of you spoke of individual use of this medium for godly purposes, others spoke of congregational use. Several from other nations wrote to share their usage and perspective with me, for which I'm grateful. And not a few of you commented on the tremendous impact of the Internet upon the world today. A dear brother in the state of Michigan, for example, wrote: "On the History Channel the other night someone commented that the Internet is comparable to the Gutenberg printing press in terms of spreading information and its profound effect on society. That sounds about right to me!" It has certainly impacted the course of human events, no question!

Personal Use

As I examined your responses, it became clear that there are several layers of involvement with the Internet by the people of God. This ranges all the way from personal spiritual development to global evangelistic outreach, with significant congregational utilization sandwiched between. On the personal, or individual disciple, level one finds a plethora of practical usage in evidence. Many use it as a tool to simply keep in touch with loved ones and fellow believers, whether locally or afar. Functional families communicate with one another, and there is no question that the Internet has helped facilitate this. A reader from Tennessee wrote, "Have you noticed that a word fitly spoken can be a great blessing?" How true! A good number of you are discovering that it takes so little effort to send that "word fitly spoken" to another via a quick email, thus enhancing personal relationships and building bridges between brethren. Also, when differing disciples dialogue, debate and diatribe diminish! What a marvelous tool we have in this medium to facilitate greater understanding and unity among spiritual siblings! This is something each of us, individually, can easily do ... and should do far more frequently. It takes so little effort, and produces enormous benefits. One benefit is that such a focus on familial interaction just might overflow into greater local demonstration. A minister in California said, "The ties and friendships and fellowship via the Internet in many ways exceeds what I have with people here at my own congregation who have chosen not to have relationships beyond the casual on Sunday mornings."

One thing many readers use the Internet for, and this is an area that applies to me also, is research. At our very fingertips is literally a treasure house of information on science, history, geography, languages, theology and every other field of study one can imagine. The knowledge of the ages is just an entry into a search engine away. Within seconds one can be examining real time video of an archeological expedition in the Holy Lands or perusing the pages of an ancient biblical manuscript housed in a museum on the other side of the planet. In today's world there is simply no excuse for ignorance. A minister in Texas wrote, "I do research on secular historical writers to see how they used the Greek prior to and after Jesus was in the flesh."

A good many disciples of Christ Jesus have chosen to use the Internet to give their personal testimony to the power of Christ in their lives, and to share their witness with others. Countless blog sites have arisen in which men and women, young and old, daily deliver to the doorstep of the world their most personal perceptions regarding their life in Christ. These "bloggers" have developed into global communities based on shared interests and convictions. There are millions of personal web sites where pictures, writings, links and assorted information is stored. Many use their web sites to promote their beliefs or to steer visitors to the church they attend (which most often also has a web site). There are also many Internet periodicals and publications [such as my weekly Reflections] that can be either read online or are sent via email to a list of subscribers. I'm thankful that many of you are so willing to tell others about my writing ministry, for it is truly through your efforts that my readership has grown globally so quickly and dramatically. A minister in South Carolina, for example, wrote saying, "I recommend to people that they check out your Reflections web site." To all of you who are doing this, I extend my appreciation.

Congregational Use

Not all congregations have seen the need for Internet involvement. Indeed, some seem to resist it for some reason. A minister in California laments, "Our church is far behind in utilizing Internet technology. We have tried several times, but no one takes on the ministry with any sense of passion, so it very quickly withers." A minister in the state of South Carolina tells much the same story: "Our congregation, unfortunately, has not taken full advantage of the web. All we have is a minimal web site with little more than contact information." However, he sees some hope for the future, as "a much younger generation of web-savvy leaders in our congregation is now emerging, who understand the web's potential." More congregations need to see this same potential for great spiritual good. A minister from the state of California wrote, "I think it is important that our churches definitely give tremendous thought to starting, if they haven't already done so, some sort of church web site and/or ministry. More and more people are turning to the Internet for information and inspiration, to wit: your Reflections ministry. If we are going to reach the lost, we should use whatever avenue we can legitimately use."

Some congregations, however, have perceived the worth of a presence on the Internet, and an ever growing number of them have even initiated and funded a thriving Web Ministry. Ministers are being hired at many of these larger congregations whose sole responsibility is to lead this ministry. This shows great foresight by these congregational leaders, and I applaud their vision and willingness to step boldly into this new area of service unto others. An Internet minister would have a "job description" that would likely include maintaining an interactive web site for the local congregation, web/email based Bible studies (World Bible School has for years provided such studies through the Internet with which individuals and congregational groups can become involved, teaching students the gospel throughout the earth), congregational involvement on various levels (locally and globally), disseminating pertinent information to the members, hosting group discussion forums among the members and outsiders, prayer lists, providing sermons that can be listened to by visitors to the site, and on and on we could go. This ministry is limited only by the vision and imagination of the leaders who initiate and oversee it.

Many congregations use the Internet - especially email - to keep the members informed of special events and happenings. A sister in Florida writes, "Our Ladies Bible Class teacher sends out an email telling us a little about what our lesson will be and telling what to read in preparation. Also, if someone has a death in the family, it goes out to the members via email and a lunch is arranged for after the funeral. If someone is sick or bedridden, a request is sent for people to take food to them." A reader from Oklahoma says, "the elders use the Internet to facilitate communication with each other on important matters." Again, we see the importance of this medium for communication purposes.

One of the major resources now available on many church web sites is a collection of the minister's sermons that may actually be listened to by visitors to the congregation's home page. There is now technology available that allows these sermons to be stored there and listened to by countless visitors. A minister from Florida writes, "As I write this, there are now 200 sermons available to be heard on our web site, and people are using the web site. Those two hundred sermons have been listened to 8,672 times!! Lessons are now no longer immediately forgotten, but one can listen to them again and again, and share them with others." A preacher may preach a lesson to a very small group, but through the Internet that same sermon that perhaps only a hundred listened to in person may now be heard by tens of thousands throughout the world! Preaching the gospel to the whole world is now potentially possible to every minister, no matter where they are located or how small their congregation. A congregation in Mississippi even has their own Internet radio station on which they provide Christian broadcasting.

International Use

One of the truly remarkable aspects of the Internet, however, is its almost instant global reach. This can be especially helpful for missionaries serving the Lord in foreign fields away from their families. A young man who is laboring in Bolivia (and who was in elementary school when his parents were members of the congregation for which I preached in Santa Fe, New Mexico years ago) wrote, "The Internet is truly a blessing. We all use Skype to speak to and see our families and supporters for free on the web-cam. This is the only way the grandparents are surviving, I think!" Thus, this brother, his wife, and their children can stay in visual/audio contact with their families back in the States through this medium. They have also used the Internet to link up with a children's Bible class at their sponsoring congregation, and the young children were able to "talk to the missionaries" and have them answer right there on the computer screen. It made the work seem more "real" to these young kids. A reader in South Carolina spoke of his congregation using the Internet "to stay in touch with our Trinidad Christian family, a mission work we support." A reader in Texas wrote, "One of the most exciting uses of the Internet, in my experience, is the ministry training that we are doing in Spanish through several locations affiliated with Sunset International. We have linked Houston, Miami, Dallas, Arlington, Little Rock, Venezuela, and Brazil together with cameras that allow real-time interactive participation in classes taught in Spanish. We are working on installing this same type of Internet based training in India and Iceland as well."

A reader in Alabama said, "I collect monthly articles and reports from preachers in the USA and overseas, and then I distribute them to about 2500 people every month. I do this in order to keep everyone in touch with each other so we can pray for the Word of God to have free course in our world. This has been a great influence on many lives, and many people have told me that they look forward to receiving these reports each month." A reader in Tennessee wrote, "I have several ministry partners in India with whom I stay in touch through the Internet on an almost daily basis. I am greatly encouraged to hear regularly from them about their many struggles and successes in the Kingdom. It is my privilege to have a small part in encouraging them. I am slowly expanding my communications with evangelists in other countries as well for the same purpose."

Final Thought

It is my hope and prayer that this issue of my Reflections has served to stimulate the interest of some in the great potential for good of the Internet. I am truly convinced that it is one of the most remarkable tools ever conceived for sharing the Good News of God's Grace with men and women all over the planet. The possibilities are endless, limited only by the degree of our vision and imagination. Brethren, God has genuinely blessed us to live in these challenging times. The open doors before us lead to the type of contacts and service the early disciples could only dream of. We dare not fail to take full advantage of these golden opportunities to share our faith with others. The words of Jesus ring as true today as they ever did -- "Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut" [Rev. 3:8]. Let us boldly go through it to wherever His Spirit leads us!

Reflections on CD
The 2006 Reflections CD
Is Now Available

Down, But Not Out
A Study of Divorce and Remarriage
in Light of God's Healing Grace

by Al Maxey
Order Your Copy Today
Readers' Reflections

From a Minister in [Unknown]:

Bro. Al, I have recently finished reading your book Down, But Not Out. Great!! Your previous messages in Reflections had prepared me for the book, however it was good to have the whole study connected. By the way, one of my former elders, as he began to realize where my "false doctrines" of grace, fellowship, and unity were leading, asked me why I wasn't preaching for a Baptist church! The answer God gave me was "this is where God put me." This response finished that discussion, and it never came up again. The longer I go, the more I realize that the tradition-bound Churches of Christ represent a huge mission field for those of us who are striving to share the good news of God's saving grace through faith. Keep up the good work.

From a Reader in Kentucky:

Bro. Al, I have your book on marriage and divorce -- Down, But Not Out -- and have shared it with several people. I was wondering, however, if you had any articles with the same message that I can print out, since I can't afford to give everyone I know who has had a divorce a copy of your book! Thanks!

From a Minister in Australia:

Dear Brother Al, Just a brief note to again say Thank You for all the effort and research you undertake to bring the challenging messages each week. I also want to take the opportunity to wish you and Shelly all the very best for Christmas and 2007. I have enclosed a scenic calendar of Australia as a reminder that you and your ministry are prayed for daily down here. I also continue to value your sermon tapes that you so kindly sent to me. Brother Al, you are a very insightful teacher and preacher. Thank you again, brother, for sending your Reflections to us, and also for responding to all my emails so quickly and faithfully. I continue to pass on your web site details to others here in Australia.

From a Reader in Scotland:

Dear Bro. Al, It's been a long, long time since I last wrote to you, but my wife and I have been reading your Reflections with interest and discussing your thoughts over the past year. You're doing a great job and you've introduced me to the sermons of Rick Atchley which I can enjoy thanks to the wonder of the Internet. I'd love to hear some of your sermons, by the way -- any chance of making these available to your readers?! That would be great! As for the guy who has moved into your area to "set you straight" - what arrogance! How sad that this brother is so full of hostility towards you. You and the congregation you work with will be in our prayers. Also, so glad to know that someone as educated in the Scriptures as yourself, and who is striving to spread the Word of Grace, can still feel "gobsmacked" (as we say here in Scotland) when coming up against such opposition, especially from brethren! Thank you so much for your enlightening ministry which we have enjoyed since it began, and may God bless you and your loved ones this Christmas and throughout 2007.

From a New Reader in Kentucky:

Al, I would like to be added to your mailing list for Reflections. I've read a couple of your articles and appreciate what I've read. God bless and Merry Christmas to you and your family.

From a Reader in Indiana:

Brother Al, I spent some time today reading some of your older Reflections, and I found them very helpful. I've printed off about ten more to read also. I find your writings about God's grace so relevant to countering the idea of one's not having any assurance of salvation. Your work is so valuable, and also so accessible (being on the Internet). I also just read your latest issue. I was laughing so hard I could hardly read it. Watermelon juice!! Seriously though, this guy you mentioned that came from Arkansas is a "nutter." Stay away from him!!

From a Reader in Georgia:

Al, I believe I can relate to your feelings regarding the encounter with the patternistic brother. To a lesser extent I also have been there and done that. Just hang in there, brother. You're doing a ton of good!

From a Reader in Oklahoma:

Bro. Al, I have really had my eyes opened with your insights. Your Reflections give me the opportunity to have answers to questions that I have asked myself for the past 50 years.

From a Navy Officer Overseas:

Bro. Al, I also know how hard it is to take the "high road." But, I also know that God is on the High Road, and when you take it, you are with Him. The advantage of that is He will fight for you. Al, while some clearly do not appreciate your work, many do, including myself. Keep on keepin' on, brother!!

From a Minister in Arkansas:

Al, Like you, I am dumbfounded that people will still try to debate such silly issues when there are masses who do not yet know the only true and living God, and while there are others living in open rebellion to Him. Your last summation is right on target -- we need to be vitally concerned with implementing the fruit of the Spirit in our lives and worship. When we get that one right, all quarrelling will cease!

From a Minister in Arkansas:

Dear Brother Al, Thank you for yet another great Reflections. I think that guy who moved from here to there needs to study his Bible!! Such judgmentalism as he displays against your ministry needs to be rebuked. May God continue to bless you and divinely inspire you in your ministry!

From a Reader in Tennessee:

Dear Brother Al, Hang in there, my brother! Your writings are blessing thousands of people, and they are helping to break the bonds of legalism for a great many! I am more thankful every day that I was blessed to grow up in a church were GRACE was preached.

From a Minister in New Mexico:

Bro. Al, Your response to the Arkansas preacher was just exactly what it should have been. Someone much more spiritual than either one of us said that we should not cast our pearls before the pigs! Have a Merry Christmas, brother!

From an Elder in Texas:

Bro. Al, Paul's letter to the Galatians, chapter three, could have been written by Paul to the brethren causing you and your flock such harm. But, of course, they wouldn't ... couldn't ... understand it, because these things are spiritually discerned. Soldier On, as Bro. Leroy Garrett would say!

From a Reader in Alabama:

Dear Brother Al, I can't help but respond to the Reflections article "The Great Grape Gripe." The audacity of an outsider to mail a packet of information to the members of a congregation (but NOT the leaders) to, in effect, produce discord among the membership, is above and beyond the pale!!

From a Reader in Texas:

Dear Brother Al, You are obviously upsetting the Devil and his minions, who have decided to try and pick you to pieces -- at much closer range. They have been cornered by your teachings on the grace of God, and you know what happens when a wild animal is cornered. Since they can't destroy the message, they are going to do their best to destroy the messenger. Al, I say all of this weeping. It tears me apart that in addition to all the trials the tattered, torn Body of Christ must endure from the world, we should also have to endure these vicious, ravenous wolves in our midst. Lord Jesus, come quickly! Be of good courage, my brother! The battle is worth the cost.

From a Reader in North Carolina:

Bro. Al, It sounds to me like Satan sent this preacher to your community in an attempt to weaken and distract you from your effective work. The great deceiver has plenty of "Christians" in his pocket, many of them self-proclaimed "gospel preachers," and he distributes them where he knows they can cause some damage. Be watchful and be strong, brother!

From a Minister in California:

Bro. Al, I have run into some odd situations with brothers of a similar spirit, but this guy's "reception" of you, and of the olive branch you offered, is self-righteous arrogance such as I've never experienced. He deserves an award for Pharisee of the Year. You did the right thing! I'm proud of you for at least trying to establish an avenue of communication with this person. Please be encouraged, my brother, by the good you are doing and the hearts you have opened to Grace.

From an Elder in Missouri:

Bro. Al, What a travesty to turn your welcome into an attack; even worse: one that was false from the very beginning! I would go so far as to suspect that this person had not even read your article on the content of the cup for himself, but was just quoting someone else who was misquoting you. In my experiences with such products of the Memphis School of Preaching, that is the type of thing their students and graduates typically do -- merely parrot the words of their instructors, with no intellectual integrity of their own (which might lead them to look into the writings and teachings of others for themselves so as to determine if the things they have heard are so). As for the content of the cup, I am convinced it was grape wine that the Lord used, and that we in following His example should use the same. In my studies and interviews with various Jewish teachers and rabbis, it is clear to me that Jesus drank alcoholic or fermented wine (yes, even at the wedding feast in Cana). However, to argue about these many things is the death of the Body!

From a Reader in Texas:

Bro. Al, Great article, as usual. Perhaps I'm a little lacking in patience, but having been to Russia a couple of times (and hope to go again next year), I was disturbed, agitated and disappointed about an event that took place in Moscow. Some American missionaries complained about the Russians using wine in the Lord's Supper. So as not to offend the Americans, the Russian Christians switched to grape juice while the Americans were there. It made me wonder -- In this situation, just who was the more spiritually mature?! This kind of stuff makes me ill at heart.

From a Reader in Oklahoma:

Brother Al, Unfortunately, there is nothing you could have said to that type of brother. Their minds and hearts are so filled with hatred for anyone who dares to disagree with their positions that I doubt the apostles themselves could change them! Just as the Pharisees refused to accept Scripture in their attempts to trap and destroy Jesus, these individuals today are just as blind to Truth. If they read the Scriptures at all, they read just enough to justify their own positions, and nothing more! I have had the misfortune to have "worshipped" with some of these brethren in the past, and they are miserable indeed in their attempts to live a "perfect" life, not even knowing from moment to moment if they are saved. They feel only they have the Truth, and yet they can't even agree among themselves what that Truth is. What a pathetic life! Thank God for His love and grace!!

From a Minister in Oregon:

Dear Bro. Al, I was a missionary in Papua, New Guinea in the 80's and discovered that in the interior tribes and clans, bread and grape juice were "undiscovered" commodities. Bread was not the "staff of life," but rather the sweet potato was the main course in their diet. There were some forms of juice from wild berries that were white colored. Also, they did not know what a lamb was. A baby pig, however, was adored as pure and clean. I encouraged the new converts to use the sweet potato and the white berry juice in the Lord's Supper at that time. These tribes and clans today are now more accessible, and they have been forced to use "church grape juice" that is flown in from Australia. The funny thing is, however, they have no electricity, and so the grape juice ferments. The communion services smell like a brewery! Also, on the coastal range in Papua, New Guinea, many use coconut meat and juice for the Lord's Supper emblems.

From a Minister in India:

Beloved Brother Al, I travel extensively to preach in several small towns and rural places. In most of these places they use the watery extract drawn from raisins; they boil and squeeze them and use it for the Lord's Supper. This is not red in color, but no questions are raised. Getting red grapes is not possible throughout the year in many rural places here. Hence, we often resort to the use of bottled "Grape Crush" drinks, which can be stored for long periods. We do have some international fruit shops, and sometimes we can get imported grapes from America and Australia. Bro. Al, what you wrote was a wonderful exegesis, when you said, "Thus, we might well say that in some situations it is Grace over Grape; the fruit of the Spirit over the fruit of the vine! God judges the content of our heart, not the content of our cup!" That is His grace.

From a Reader in South Carolina:

Al, Your article "The Great Grape Gripe" was interesting! How many ways can one be contentious over the Lord's Supper while denigrating the intent of worshippers? What about our wonderful military members serving in remote areas where grape juice is frequently not available? I have heard that they rehydrate raisins and use that juice for the fruit of the vine. The symbols do have importance, but only when taken in the context of "do this in remembrance of Me."

From a Minister in Missouri:

Bro. Al, It's ridiculous to what extent many legalists will go in order to "preserve the pattern." In the One Cup fellowship, of which I am currently a part, the "great grape gripe" is no small issue!! A great many of the congregations in Africa, for example, have a hard time getting their hands on grape juice. Instead of using another "fruit of the vine," or better yet, using wine, which is readily available, many of the "church cops" of the brotherhood feel that spending hundreds of thousands of dollars of the Lord's money is not too far to go in order to provide the "sacred juice" from the "Welch's vine." Every year, in the One Cup fellowship, requests go out to the congregations asking for financial donations to provide Welch's grape juice for our brethren overseas. The cost of the juice, the shipping, and the high duty taxes cause the expense for this task to reach nearly a quarter of a million dollars every two years or so!! I have to wonder if we might better use that money to put food on the tables of hungry people, rather than providing Welch's grape juice for a bunch of legalists!! The right choice seems pretty clear to me!!

From a Reader in Texas:

Al, I just finished reading your latest Reflections article and wanted to pass this along to you. About a month ago we were observing the Lord's Supper and the "fruit of the vine" was passed to me. I noticed that it was not red, so I thought someone had by accident picked up some white grape juice. But when I drank it, I got the taste of apple juice. Someone obviously mistakenly bought apple juice instead of grape juice. I don't know if the mistake wasn't realized until too late to make a change or what. However, I doubt any of us who were there that Sunday are going to hell because we drank it. Nor do I think the person who made the mistake is going to hell, although I'm sure that some people would probably believe we all are! By the way, "The Great Grape Gripe" was a good article! Also, why hadn't you told people about the Willie the Watchdog series on your Reflections Archives page?! They are great! Keep them coming!

From a Pastor in California:

Al, I loved "The Great Grape Gripe." Right on! Brother, as for that guy who has moved to your town to counter your "false teaching," ignore him! Don't waste your time on him. He's no more a brother in Christ than is Osama bin Laden. He doesn't believe in the same Jesus you do. He may know some things about Jesus, but he most certainly doesn't know Jesus. Jesus Himself walked right past the Pharisees like him to love prostitutes and tax collectors. They will enter the kingdom before the Pharisees. Pass him by. He's only there to engage you in battle, dirty your witness, and try to make a name for himself. He has no other message or strategy, and nothing to say that anyone outside his own dying circle even wants to hear. That's my two-cents' worth, brother.

From a Doctor in Alabama:

Al, I have been a bit slow catching up on my email lately, so I only recently read about your encounter with the "watermelon juice" preacher. I am fully convinced that you did the right thing -- the Christian thing -- by taking the "high road" with him. But, your description of his behavior gives me cause for worry. The man's actions and attitude suggest that he is a fanatic, and fanatics can be dangerous. Please be careful in all of your dealings with him. I wish you and Shelly a very merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year. You are in my prayers continually. Thank you for being such a huge source of encouragement and edification for me!

From a Reader in Texas:

Bro. Maxey, It was very difficult for me to read about your encounter with the new minister in town. One just doesn't expect such negativity from other Christians, but sadly it happens much too often. The mindset of the Pharisees is alive and well, but hopefully it will die off one day. I hope you will put this person behind you ["Get behind Me, Satan!" -- Matt. 16:23], and that you will not let his presence in your community be a distraction to your ministry. It is truly their loss that they do not read or comprehend the message of grace that you extend through your comprehensive study of the Scriptures. Your articles are all that keep me going right now! May you and your family have a joyous holiday season and a blessed new year.

From a New Reader in [Unknown]:

Dear Bro. Al, I was forwarded your article Envisioning the Future: Reflecting on the Road Ahead [Issue #272]. Very interesting and stimulating! I am a co-worker with Victor Knowles and am the Northwest Representative for POEM [Peace On Earth Ministries]. I would like to receive a subscription to your weekly Reflections. You have some terrific insights into the pulse of the a cappella branch of our movement -- just like Bro. Carl Ketcherside before you, who was one of my heroes! I hope you have a wonderful Christmas!

From a Minister in Florida:

Bro. Al, I too have been "written up" and taken to task by some of the legalistic brethren in my own area. I have watched with astonishment at their numbers growing smaller and smaller as they wring their hands in amazement, wondering "what's wrong?!" as they "stand for Truth." One congregation in this area, which was led by ultra-legalists, completely closed their doors and sold the building. At another such congregation, the preacher was asked to leave, and so he placed membership at another legalistic congregation (taking a following along with him). It wasn't but a month or two before he then moved to Oklahoma in order to preach for a church there, leaving his little following at the new congregation. That congregation has just split, with the group who left the first church now leaving this second congregation and starting a new congregation, which according to them is the "only sound church" in the entire area! OUR congregation, on the other hand, which all these others have called an "unsound" congregation (and a "unity in diversity" church), has had to add on to our present building. We've also added more pews and added on to the parking lot. We have had a 40% increase last year and have new members coming in every month!

From a Reader in Barbados, Caribbean Islands:

Brother Al, That was a great discourse on the communion emblems! However, I have a question for you since you appear to suggest there should be a balance between what seeks to promote the real spirit of the communion ritual and what is practical. I get the impression that you are all for simulating the exercise in accordance with the biblical description where this is possible, bearing in mind that Christ is the One who instituted it. Now, I know of a practice where sometimes there is a substitute for the bread. This substitute is a flat white circular disc with a cross engraved at the center. I have been told it is "unleavened bread," however I am not really sure of its actual composition. If you are aware of this practice, would you please comment on it -- and please note that where this is used there is no lack of the more common form of bread. Al, may God bless your labor of love!

From a Reader in Texas:

Brother Al, Thanks for all you do. I don't know where you get the time and energy to do your Reflections every week, along with preaching and everything else that you do. I don't say much to you very often, but we appreciate you and your willingness to challenge the thinking of many of our brethren. God bless you, Shelly, and your family.

From a Reader in Arkansas:

Brother Al, I would like to wish you and Shelly a wonderful Christmas. May God continue to bless you in your ministry in the coming year. You have blessed so many lives. Just remember the words of 1 Peter 3:14 -- "But even if you suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled."

From a Reader in Alabama:

Al, Thank you so much for a year's worth of learning. I look forward to your lessons. Thank you, too, for your stand against legalism. Legalism has done much damage to many believers. And, Merry Christmas to you and your family too.

From a Minister in Oklahoma:

Al, The Spirit of God is using you mightily to mold me into the image of that incorruptible One who dressed Himself in flesh over 2000 years ago. I appreciate your assistance in keeping me accountable to "preaching the Word, in season and out of season." Merry Christmas to you and all your family.

If you would like to be removed from or added to this
mailing list, contact me and I will immediately comply.
If you are challenged by these Reflections, then feel
free to send them on to others and encourage them
to write for a free subscription. These articles may all
be purchased on CD. Check the ARCHIVES for
details and past issues of these weekly Reflections: