by Al Maxey

Issue #322 ------- October 22, 2007
A day, an hour, of virtuous liberty
is worth a whole eternity in bondage.

Joseph Addison {1672-1719}

Bereans in the Philippines
Filipino Disciple Stands for Freedom

There is a very special place within my heart for the Philippine Islands. In the early 1970's I spent a good many months in this beautiful island nation. I traveled to several of the islands, experienced the food and culture, and grew to love the people. That appreciation was renewed during the six years I preached in the city of Honolulu, Hawaii. A great many Filipinos have settled in the Hawaiian Islands, and a number of them were members of the Honolulu Church of Christ, including a dear brother-in-Christ by the name of Pat Aguda, one of the shepherds under whose spiritual leadership and guidance I was honored to serve. The Republic of the Philippines is actually composed of 7,107 islands, with a total of some 90 million inhabitants, making it the 12th most populous country in the world. The Philippines became a Spanish colony in the 16th century, and then later a United States colony. It is now an independent nation, but Spanish and Western influences still prevail within its diverse culture. Roman Catholicism is the predominant religion, although there are significant numbers in various other faith-traditions as well, including the Churches of Christ. The ultra-conservative and the Non-Institutional segments of our faith-heritage have, for some reason, been particularly active and effective in the Philippines, and their rigid religiosity has been a force to be reckoned with in the islands, as will be seen in this current issue of Reflections.

One of the great blessings of my many years of ministry, in both Europe and Asia, as well as my own beloved United States of America, is the countless contacts I've been privileged to experience with brethren from various distant cultures. It has truly been an eye-opening and spirit-lifting experience. I weekly receive hundreds of emails from dear brethren around the world, many of whom have become very dear to me, and who feel confident enough in our relationship to share with me their deep personal struggles of faith. I firmly believe God has opened to me a door of opportunity to minister to brethren globally, and I sincerely thank Him for this trust He has bestowed upon me. Pray for me that I may do so responsibly and to His glory. One of the contacts I have is with a dear young Filipino brother who is, by all accounts from those who know him, a "rising star" among grace-centered disciples of Christ Jesus, as well as a very well-educated and prominently placed member of Filipino society. He is married and has a couple of precious little children. He has shared family pictures with me, and they are a beautiful and distinguished young family. More importantly, he is utterly devoted to the Lord, and is willing to suffer any privation in order to see his beloved people and fellow disciples led from their bondage to legalistic, patternistic oppression.

I have known for quite some time of the struggles this brother has faced in his effort to preach freedom to those in bondage, and grace to those enamored with law. Because he is making a considerable difference in the lives of others around him, and because many are leaving their captivity, he has been targeted by the leaders of these ultra-conservative, legalistic, patternistic factions in his country. They are determined to silence him at any cost. This past week he wrote me a long letter detailing the most recent attempt to thwart his efforts at proclaiming God's grace to a people thirsty for Truth. I was extremely moved by this letter, and so I asked him if he would mind if I shared this letter with his fellow Reflections readers. He responded, "Brother Al, please feel free to share my letter with anyone, if in your estimation it will encourage some in their spiritual struggles, or if it will cause others to pray for my family and me, as well as for the church here in the Philippines. Al, I wept when I read your letter to me, as I felt your closeness as a brother, even though we are separated by thousands of miles." I had sent him a personal letter in which I sought to encourage his faith, commitment and resolve, and to let him know that he and his family would be in our prayers. I truly hope each of you will pray for him as well. Although he has not asked me to do so, I have chosen not to reveal in this article his name, location or email address. He is being attacked enough already; I don't want to contribute to any further persecution of this fine Filipino family. Nevertheless, I would be more than happy to forward on to him any of your emails in which you have words of encouragement for them. I know they would appreciate them, and I'm sure he would contact you personally to express his love and gratitude.

Thomas Jefferson [1743-1826], in a letter to Phillip Mazzei dated 24 April 1796, wrote, "Timid men prefer the calm of despotism to the boisterous sea of liberty." Living free is rarely accomplished without sacrifice; blood has been spilled that men might be loosed from the yoke of those tyrants, both secular and religious, who would enslave them. John Milton [1608-1674], in his classic work Paradise Lost, spoke glowingly of "preferring Hard Liberty before the easy yoke." Bowing to the whims of a Diotrephes [3 John 9-11] involves no courage or conviction; standing up to such a one requires an abundance of both. The brother in the Philippines is far from being the timid soul of which Jefferson spoke. Quite the opposite. He knows only too well the reality of the apostle Paul's encouraging words to another young evangelist struggling with the forces of evil: "For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power ... Therefore, join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, who ... has called us with a holy calling" [2 Tim. 1:7-9]. Our calling is holy, our cause is just, our God is great. What can mere man do to us when Almighty God Himself is on our side?! "Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world" [1 John 4:4]. "If God be for us, who can be against us?" [Rom. 8:31].

With these few introductory thoughts in mind, let me share with you the following letter from this dear young brother in the Republic of the Philippines who is facing such tremendous opposition from those who do not appreciate the proclamation of freedom in Christ Jesus, and who would much rather see Law proclaimed to the people than Grace. God commanded Moses on Mount Sinai, "You shall proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants" [Lev. 25:10]. How tragic to be persecuted for seeking simply to be faithful to such a noble calling. After all, "It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery" [Gal. 5:1]. I pray that the following letter touches your heart as it did mine!

As I have previously noted, I was greatly touched by this young man's dilemma, and even more touched by his godly attitude. He displays a spiritual maturity that will certainly serve him well in the months and years that lie ahead. He has chosen to sail a course through life that will often take him through treacherous, troubled seas. However, with the Lord as the Captain of his salvation, he will assuredly reach the safety of that sheltered harbor on the distant shore. It is for the time of his present journey here on earth that you and I must pray fervently for this beloved fellow sailor. As I have already mentioned, I wrote to him and sought to encourage him and prepare him for whatever the Lord may decide in this matter. I only wish I was there with him, to embrace his family and stand beside them in this struggle. Though absent in body, we can all be present with them in spirit, and I pray he feels our presence with him in the journey ahead. The day after sending my email to him, he wrote back the following:

Dear readers, it is brethren like this that inspire me to keep on keeping on. Those of us who dare to take a stand for our freedom in Christ Jesus will experience some storms as we traverse the sea before us. At times we may even, out of fear, cry out, "Master, we perish!" Yet, He will never forsake us; He will see us safely through the storm. I want to ask each one of you ... right now ... to pause and fervently pray for this young man and his family. Let the Holy Spirit be your guide in what that prayer will be ... but pray. We need more grace-warriors like this on the front lines. And we need more prayer-warriors supporting them in their labors for the Lord. To this young man I simply echo the words of our Savior: "These things I have spoken to you that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world" [John 16:33]. Therefore, "Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful" [John 14:27]. May God's grace rest mightily upon you, dear brother!!

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Readers' Reflections

From a Reader in Florida:

Dear Brother Al, Your writings continue to inform and inspire us all. Thanks so much!! On behalf of myself and all the other Reflections readers, will you please pass our appreciation and thanks on to sister Beverly Parks for her dedication and great service in compiling the index of references to Scriptures throughout your weekly Reflections. What a tremendous aid this index will be in future studies!

From a Minister in Texas:

Brother Al, Great message, as usual. Very thought-provoking. Also, I always enjoy reading the emails from readers around the world. It is amazing the thoughts people have when they begin to think for themselves about what they read, and when they begin to question what they hear. The prisoners I teach would love to have you as a guest teacher, because I mention you quite often.

From a Minister in Kentucky:

Brother Al, I pray that God is blessing your ministry to others with great success. He surely knows just how needed the message you bring from His word is in the church today. I've always appreciated how you have made me think, and how you have stretched my mind and heart. Keep on keeping on, brother.

From an Elder in Missouri:

Brother Al, Once again, your latest was a well-written examination. I love history, especially when it can be applied to modern times. The Truth will always come out victorious, no matter who the messenger is, and no matter the consequences to that messenger personally. You have always challenged us to THINK, and that is such a difficult task for so many of us. We are far too used to just accepting whatever is laid out before us. Shame on us!! Keep challenging us to think, Al, for to think for ourselves, and to challenge the status quo, has always been what we have needed. Those, like you, who challenge us to do this will be attacked. But, if this advice is heeded, it will result in great growth -- both personally and as a body.

From a PhD in Alabama:

Dear Brother Al, Great stuff on the review of Dr. John Mark Hicks' article. His article is excellent as well, but by far the thing that caught my attention the most, both in your review and in his response to your review, was the attitude expressed by you both! Al, when you have time, would you take a look at my latest blog article dated October 18 -- Thoughts on Unity. My thoughts on the matter of unity relate to the manner and tenor of your review and John Mark's response. It is neither scholarly, nor in-depth, but I think there is something worth considering about what creates unity. Thank you, brother.

From a PhD in Michigan:

Dear Bro. Al, Thank you for your web site! I too am a minister in the Churches of Christ, but am among the instrumental brethren in Michigan. I also teach in a small liberal arts college in central Michigan, and I always appreciate Bible-based material for my classes. Your commentary on the prophet Amos was excellent and I would like to use it in my college classes. I will acknowledge you as the source. Thank you!

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