REFLECTIONS
by Al Maxey

Issue #315 ------- September 6, 2007
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What task in life could I have performed
nobler than this: to write what is of great
service to mankind and to bring the nature
of things into the light for all to see?

Plato {427-347 B.C.}

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Pondering the Periodicals
Analyzing an Article and Advertisement

"'Fool!' said my Muse to me, 'look in thy heart, and write.'" These powerful, provocative words are taken from the classic work Astrophel and Stella, penned by the noted English poet Sir Philip Sidney [1554-1586]. How poignantly he has depicted the plight of many an author who has sat for hours, penning not a word, the creative juices dried up. Gene Fowler [1890-1960] stated, "Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead." I have been there. Every writer has. Nevertheless, when one looks inwardly, opening the portals of one's heart, the words flow onto paper with ease. The magnificent Greek author Nikos Kazantzakis [1885-1957] once observed, "My entire soul is a cry, and all my work the commentary on that cry." What many writers seem to forget, if indeed they ever knew, is that the most effective writing is merely the overflow of living. Henry David Thoreau [1817-1862] perhaps phrased it best when he wrote, "How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live." Parched parchment is the product of an arid soul; a dry pen the evidence of a life lived to no real purpose.

One's writings should be a reflection of who one is. The hurts and the hopes; the victories as well as the defeats; the struggles; the aspirations; love, family, joy; the view from the peak; the challenge of the valley. Quoting once again from Thoreau, this literary giant stated in his journal, "The author's character is read from title page to end." That is why, some five years ago, when contemplating this current writing venture, I determined to denominate it my Reflections, for I intended these weekly essays to be truly reflective of who I am. "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he" [Prov. 23:7].

Therefore, in order to be faithful to my purpose, I must also be faithful in the presentation of my person to my readers. This necessitates a high degree of personal transparency that can, at times, expose one to the ridicule and rebuke of those about him. Personal honesty can prove very costly; it can potentially destroy one's relationships and reduce one's ministry to rubble. The bold sharing of our innermost thoughts and convictions is clearly a rather dangerous path to walk, yet it may also prove to be highly gratifying and rewarding. Stated simply: Nothing worth achieving comes without risk. Therefore, most serious writers have a tendency to be a rather conflicted lot. They are fearless on the one hand, fearful on the other. They are applauded by some, assaulted by others; commended and condemned; a hero and a heretic ... and often all on the same day. Anyone who would willingly invite such reaction must either be demented in mind or devoted in heart. Although it might be a close vote, I would hope my readers would tip the scales for me in favor of the latter. My weekly written reflections, while bold and confrontational at times, are truly designed simply to generate honest thought among the people of God. Sometimes this requires a direct approach to an issue, which is not always appreciated by those unwilling to think or by those who do not appreciate having their pontifical pronouncements publicly challenged.

In this current issue of my weekly Reflections I would like to simply share a few thoughts on an article and an ad that "struck a chord" (or "struck a nerve") with me in recent weeks and months. You may agree with my perspectives, you may disagree, but hopefully, either way, you will be challenged to think. My goal in sharing my "musings" is truly not to try and coerce others to conform to my convictions, although I certainly would not complain if you chose to embrace them after giving them serious thought. Rather, my purpose is, and always has been, merely to awaken my brethren to the fabulous blessings of open, honest, reflective investigation and contemplation. We should never blindly accept or embrace anything that is either preached or practiced within our faith-heritage. Take it all to the Word of God, examining these inspired Scriptures carefully, NOT through the sectarian spectacles we have worn for far too long, but rather with a willingness to hear Truth afresh, embracing it regardless of the changes that Truth may require of us (either individually or collectively). Simply stated: evidence a Berean spirit [Acts 17:11].

Promoting Partyism for a Price

I have subscribed to The Christian Chronicle for a good many years now. It is a well-written and well-respected news and information journal for the Churches of Christ throughout the world. I have generally found them to be fair in their reporting. Occasionally, however, I have been disappointed with some of what they publish (just as I'm confident that some are occasionally disappointed with what appears in these weekly Reflections). Obviously, one can't please everybody, and a sure recipe for failure, as well as frustration, is to try. Having said this, however, there have nevertheless been two occasions specifically when the powers behind The Christian Chronicle have printed full-page, paid advertisements for a very select few within our faith-heritage who seem to have an axe to grind or an agenda to push. In so doing, and in both cases, they've caused an outcry within our brotherhood. The first incident was with the publication of A Christian Affirmation, which appeared on page 15 of the May, 2005 issue. I devoted a couple of my Reflections to this very troubling document [Issues #190 and #195], which I would encourage the readers to review.

The most recent paid advertisement is titled Why Only Sing? It appears on page 10 of the September, 2007 issue of The Christian Chronicle. This ad is put out by a group of men within the Churches of Christ who are boldly seeking to proclaim the eternal truth that the ONLY way to be pleasing to God in our corporate worship assemblies is to sing praises unto our God without the use of instrumental accompaniment. Although there is clearly nothing whatsoever wrong with singing a cappella, such a human preference hardly rises to the level of divine precept. It is an argument based upon assumptions drawn from silence (which constitutes presumption). In other words, God didn't say we could use it, and we can't find where the early church did, therefore it must be wrong (based upon the further assumption that silence must always be prohibitive). Whether singing is accompanied or unaccompanied, therefore, has become for these legalistic patternists both a fellowship and a salvation issue. That is why a small fortune is being spent by these people and their backers to try and convince the entire earth that the ONLY singing that will EVER be approved by God Almighty is a cappella. Anything else will literally place one in danger of going to hell. If you would like to learn more about these individuals, who they are and why they are doing this, you can find that information on their web site -- www.NewTestamentChurchToday.org.

I think what they're doing is appalling. Just as with A Christian Affirmation, a small group of men are seeking to be the voice of an entire movement. They are not! In point of fact, they are repeating the very error of the Pharisees of old, of whom Jesus rightfully said, "In vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men" [Matt. 15:9]. Whenever and wherever mere men seek to bind as divine LAW their own personal or party preferences, severing fellowship with those who will not bow to their theological whims, we will always find increased squabbling among spiritual siblings and frequent feuding factions among the family of God. We take an issue about which our Father said nothing (either pro or con) and use it to slash and slay one another without mercy. We should be ashamed of ourselves, and, frankly, The Christian Chronicle should be ashamed of themselves for accepting the "thirty pieces of silver" from these factionists, and for this pittance helping them promote this pernicious partyism. What's next? A full page paid advertisement promoting the view that kitchens and fellowship halls are sinful? Paid advertising denouncing Sunday Schools? What about a full-page ad on the sinfulness of multiple cups in the Lord's Supper? Name your price. How much will it cost me to promote my personal agenda in your publication? Brethren, we can do better than this. Indeed, we must.

At the beginning of their ad, under the heading "What's at Stake?," we find this bold statement: "Singing unaccompanied is not a matter of preference or a musical 'style,' or just 'Church of Christ tradition.' Changing to singing with an instrument shifts us away from our essential dream to be the disciples of Jesus as described in the New Testament." That is a fallacious, not to mention an utterly ridiculous, pronouncement. Fulfilling "our dream to be the disciples of Jesus as described in the New Testament" has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with whether our heartfelt, worshipful praise of God the Father is either accompanied or unaccompanied. Christianity is not a religion frozen in time and place, it is a relationship that is vibrant and evolving. I don't have to become a clone of a Palestinian disciple living 2000 years ago in order to fulfill my dream to be a New Covenant disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. This idea that we must somehow fully perceive The Pattern, and then practice it perfectly in order to be saved, is a practical absurdity. Even the legalistic patternists themselves can't come to any degree of agreement on what exactly constitutes that elusive pattern. There is no more divided and divisive group in Christendom than the legalistic patternists. Yes, singing unaccompanied IS a matter of preference, for the simple reason there is nothing in Scripture declaring such to be a divine precept. If God chose neither to prescribe nor proscribe, then this matter, by divine default, becomes a matter of human judgment and/or preference. The only way to elevate it to the level of LAW is to provide a "Thus Sayeth The Lord," and such cannot be done.

Those persons who dare to accompany their singing of praises with musical instruments "drift from the Ephesian picture," according to these men. And just why on earth would such people "want to risk displeasing God" with the "stabbing interruption" of "the pure vocal quality of worship"? These men close with a tearful plea to all the digressives who have tarnished the beauty of worship: "With voices breaking, godly men pleaded with their brothers and sisters in Christ to remain faithful to the New Testament pattern." Notice that the "godly" and "faithful" brethren are those who sing a cappella, and, by implication, those who sing with accompaniment are neither. Whenever these godly, faithful brethren cannot force absolute compliance with their preferences, they are forced by these godless digressives "to walk down church steps with salty, grief-laden tears flowing down their cheeks." These men plead, "Don't let those tears flow again. The only way we can maintain unity is to do what we all agree pleases our Lord in worship -- singing with heart, soul and mouth without aid or addition. Let us as Christians remain faithful to the clear pattern."

The only way the church can ever achieve unity is for everyone to embrace the deduced decrees preached by the legalistic patternists. In other words, "Do it MY way, and we'll have unity." No we won't. We'll have uniformity. And we won't even have that for long, because it won't be any time at all before some other aspect of The Pattern becomes a bloody killing field. These people declare the pattern to be "clear," and declare we must be faithful to it. If it is that "clear," then why are these men hiding under their desks and refusing to provide this pattern in all its fullness and specificity?! If it's clear, let's have it. Again, I have asked for it for 30+ years, and not one single person has ever provided it. For those of you who may want to review this quest for this elusive pattern, I would refer you to those articles listed under the heading Requesting Legalism's List on my Topical Index web page. You will find it fascinating, as well as troubling, reading. To my beloved brethren at The Christian Chronicle, I would simply observe: the philosophy of good journalism is to report the news, not make it. For a price they fell into the hands, and into the plans, of these partyists. This has happened twice now in the past couple of years. Money was dangled, and the bait was taken. At what price are you willing to contribute to the promotion of partyism? Let us all encourage our brethren at The Christian Chronicle never to fall into this pit again. Such ads, no matter how much money they may generate for the publication, provide no positive benefit to the One Body of Christ; indeed, they work against the cause of unity for which our Lord prayed [John 17].

You Might Be Sectarian, If...

I would like to highly commend Bro. Guy Orbison, Jr. for one of his recent articles. A little over two years ago I briefly reviewed another of Guy's articles, and that review may be read in Reflections #197. I appreciated Guy's perspective then, and I appreciate it even more now. I have very little doubt that Guy Orbison and I would both agree that he is quite likely far more conservative than I am with regard to certain issues and matters. Nevertheless, I am equally convinced that we are far closer in our thinking on a good many other matters that confront the church or determine its spiritual composition ... as is clearly evidenced by his recent article You Might Be Sectarian, If ..., which appeared in the May, 2007 issue of Rocky Mountain Christian. In this particular article, Guy Orbison, with apologies to all those "redneck jokesters" out there, looks at three identifying characteristics of the sectarian mindset. First, however, he provides a working definition of the term under consideration. "I'm referring here to an attitude that exhibits a certain party spirit in regard to our fellowship," writes Orbison. I would agree that sectarianism is indeed a "party spirit" gone to seed. However, it is far more than that.

What is sectarianism? The dictionary defines a "sectarian" as "a person who is blindly and narrow-mindedly devoted to a sect." "Sectarianism" is characterized as "narrow-minded bigotry." Not a positive picture, is it? In short, it is an allegiance, often a militant one, to a narrow perspective. Around these perceptions, and the personalities behind them, an exclusive party is often eventually formed. Those within this faction are considered the "faithful;" those outside are apostates fit only for the fires of hell. A "sect," by definition, is simply "a subset of the whole" (Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, p. 1178). The Greek word we translate "sect" is hairesis, from which we derive the word "heresy." It comes from a root word meaning "to choose." The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia states the following: "Hairesis came to mean those who 'chose' to associate with a political party, a philosophical school, or a religious community that espoused a particular view" (vol. 3, p. 672). Volume two of the ISBE states that in classical Greek the idea of "choice" or "selection" was a primary meaning, and that it came to signify "groups in a larger society that follow the teachings of particular leaders in distinction from others" (p. 684). Thus, the word conveyed the sense of "a party with distinctive emphases and concerns" (ibid).

Although the term could be used in a neutral sense, simply depicting the reality of diversity of perspectives (and it was used in this sense on occasion), it soon came to be used with an almost exclusive pejorative nuance. "Hairesis when used pejoratively denotes a group whose belief or practice differs from what is considered orthodox. This use is found in both Hellenistic Judaism and apostolic Christianity" (ISBE, vol. 3, p. 673). "Within the Church itself the term had from the very first a pejorative nuance" (ISBE, vol. 2, p. 685). "A negative nuance of sects seems to have developed during New Testament times, becoming even more pronounced in the writings of post-NT Christian apologists" (Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, p. 1178). Paul speaks disparagingly of such "factions" among the disciples in Corinth (1 Corinthians 11:19; cf. 1:10-12), and he condemns this "party spirit" as one of the works of the flesh (Galatians 5:20, RSV). The apostle Peter attributes the rise of such factions to the work of "false teachers" who out of greed "exploit you with false words" (2 Peter 2:1-3). Dr. Gerhard Kittel observed that the One Body and factions are completely incompatible with one another. "Ekklesia and hairesis are material opposites. The latter cannot accept the former; the former excludes the latter" (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, vol. 1, p. 183). Such factions "are splits in the community caused by personally motivated disputes" (ibid). "Within Christianity hairesis always denotes hostile societies" (ibid). For a far more thorough study of this concept, I would refer those readers who might be interested to my article: The Spirit of Sectarianism -- Reflections #29.

Bro. Guy Orbison begins by noting that to the ears of the religious world, saying "I am a member of the Church of Christ" will most often be "translated" by those who hear such a statement as an announcement of "which denomination you attend." When disciples begin to name (denominate) themselves, this only serves to highlight our differences and place distance between the disciples of Jesus Christ. I'm Church of Christ ... I'm Baptist ... I'm Lutheran. Sounds a lot like: I'm of Paul ... I'm of Cephas ... I'm of Apollos [1 Cor. 1:12]. Why can't we all just be disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ? Orbison writes, "Time is running out for all of us, and in the little time that I have remaining, I just want to be known as a Christian." Amen! I must also Amen (and even more loudly) the following: "What if one of our congregations in the next town did not use the name 'Church of Christ,' but changed it to the 'Smallville Church'? Would we frown on that and, perhaps, exclude them? If they otherwise continued to teach Truth, then on what basis could we be justified in removing them from our fellowship? Only a sectarian spirit would make the demand that they wear a party name, when the Bible makes no such demand." I just about leaped out of my chair with a shout when I saw this statement from the pen of Bro. Guy Orbison, Jr. We need to be hearing the same from more and more pulpits and in more and more periodicals. It is time for the sectarian spirit to DIE. That will not happen, however, until disciples begin abandoning party loyalties. If you find your identity in being "Church of Christ," or in any other denominational term, rather than simply being a Christian, then you are evidencing one of the chief traits of sectarianism. Orbison states, "I do not want to belong to any sectarian group nor do I want to teach any sectarian doctrine. ... There can be no future with God by our holding on to erroneous, party teachings. Our loyalty must be to Him and not our church. It is likely that none of us have got it all perfect, so we should always be changing: moving in the direction of Truth." Again ... Amen!!

Bro. Orbison's second point was -- "You might be sectarian, if you bind distinctive beliefs and practices which are not biblical." As he points out, every little faction within Christendom begins with a set of distinctive beliefs and/or practices that set them apart from the rest of the One Body. "These distinctions are what cause the division within Christianity," he correctly notes. In words that very easily could have come from my own pen, Guy declared, "Parties and factions have been formed based solely on the opinions of men that have been elevated to the level of doctrine." How true! He illustrates: "Some want to bind the KJV of the Bible as the only version to use in the pulpit. Others among us have bound ... the number of communion cups allowed, the disallowing of any contributions to the evangelistic efforts of other congregations, engaging paid local preachers, eating in the building, and sending flowers to the sick or bereaved with money from the church treasury." And we could all add countless other such attempts to bind where God has not. When you create LAW where God has not, you are a sectarian! When you forbid what God never forbade; when you call something "sin" that God did not; when you condemn those who or that which God has not ... you just might be a sectarian!

Guy's third and final point in his article was: "You might be sectarian, if you promote orthodoxy over truth." He clarifies: "Sectarians are adamant about maintaining the right doctrines. And, by right doctrines they mean the party line of teaching." By this point in my perusal of his article my voice had become strained with all the shouts of Amen!! But wait ... it gets even better: "Truth is irrelevant to the sectarian since he believes that whatever he teaches IS the truth. If someone comes along espousing a different doctrine than the sectarian, he is labeled a false teacher and booted from the party. He may have truth, but if his doctrine does not reflect the party line, then he cannot remain in their church." Once more ... AMEN!! Brother Orbison (who is the minister for the Lord's people in Durango, Colorado), I applaud you! You have shown courage of conviction in this article. You are to be commended for speaking truth boldly. And to the editors and publisher of Rocky Mountain Christian, you have the gratitude and respect of all true believers and grace-centered disciples everywhere for allowing one of your writers the freedom to express these challenging thoughts within your publication. Thank you! And may God bless you for providing such a spiritually uplifting article.

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Readers' Reflections

From a Pastor in New Zealand:

Dear Brother Maxey, Greetings from "down under" in New Zealand. I am currently serving as President of The Conditional Immortality Association of New Zealand, which was formed as a non-denominational organization consisting of members from across a number of different denominations who share an interest in promoting a greater understanding of Conditional Immortality beliefs (a theological position I know you have advocated for many years). I also am Editor of the association's magazine From Death To Life. I would be ever so grateful if you would grant me permission to publish your excellent study of the text of Revelation 14:9-11 -- Torture or Termination? -- in our magazine. Thank you for your many thought-provoking writings, and may God bless you!

From a Reader in Australia:

Dear Al, I recently read your critical analysis of the King James Version of the Bible [Reflections #88]. I had been studying this particular topic for some time, and had come across a lot of information regarding criticisms of the KJV, however I found your study to be far more specific than any of the others. I was looking for information on this because of my recent encounter with a man who has decided that the KJV is the ONLY Bible for the world, and if a person doesn't use the KJV then, basically, they are not even Christians. He actually started his own church about seven years ago based on this premise. He has been telling me that the KJV is the ONLY uncorrupted Bible that is available to mankind, therefore I had been struggling to find some valid points of disagreement. I have come across quite a bit of information, and yours has been the most helpful. It was much appreciated.

From a Christian Church Pastor in California:

Brother Al, Your Reflections article "A Disciple's Difficult Decision" (Issue #314) is yet another incredible gem packed with insight from a lifetime of fighting the good fight. Thanks for sharing with us! But even greater than the article are the heartening responses of the readers who look to you each week for a message of grace and love. The Spirit is clearly using you as a bright light in a dark and cloudy world of religious legalism, and you are making a huge difference. Blessings to you, Bro. Al, and also to the leadership of the church where you serve for allowing you the freedom to be a voice of reason heard far and wide.

From a New Reader in Texas:

Bro. Al, I belong to the One Cup congregation where the elder suggested to us that the cup can be refilled. The remarks Alan Bonifay made in the Old Paths Advocate regarding this are just plain SILLY. Please add me to your mailing list for Reflections. Thank you!

From a New Reader in Texas:

Hello Brother Maxey, I would be very interested in receiving your periodical by email. I just read Reflections #313 on "The Refilled Cup Heresy." I am a member of the congregation whose elder taught on this subject. I too was amazed at the response of the so-called "faithful" of our congregation (who were very few, by the way) who were upset by this talk of refilling the cup. The article by Alan Bonifay in the Old Paths Advocate only intensified my disgust for that faction of the One Cup Church of Christ. Our congregation is moving away from the OPA faction, and we are concentrating more upon the grace of God for salvation and the need to change into the image of Christ. We also are seeking to reach out to our community with the love of Christ, as well as seeking to enjoy the freedom that we have in Christ Jesus. As a result, I believe God has blessed us with growth. We are growing in unity and peace as we deal with the attacks from the OPA bunch. Who knows ... perhaps one day we will be free from them totally!! May God bless you, Bro. Maxey.

From a New Reader in Texas:

Brother Al, Would you please add me to your mailing list for Reflections. I have greatly enjoyed your writings, and have been reading them ever since I first heard about you from the aimless writings of the Old Paths Advocate. I am quite sure that Bro. Billy Dickinson never intended for his article about you to point so many people toward your Reflections. So, thank you, Billy!! Bro. Al, please keep those articles coming, and the more ridiculous things you can point out about the OPA bunch the better! -- signed: An OPA UNsubscriber

From a Reader in Kansas:

Bro. Al, I have sent some of your articles to my sister in West Virginia, and have just recently sent her the responses you received from your critique of the OPA article. We are all a part of the One Cup church, and I attend where "One Cup man" preaches. A number of your readers' responses (those from the One Cup readers) are from friends of mine around the country. I am so glad that you are addressing some of the articles from the Old Paths Advocate editors and writers, as they will not allow me to write anything in that paper. Brother Al, would you please add my sister's name to your email list?

From a New Reader in West Virginia:

Bro. Al, Thank you so much for adding me to your mailing list for Reflections. I have been a member of the church for many years and have seen a lot of people hurt and discouraged by the likes of the Old Paths Advocate. Thank you ... thank you ... thank you for what you are doing!!

From a Minister in Kansas:

Bro. Al, One Cup man here. Your latest issue of Reflections -- Issue #314 -- was both heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time. The story of the brother who moved away from legalism is one that has been repeated many times in the One Cup group. Soon I will have 30 years of experience within the One Cup Churches of Christ. The "standard operating procedure" of the self-appointed leaders of this group is still -- Line up with us, or get out!! I knew that neither Alan Bonifay or Billy Dickinson would ever respond to you. Isn't it amazing that men who claim to have such an abundant amount of "truth" aren't even willing to come forward and discuss their differences with you?! These men see a potential "digressive" behind every bush and pulpit. And now, they actually have a brother within their pack whose mission it is to examine congregations before they can be listed in the One Cup national church directory. This church Inquisitor is a new position set up by these power brokers to keep the "undesirables" out of their directory, or to intimidate them into conformity so as to be listed. Dear One Cup brethren: It is time for us to reclaim the congregational autonomy stolen from us by the power brokers of the Old Paths Advocate. Brethren, it is time for us to stand up for our freedom in Christ.

Al, in October (the 26th-28th) we are having a meeting that will be hosted by the congregation in West Plains, Missouri. One Cup brethren from Kansas, Texas, Arkansas and West Virginia will be attending. This is an annual meeting that has been held in Wichita the last several years. Other congregations are now stepping forward to host this meeting, so it will now begin rotating through the states mentioned above. Progress toward freedom and unity is finally being made. Thank God! And thank you, Bro. Al, for all the help you have been toward bringing this about. By including our emails in your readers' response section of your Reflections, the word is spreading far and wide about the abuses of the Old Paths Advocate power brokers. Congregational autonomy was stolen by these men, and unfortunately many of our number simply stood by and let it happen. What a price we have paid for this!! Keep up the good work, Bro. Al, in helping us overcome this evil. God bless you!!

From a New Reader in Oklahoma:

Greetings, Bro. Al, I am a student of ministry at Oklahoma Christian University. I would like to subscribe to your mailing list for your Reflections, and, if you will allow, to take a few moments of your time to hopefully encourage you in your work. I was raised within the Independent Christian Church. Growing up, I had no idea of the doctrines of the Churches of Christ, or of our shared heritage. When I began my studies at OCU, I was baffled and perplexed by some of the people who viewed musical instruments in worship as a sin, and who regularly wonder whether an issue not specified by God is a sin, and who have so limited a view of God's plan of salvation that they actually claim that anyone who doesn't agree with them in their attempt to "restore" First Century Palestinian Christianity must be condemned to an eternity in the fires of hell. Upon entering this conservative Church of Christ atmosphere, I found myself completely alone in my worship of God. Well, life went on, taking its twists and turns, until finally a good Christian man (my future father-in-law, actually) introduced me to your writings. Al, your sensible, logical approach to the study of the Scriptures, always keeping God's Love at the forefront of the mind, is incredibly refreshing!! I look forward to each article you produce. You are using your talents in a wonderful service to the people of God. Grace and Peace to you, brother!

From a Reader in North Carolina:

Bro. Al, "A Disciple's Difficult Decision" was another great article; one that I wish I had read 20 years ago!! When I left the legalistic Church of Christ I was part of, it was one of the hardest decisions I'd ever made. But yet, God "meant it for good" and has blessed me and my family greatly since. For that dear brother and his wife who have now been branded by their former congregation, here is my advice: Shake the dust from your feet and allow the Spirit of God to lead you into a fuller relationship with Him, one characterized by grace and mercy. May His peace be with you!

From a Reader in West Virginia:

Dear Bro. Al, Thanks for another great article. I, unfortunately, have had to "move my ladder" one time also. I stayed until I truly believed that the legalism in our congregation was going to affect my then small children. My wife and I sometimes question our decision; probably my wife more than me, for she was raised in a fairly conservative Church of Christ congregation. I was not. However, when the spirit within that congregation became such that we could no longer focus on service to God, much less worship of God, the decision had to be made. Our service and worship of Almighty God cannot be compromised. A word of caution, however: one must be careful when "moving his ladder," lest he move it to a wall where God's Truth is compromised.

From a Reader in California:

Bro. Al, Let me just say that I truly hope you will Soldier On. You really are reaching so many people with your writings! In fact, you are reaching people that the leaders of the legalists wish had never heard of you!! God bless you in this effort. I guess the Internet IS good for something. The devil hates what is coming upon the legalistic church, and, Bro. Al, you are instrumental in that change. Thank you.

From a Reader in Texas:

Dear Bro. Al, I have just finished your latest Reflections. In my 90 years I guess I have broken most of the rungs out of my ladder, and it has slipped on that wall many times, as I have been in many good, as well as many poor, congregations of the Lord's family. There were times when many of us were not really sure where we wanted to lean our ladders, but now I have found the place to retire mine! This congregation is the most loving and caring I have ever had the benefit of being a part of. Thank You, dear Lord!! Well, enough of my personal rambling. What I started out to say was what a good Reflections this issue is. People just like Alan Bonifay and Billy Dickinson have always been at work seeking to disrupt the Lord's church, even back to the 1920's when I came along. Like stink weeds, we will always have such people to put up with, and they will turn the milk of the Lord bad. Bro. Al, I have said enough, but will simply say again -- Soldier On, dear brother. You will probably never know just how much you mean to all of us. We love you!!

From a Reader in Texas:

Brother Al, Moving the ladder from one wall to another, even within our own fellowship, can be very hazardous, even downright dangerous, but it is something that should never be ruled out, because it just may be that God is using that situation to take us to a whole new level of happiness! As grace is taught in more and more congregations, legalism will lessen, and positive change and spiritual growth will be the result. Thank you for your help, Bro. Al. By the way, you are aware that I am a theological moderator for a very active Internet discussion forum. Your recent article "A Disciple's Difficult Decision" was most timely!! One of the members of our forum, who has read your Reflections article, has just told us that he has finally gotten the nerve to leave the legalistic congregation that he and his wife are attending!

From a Reader in Nebraska:

Brother Al, I would like to respond to the man and his wife who have recently withdrawn their membership from a congregation and who are now facing possible disfellowshipping. He asked for objective advice or a fresh perspective. In short, my husband and I were disfellowshipped from a Church of Christ congregation because we planned to marry (we were both divorced; he for over 5 years and me for over 13). We had also grown dissatisfied over many of the legalistic tactics of the leadership of this congregation. Although many within this congregation, including one of the elders, thought that disfellowshipping us was very wrong, it still happened anyway. As a result, we now have relatives who will leave the room whenever we enter, and nieces and nephews who don't even know our names. We decided to attend a Christian Church, and this was the best move, both spiritually and emotionally, that we could have made. We have never been happier, and we love our new congregation. The Holy Spirit truly does heal broken hearts! Brother Al, this brief response may not help this couple, but I just wanted them to know that the peace we have now is wonderful, and we just pray that they will soon have that peace also.

From an Elder in Missouri:

Dear Brother Al, I can truly relate to both of the brethren you mentioned, and also your depiction of those working "behind enemy lines" to effect change. In our own personal experience, we have been in the shoes of each of these groups. For those who choose to stay, as well as those who choose to leave, truly the cost can be great -- personally, spiritually, emotionally, financially, and any other way one may care to "count the cost." But, there will come a time in the lives of those who eventually choose to leave, as you stated, when they will look back on their decision as one of the best they have ever made. Somehow, the hardest fought battles bring the greatest rewards. Al, you and I have corresponded often about our family's personal spiritual journey. A few years back my wife and I left a very legalistic congregation. We had not been asked to leave, but I had been asked to "step aside" so that they could bring in a new preacher (although I was asked to continue serving as one of the shepherds). We stayed, hoping to continue to teach and to promote genuine spiritual growth -- alas, to no avail. When we left, we were spiritually injured and weakened to the point of genuine discouragement, and we were desperate for something -- anything -- better. We found a body of believers who took us in, healed us, and, most importantly, put us to work in the kingdom. They lifted us from the brink of death and gave us a new hope, and a new sense of what it means to be a Christian. No legalism here, only a Spirit-filled, Grace-centered focus on an honest relationship with the Savior. It is almost laughable, if it were not so serious, but I have been called a "false teacher" so many times by the very people that I had previously taught, baptized, nurtured and married for years. Now, that congregation continues to lose its members due to the legalism and oppression of the leadership. Al, my prayer for the families you mentioned in your article is that they too may find a healing family, as we did! Thank you, by the way, for your encouragement to me during this time. Also, I've long shared many of your Reflections with folks, many of whom have told me that they have subscribed.

From a Reader in Arkansas:

Bro. Al, I have just completed my series of lessons on "A Critical Analysis of the Modern English Bible." I opened with a history of the English Bible, followed by your own complete (though slightly altered for PowerPoint) series of lessons on this topic that you so graciously allowed me to use. I devoted countless hours to preparation, often working on the lessons until two or three in the morning. The complete study lasted for four months. I presented it to the adult auditorium class, with an attendance that averaged 90 to 100 (and class interaction was generally very good). The class material was once again a real eye-opener for me, just as it was when I first heard it presented by you when you were preaching for us in Kaiserslautern, Germany. Again, I thank you for allowing me to use your material. It was well-received by the majority of the class, both members and visitors alike. In the future, whenever I teach, I plan to refer to your Reflections and published debates, if you don't mind. Thanks, Al.

From a Reader in Tennessee:

Dear Brother Maxey, I hope that this finds you and your lovely wife doing well. I have never met you, and most likely will never have the opportunity. But, words can never express to you what your writings have done for me!! Because of you, grace is more understood. And because of you, I know that through His grace I have a chance to make it to heaven! God bless you, and it is my prayer that He will continue to give you the wisdom, talent and desire to keep doing His work.

From a Reader in North Carolina:

Brother Al, I am thankful that there are those within the church who aren't "burying their heads in the sand" concerning real-life issues that we are facing. I love the work that you're doing! You have had such an important impact upon the brotherhood, and it is exciting to witness. In fact, I just talked with a minister of a fairly conservative congregation who is a good friend of mine. He is reading your writings on divorce and remarriage, and sees how we need to be more tolerant of each other. He actually has even shared some of your writings with the elders!! I am just so excited that the church has someone like you who backs up what he believes with Scripture, and who can effectively deal with ultra-conservatism on its own turf. God bless you and your family!

From a Reader in Kentucky:

Dear Bro. Al, I have been a faithful reader of your Reflections since shortly after you started this ministry back in December, 2002, and I have greatly benefited from them. I have actually softened my "hard-line" upbringing, yet never compromising God's Word, mostly as a result of your sincere and direct approach to the Scriptures and issues in your writings. I still have many questions about some "gray" areas where I'm on the fence in my thinking, but I keep hoping that the topics will surface in one of your future articles. If not, then I may write or call you regarding my personal "distress" with certain issues.

From a Minister/Author in California:

Dear Brother Maxey, I want to pass along an experience that happened to me many, many years ago while I was attending the annual 4th of July One Cup camp meeting at Sulphur, Oklahoma under a huge tabernacle tent. To the best of my memory, there were approximately 400 to 500 people in attendance, so some of the preachers got together and decided they would show the world that they could serve that many people from just one cup. They began looking for a large cup, but were unable to find one that would serve their purpose, so they decided that a one gallon container (jug) would do. They had one of the women prepare a large unleavened loaf to go along with the cup. When time came for the Lord's Supper, they started the bread and cup down the first aisle, but soon decided they would have to call on more men to accompany the cup so they could assist the elderly by lifting the container to their lips to get their sip. Needless to say, they spilt grape juice down the front of ladies' dresses and down the front of the white shirts of the men, which caused a few hurt feelings. Besides all of this confusion, it literally took two hours or better just to serve everyone. I cannot remember if they had enough to serve everyone or not on the first go round, so I will have to assume that everyone got a sip from the One Jug. I thought of the Scripture in 1 Cor. 14:40 -- Let everything be done decently and in order. Yet, this event was completely out of line, just because a few men wanted to try and "prove a point." If memory serves me right, they never tried this again! It was a fiasco, and it generated a lot of confusion and anger. The men passing the jug were stumbling over people's feet, spilling the juice as they manhandled the jug, and the confusion went on and on till the service was over.

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