by Al Maxey

Issue #334 ------- February 1, 2008
He said, "Who then are the true
philosophers?" "Those," I said, "who
are lovers of the vision of Truth."

Plato {427-347 B.C.}
The Republic

Philosopher, Know Thyself
A Reflective Response to the
Queries of a Liberated Legalist

The philosopher Epictetus (55-135 A.D.), in his classic work "Discourses," made the following statement: "What is the first business of him who philosophizes? To throw away self-conceit. For it is impossible for a man to begin to learn that which he thinks he already knows." Clearly, this is far from being an easy task to accomplish, for who among us is not shackled by a profound sense that our perceptions are the true perceptions. Perhaps our greatest personal challenge in life is to shed the chains of our own Traditions in the quest for ultimate Truth. If, after due reflection, the former prove to be compatible with the latter, then embrace them anew, but with a fresh appreciation for their place within the divine order. William Hazlitt (1778-1830) expressed this truth as follows: "The great difficulty in philosophy is to approach all questions with a mind fresh and unshackled by former theories, though strengthened by exercise and information." The apostle Paul urged his students to "examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good" [1 Thess. 5:21]. One might characterize this: a Berean spirit, as these noble-minded seekers of ultimate Truth "examined the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so" [Acts 17:11]. By laying aside the blinding bias of one's own misguided sense of infallibility, one then becomes free to examine all things anew, including one's very own life and convictions, to determine how best to transform one's very being into a God-glorifying journey characterized by spiritual and intellectual self-discovery. To refuse to engage in such honest self-analysis is to spurn one's ultimate potential to transcend the limitations of the finite so as to partake of and have fellowship with the Infinite (to the degree our Sovereign permits such transcendence to mere flesh and blood). Perhaps the great philosopher Socrates (470-399 B.C.) stated it most succinctly when he said: "The unexamined life is not worth living." I would suggest that this assertion just about sums it up perfectly.

I've chosen to preface this present edition of my weekly Reflections with the above quotes, comments and insights because they serve to lay a philosophical foundation for what is to follow. It is my strong personal conviction that any person who presumes to speak to the many life-issues we all face as the children of God, and who is looked to by a good many of these disciples for guidance, had better not only know the Lord and His teachings, but himself as well. True, none of us has achieved absolute perfection of perception in any of these areas, but such awareness of insufficiency and acknowledgement of such is truly a reflection that one has dared to embrace a process of honest self-evaluation. Those self-proclaimed "experts" who are so bold and arrogant as to declare they have "arrived" intellectually, spiritually and theologically have, quite frankly, yet to even begin the journey. To quote the venerable Epictetus once more: "What is the first business of him who philosophizes? To throw away self-conceit. For it is impossible for a man to begin to learn that which he thinks he already knows." Therefore, I hasten to preface my following remarks with a caution to my readers -- although I have strong convictions that have come from many years of study and reflection, I hesitate to be dogmatic about my declarations. I have altered my views before, and will undoubtedly do so again. I am a work in progress in the hands of my Maker, not a completed project. I am certainly willing to share my insights with others, for whatever they might be worth, and I have been known to do so with great passion, however let the reader carefully examine everything that I teach, just as the Bereans examined the teaching of the apostle Paul "to see whether these things be so!" Unlike some of my brethren, I do not profess infallibility, and I am more than willing to dialogue with any one at any time regarding any thing that I have taught (also unlike some of my brethren, who lob their theological grenades and then flee for the nearest cave).

When I challenge others to THINK, that challenge is issued equally to myself. One cannot honestly expect others to welcome significant change and reform if one is not willing to step out of his or her own comfort zone and face that lifelong journey of faith and transformation. As Mark Twain so astutely observed, "Reflection is the beginning of reform." Without the former, the latter is genuinely unachievable. Thus, philosopher, know thyself if thou wouldst progress in thy quest toward that ultimate realization of spiritual enlightenment and union with the Infinite. Along the way, in this journey of discovery, one encounters other life-travelers who are searching for meaning to their existence. Interaction with such spiritual sojourners is truly one of the great blessings of this journey. Such not only serves to provide some degree of perspective along the way, as we each evaluate our walk in light of the input of others, but we lend strength and encouragement to one another as we daily face the obstacles that appear before us. "Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe unto that one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart" [Eccl. 4:9-12].

One of my fellow travelers on this journey through life, one with whom I have come to have a very close relationship during the past few years, is a brother in Christ who at one time was steeped in legalism. He served for a number of years as a minister in the One Cup segment of the Churches of Christ. This precious soul and his dear wife, however, truly possess a Berean spirit [Issue #163]. They have a spirit of Prothumianism [Issue #43] -- of Reflective Openness to the leading of God's Holy Spirit. As a result, they have joyously shed the shackles of their bondage unto LAW, and they've stepped boldly into the freedom of God's matchless grace. Additionally, this brother has vowed to spend the remainder of his life on this earth, as I too have vowed, seeking daily to reach those still in bondage to their legalistic, patternistic taskmasters, showing them the way into the Light of Liberty. This brother and his wife are an inspiration to me, and hardly a week goes by that we are not in communication with one another, even if only briefly. I thank God for bringing them into my life, and also for allowing me to be a catalyst for change in their lives. This present edition of Reflections is devoted to addressing several questions he posed to me toward the end of last year. I pray that my responses to his queries may prove helpful to each of you as together we seek greater understanding of ourselves, our fellow travelers and our Lord's will for our lives.

This Brother's Letter

Preliminary Reflections

First, I have withheld any specific, detailed information that might at this time identify this dear brother and his family, or where they presently live and minister. As I write this, he is in the process of making his bold stand known to his former One Cup brethren, and I applaud his courage of conviction. Some of you, thus, already know of whom I speak. However, the timing and scope of this revealing needs to be his, not mine. Thus, I defer to the leading of the Spirit in his life to know when, where, and to whom this information may be most judiciously and beneficially imparted. Second, I realize that God has blessed my Reflections ministry beyond my wildest expectations. I truly did not have any clue it would grow to have such a global impact. With this success, however, comes a very grave danger, both for me and also for my readers -- that the focus will shift from the Lord to me. Yes, there is personal satisfaction in knowing that one's life has a purpose and that what one does is having an impact, and, frankly, there is nothing wrong with such a validation of one's ministry. But, I really, really have to say that I truly appreciate my wife Shelly who will almost weekly say to me, "Now Al, Who is this all about?!" When I reply, "the Lord," she will then say, "And don't you forget it!!" She prays for me every night that I will be God's tool, not God's fool. I'll freely admit to being the latter at times, though my goal is to increasingly become the former.

Nevertheless, may I caution all my readers, as my wife cautions me, to keep the focus where it truly belongs -- on Him. I value your encouragement, support and validation; they keep me going. I also am thrilled that my work is impacting lives and helping to lead people out of bondage and into freedom. This motivates me to do even more. Further, your testimonies to this impact, which appear within the Readers' Reflections section of each issue, are evangelistic in the sense that they help convey to a growing readership the far-reaching value of such a grace-centered, freedom-focused ministry. I also genuinely treasure your many letters, phone calls, emails and personal visits; they help me realize what a gloriously diverse family we are in Christ Jesus. But at the end of the day I remain nothing more than a fellow traveler on this long road headed for home. Unto each of us the Lord, through His Spirit, has bestowed a special measure of His grace that we might assist our brothers and sisters during this difficult, dangerous sojourn. "But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good" [1 Cor. 12:7]. Our abilities will differ dramatically, as will our opportunities, but we're each placed in the Body just as He wills [1 Cor. 12:11], and none of us are more or less vital than any other divinely equipped and appointed Body part, although the workings of some parts may be more visible and have a wider impact. Each part, though, is vital to the effective functioning of the whole! None are useless or unnecessary. We all have our place and purpose. Finding and fulfilling it is our challenge.

Question One

"You have been at this for quite some time. How did you get where you are?" By the grace of God, dear brother ... I assure you! I had a perfect plan for my life, but HE had other plans. Guess who won?! So many times I tried to chart my own course, and the Lord turned my ship back each time. I finally submitted to His Spirit-driven winds, and have now been preaching the good news of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ for 32 years. Although the seas have at times been rough, I don't regret a moment of this voyage. I would do it all again. For those who might be interested in the particulars of my background and the specifics of these past 32 years of my ministry, I would refer them to my Topical Index where, under the heading "Personal," they will find ten articles dealing with various aspects of this subject matter. With that said, I do not believe those details are the real intent of this brother's question, however, so will not review them here. It is my understanding that he wants to better understand how I arrived at where I am with respect to my present theological perspective. Although my personal history will have some bearing on this, and thus is worth noting, the answer really transcends those particulars.

I will freely admit (to the consternation of some within my own faith-heritage, I'm certain) that I have never been very happy with religion, or the notion that we are to be religious. Frankly, I have precious little use for either. When I finished graduate school, I tried my hand at being a good Church of Christ preacher. I knew all the rules and regulations, and all the ins and outs of our religious tradition, and I gave it my very best shot. Two years later I was so thoroughly sick of it all that I gave up preaching and became the Executive Director of a child care agency in the state of New Mexico (which position I held for the next four years, during which time I also served as a deacon at the University Church of Christ in Albuquerque, New Mexico). During those four years I had the opportunity to teach a class or two at the University of New Mexico Christian Student Center, spoke at several city-wide youth rallies, and also did a lot of serious reflecting on the nature of the church and my own place within it. It was a very vital time of introspection for me. I did a lot of soul-searching. Bro. Ancil Jenkins was the minister at University Church of Christ at that time, and he was a very good friend. In fact, his wife, Elaine, was my secretary. Ancil is now one of the writers for the ultra-conservative, very legalistic publication The Spiritual Sword, so Ancil and I have clearly chosen very different paths in life. Nevertheless, I have great love and respect for this man, and I learned a lot from him about the practical aspects of ministry during those four years.

In June of 1982, Shelly and I packed up our three young boys and moved to Germany. This proved to be a providential blessing, as I truly began to perceive the joy of ministry as I worked with one of the largest American military congregations of the Churches of Christ outside the United States. I served as their minister and worked closely with Bro. Karl Kallus, who was the German minister there in Kaiserslautern. This was an extremely positive experience, and these wonderful brethren shared with me a grace-centered approach to our walk with the Lord that I had never really experienced up to that point in a congregational setting. I was starting to see what "the church" could be, instead of what, in far too many places, it had become. To make a long story short, this grace-centered, Christ-focused perspective increased within my heart with every passing year, and it became more and more the main thrust of my preaching and teaching. During my 8 years in Santa Fe, New Mexico and my 6 years in Honolulu, Hawaii and now my 10 years here in Alamogordo, New Mexico, I have grown ever stronger in my absolute disgust for legalism and patternism, and the feuding factions that have been generated by such, and in my resolve to promote unity among all of God's children. As this resolve grew, so also did God-given opportunities for this determination to be put into action. I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that my writing ministry is my primary purpose in life, and that it was for this that God has called and equipped me, and that everything else in life, though also serving distinct purposes in God's plan, has been for me largely preparatory in nature, providing the necessary perspectives and experiences that could then be communicated unto others "for the common good" via this reflective ministry. What the Father has planned for the future, with respect to my purpose in His divine plan, I can only speculate. However, I feel rather certain that, if it be His will, I shall be actively involved in some capacity or other with helping my brethren to cast off the shackles of their legalistic chains, to abandon their factional thinking, and to embrace as brethren all those who are saved by grace through faith. If He will use me up in this noble pursuit, I shall one day die a happy, fulfilled servant of the King. I wrote a poem about four years ago [Help Them Be One] in which I express this very resolve.

Question Two

"What is your intent or purpose in ministry?" To a large extent, I have already answered this question. But, let me address this from a far more limited perspective: my intent with respect to local ministry. Although my writings do not have such boundaries, and this is as it should be, nevertheless local ministry is, by definition, much more ... well, uh ... local in nature. And this is as it should be. I personally believe that one of the finest statements of ministerial intent to be found anywhere is Ephesians 4:11-16. The Lord has given unto His people those individuals gifted with spiritual leadership abilities, and they are given to His called out people for a specific purpose. They are to "equip the saints for the work of service." What is the collective work of the saints? The building up (edification) of the family of God in Christ. This family is to attain unity; it is to mature; it is to LOVE. My intent for local ministry, therefore, is to do all that I can, in conjunction with the work of my fellow spiritual leaders, to facilitate this growth, development, maturity and loving unity among His people in this community. Thus, I will "preach the Word," and I will "be ready in season and out of season," and I will "reprove, rebuke, and exhort with great patience and instruction," and I will be "sober in all things, enduring hardship, and fulfilling my ministry" [2 Tim. 4:2, 5] to the very best of my personal ability and according to the opportunities afforded me by the Holy Spirit.

My personal philosophy with regard to ministerial function within a local congregation of believers is perhaps different than what some might imagine it to be. I don't regard myself as an outsider or a hireling. I am not the "paid employee" of the local church. I work for the Lord, but I work with His people. These brethren are FAMILY, not clients or names in a directory or "parishioners." I am not an executive officer in some corporation or institution. I am just a member of the family to whom God has given certain abilities and responsibilities for the common good of my brethren and His children. I don't work 40 hour weeks, where if your needs fall outside of "business hours," then tough luck!! Family is always there for each other; we don't meet needs only when we're "on the clock." That is the mentality of a hireling. Spiritual leaders should be approachable and accessible, no matter when, no matter where, and no matter why their brethren may have need of them. Those more concerned with self than with others are probably not best suited for this work of loving, sacrificial service.

Question Three

"What is your fundamental insight into the nature and mission of the church, and how is that nature achieved and that mission developed and enacted in a community of faith?" I have addressed this very question in a number of my previous Reflections. Rather than repeating myself here, perhaps it would be more helpful to simply list the articles where in-depth responses have already been proffered for the readers' reflection. Thus, I would urge consideration of the following: The One Body: Family or Faction? [#19], Body Building 101 [#177], A Christian Affirmation [#190], Divine Barrier Busting [#191], The Missional Church [#240], A People of Purpose [#244], Envisioning the Future [#272], Congregational Outreach [#277], Being the Church [#323]. I pray that these studies will prove helpful in specifying my understanding of the nature and mission of the church of our Lord Jesus.

Question Four

"How are the above (nature and mission) obstructed or concealed by the various '-isms' that divide and oppress God's people and quench/grieve the Spirit?" This is a case where the answer, in large part, is contained within the question. Anything that serves to oppress or to divide the people of God clearly will have a negative impact upon their nature and mission, and such an assault cannot help but grieve the Holy Spirit, especially when that assault comes from within the church, rather than from without. Such deadly "-isms" as schism, legalism, patternism, factionalism, sectarianism and ultra-conservatism are all very effective tools in the hands of Satan and his horde of evil servants. And, yes, we can even throw in ultra-liberalism. It too is a negative. In fact, anything that evolves/devolves into extremism will ultimately prove harmful if not countered quickly and decisively. It's not just one end of the theological spectrum that can be detrimental, it is both ends.

I think the concepts of obstructing and obscuring are very relevant here, and I appreciate this brother's insertion of them into the text of the question. One of the primary tactics of our wicked foe is to obstruct any effort by a group of believers to grow in grace and become increasingly relevant to their communities. Forward progress is not appreciated by those enamored with the past. Ronnie Milsap sang a classic song titled "Lost in the Fifties Tonight" -- frankly, this describes far too many of our brethren within the Churches of Christ today. It's time to take off the blinders, remove the boulders from our pathway, and press boldly forward into the present, with our sights set upon the future. The gospel itself is timeless, but the methodologies of its presentation are very much time sensitive. Some among us seem to have forgotten this ... if they ever knew it. When brethren fight, fuss, feud and fragment over personal preferences with respect to particulars of evangelism, particulars of worship, particulars of benevolence, and the like, they succeed only is obscuring and obstructing our mission and purpose.

Question Five

"What are some of the key characteristics of your own identity in ministry -- i.e., your personal skills, strengths, limitations, obstacles, challenges, hopes and fears?" One of the fabulous realities proclaimed by the apostle Paul in such passages as Romans 12, Ephesians 4 and 1 Corinthians 12 is that we are all different by divine design. We have differing talents, abilities, strengths, and, yes, our weaknesses even differ. What tempts me may not tempt you, and some ability you have may be virtually nonexistent in me. We are each unique, and yet we are each vital to the proper functioning of the One Body of our Lord Jesus Christ. "We are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love" [Ephesians 4:15-16]. "Unto each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift" [vs. 7]. Paul told the Corinthian brethren that there were "varieties of gifts ... varieties of ministries ... varieties of effects ... but the same Spirit, the same Lord and the same God" [1 Corinthians 12:4-6]. "But unto each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good" [vs. 7]. "We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us" [Rom. 12:6], thus we must each discover what it is God has equipped us to do, and then do it with all our heart, mind and soul. We are a body composed of many members, and "not all the members have the same function" [Rom. 12:4].

There are things I do very well, and there are things I do so poorly that I gladly leave them to others who have that ability (which I clearly lack). We don't have to do it all ... not even preachers!! God has not called any of us to be "masters of all trades," but merely masters of the skills with which He has personally blessed us. Thus, I don't feel the least guilty for not doing certain things. Nor do I lay a "guilt trip" on others who may not be doing the things I do. We are only accountable for what we have been given! Jesus said, "From everyone who has been given much shall much be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more" [Luke 12:48]. Paul makes it clear that our service to God and our fellow man is judge worthy or unworthy "according to what a man has, not according to what he does not have" [2 Corinthians 8:12]. There are abilities and opportunities I don't have; I do not come under judgment for not using what I don't have. I do come under judgment, however, if I fail to make use of what I have been given.

I have been given the ability to communicate Truth, and inspire others to action, through my writings. The Lord has opened doors of opportunity for me to employ this gift. Frankly, I believe I would be sinning against Him if I refused. I have had various persons, both friends and foes, insist that I give up my writing ministry. I will never do this!! Why? Because I must obey God rather than men! HE is the one who has called me to this ministry, and only HE has the right to terminate it. I take very, very seriously my calling (and, yes, I do believe we are all called by the Spirit to our individual tasks and responsibilities). I am prepared to sacrifice my livelihood, my security, my reputation, my friends, and even my life in order to be faithful to my calling. At this point in my journey (after 32 years of ministry), I have not yet been called upon to make those sacrifices, but that day may well come. I pray it never does, but if it does, I pray I will stand by my convictions, even in the face of personal loss.

As for my obstacles and challenges, these come from various sources. There are some within my faith-heritage who absolutely detest me, and they are determined to silence me no matter the cost. One individual in the Midwest even went so far as to say he was prepared to LIE, if necessary, to destroy me. This person even contacted my fellow elders a few years back in order to try and get me fired (he was basically told by them to mind his own business). When one takes a public stand for what he believes to be Truth, he will immediately come under fire from those who oppose his views. My greatest challenge is to avoid discouragement. There have been times over the years when certain persons have gone out of their way to try and undermine my ministry. This is happening even today, both with regard to my writings and my local ministry. There are a handful of people who are determined to do whatever it may take to bring my ministries to an end. For the most part, this does not overly trouble me; I understand it comes with the territory, so to speak. However, I must admit to becoming somewhat frustrated at times with such persons. I ask that you pray for me, that my resolve will remain strong in the face of such opposition.

My fears? That I might be worn down by those who oppose me, and that my resolve will falter. I honestly don't think that will happen, but I realize it could. That is why I sincerely appreciate your prayers and encouragement. But, I have greater fears than just for myself. I fear for those precious souls who are being victimized by "the little lords of legalism." I fear for the One Body of Christ, if more grace-centered disciples do not stand up and speak out against the abuses being inflicted upon the bride of Christ. All it takes for evil to prevail is for a few good men/women to do nothing. It's time to rise up and speak out. It's time to take a stand. It's time to be heard. We have been silent long enough. My hopes? I have a confident expectation that my brothers and sisters in Christ WILL find the courage to stand united against the forces that seek to dismember the Body of Christ. My hope is that the day will soon come when ALL God's children will forever set aside the petty party preferences that have divided us for so long, and come together in sweet fellowship as One Family in Christ Jesus our Lord. My hope is that I will live to see the day when the walls of exclusion are down, and the denominational distinctives are cast aside in favor of unity of the Spirit. My hope is that the prayer of our Lord in John 17 will one day be realized, and brethren will acknowledge one another and embrace one another as spiritual siblings. I am resolved to labor 'till my dying breath to see this hope realized. My hope is that you will join me in this resolve!!

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Readers' Reflections

From a New Reader in Tennessee:

Dear Brother Al, I thank God in Christ for His inspiration of and gift to you, which enable you to proclaim the Gospel Truth and to provide sound knowledge with God-given grace so that we might each understand. I also thank Him for your ability to communicate that grace so that we might all be one in Christ in love. I was introduced to you, Brother Al, by brethren within the One Cup Churches of Christ. I have become thoroughly enlightened to God's grace through your in-depth studies and spiritual views related to Pharisaism, legalism, traditionalism and many other subjects pertaining to the Body of Christ. I look forward to reading all of your future lessons. Also, enclosed is a check for $50 for all five volumes of your Reflections on CD, as well as the two free offers: The Debates of Al Maxey and Al Maxey's PowerPoint Sermons for 2007. Keep the faith, brother, and Soldier On in Christ Jesus. Thank you.

From a Missionary in Nicaragua:

Bro. Al, Greetings in the Lord. I just wanted to write and let you know that your Reflections are a great support and enjoyment to me and my wife as we work in Nicaragua. Thanks for your work, and for using the gifts God has given you to honor and bring glory to Him. God's blessings upon your work for Him.

From a Doctor in Indonesia:

Dear Brother Al, I travel most of the year doing medical missions, and am in Medan, Indonesia as I write this letter. I was able to get on the Internet today and read your most recent issue of Reflections. I just got out of the hospital (having fallen and herniated several disks), and so can't travel. Therefore, I have been doing more reading than usual. I had some extra time on my hands, so I honestly tried to listen to the sermon tapes on the web site of Brian Yeager (the critic in El Paso). I just could not stay with it, however. I went through the 1950's and witnessed the terrible debates that split the church. So much of what I heard in the beginning of each of Brian Yeager's tapes made me so disheartened that I could not listen to them. I really think a trip into the world (where Christ is not well-known) would change this young man's sermon subjects for the rest of his life (at least, I hope it would). Keep on writing, brother!!

From a Missionary in Peru:

Dear Bro. Al, Concerning your desire to engage others who are off tangent both spiritually and doctrinally, is not this statement by the Lord relevant? -- "Give not that which is holy unto dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you" [Matt. 7:6]. Al, you are truly to be commended for your gracious attitude toward those who display such viciousness toward you. But, if these people are reacting to you like rabid dogs, rending and slandering you, then surely such persons come within the teaching of the Lord in this passage. Is there not a cut off point with such legalists?! Paul has exhorted us to separate from such divisive and dangerous men. I listened briefly to Brian Yeager, who spoke such awful words concerning you in his sermon, but I couldn't listen to it for long. It was like drinking from a sewer. Just listening to something like that stains the spirit. Al, such people seem beyond being challenged, so don't waste your time on them!

From a Reader in Louisiana:

Dear Brother Al, Your Reflections always give me a great spiritual lift. Please don't ever consider stopping them!! They have so much needed information that I think I have actually become addicted to them. I spend much of my time reading your Reflections over and over again, because they are so rich, and they always enhance the spirituality of my life. Since I am now retired from the psychiatric profession, and am 75 years of age, you have truly been a blessing to me. I sincerely regret, however, that you are being so frequently abused. I feel very deeply for you. Brian Yeager, especially, is a disgrace to the human race!! Please forgive my judgmental attitude, but he does not appear to be a Spirit-filled child of God. His speech certainly needs to be seasoned with grace, and his attitude definitely needs major surgery. I cannot understand how he can find a congregation in which to preach such things, unless his congregation adheres to the same values. It is indeed sad that we have people within our heritage that hold to such doctrines. Brother Al, I want you to know that I pray specifically for you on a daily basis. I do hope that others do likewise. I hope you don't become discouraged and get depressed. Always remember that there are many, many people who love you, respect you, and very deeply appreciate you. Many times I have wished that I could meet you, but I guess that will have to wait until heaven. I think we could have some very good discussions. Please be assured that I have a very special love for you, brother!!

From a Reader in Pennsylvania:

Dear Bro. Al, I met Brian Yeager in 2000, and believe me -- that man scared me!! These are his own words to me: "I could have gone to preaching school, but when I saw how much work it was going to take, I could not afford the time!" I was shocked to learn from a friend in El Paso, Texas, who is preaching there, that Brian is in that city and that he had actually disfellowshipped an older lady, who could not get out at night, because she was "forsaking the assembly!" Bro. Al, keep up your writing!! While I don't always agree with you 100%, I am learning!

From a Reader in Oklahoma:

Brother Al, A friend of mine has listened to Brian Yeager much more than I have, and he reported to me that Brian actually said that he had more Bible knowledge than anybody he had ever met!! Yeager also said that he would rather use Playboy than the New International Version of the Bible. It sounds to me like Brian not only lacks wisdom, but also humility. I appreciate your work very much, Bro. Al.

From a Reader in Georgia:

Brother Al, I read with horror the words of Daniel Coe as he was calling his "brother contenders" on the Contending for the Faith web site to be "vicious, vile, toxic and divisive." I can find no instance in Scripture where the Lord Jesus calls us to be "vicious, vile, toxic and divisive." Ever. These are terms that should never be used of a Christian, let alone qualities that are actually encouraged. How sad this must make our Lord, and how happy it must make Satan. Whatever happened to "restore him gently"? It seems such people have no desire to actually restore anyone, just a desire to rip them apart. Brother Al, I truly appreciate your desire to get these lost souls to the table for some respectful dialogue and study of the Scriptures. I say "lost souls," for those who tear the Body of Christ apart are lost and in need of salvation. Please do not stop trying, brother. Every lost soul won to Christ is a victory for the Kingdom.

From a Reader in New Mexico:

My Dear Brother Al, As usual, your articles continue to inspire and to teach me. I admire your writing ability, and I would really like to hear you speak. Better yet, to visit with you on a personal level would be a wonderful experience! I'm wondering what you consider to be "the church," in light of all the different denominations and their divisions, as well as the Church of Christ denomination (of which I am a refugee). Are you saying that the "church" is all the people (universal) who're in Christ Jesus, or are you saying that the Church of Christ denomination is the one, true church?

From a Reader in Alabama:

Ain't All Al's Alliterations Actually Altogether Absolutely Awesome?! I really appreciate your great work, brother!!

From a Minister in Arkansas:

Dear Brother Al, I do indeed enjoy your Reflections articles. They are precise and to the point. Thank you, dear brother, for your unconditional love for others, a love that you express so well through your writing ministry. I encourage you to continue this good work. May the peace, joy, hope and love of our Lord Jesus be with you always!

From a New Reader in New Jersey:

Dear Brother Al, I was looking into the Minor Prophets to learn what I could about them and "Googled" the prophet Hosea. The first thing that came up was your web site and your studies on The Minor Prophets. I really enjoyed your studies and found them very edifying. I was also surprised and delighted to see that you are a fellow brother in the Church of Christ. As I was looking at your web site, that picture of you in Vietnam with the machine gun really scared me. I'm just glad that when I was young I never had to experience war, like you did. Well, thanks again for your web site, and for the great information contained therein!!

From a Reader in Kentucky:

Brother Al, You have not heard from me for a while, but that doesn't mean I haven't been reading your articles, nor does it mean I haven't been thinking about you very much. I have. I just wanted to let you know that your Reflections articles are really speaking to me right now -- more than you know! Please be assured that some of us are indeed trying to do what your articles recommend we do. Thank you!

From a Reader in Arkansas:

Brother Al, I just returned from a short business trip to Israel. I was not expecting to have any time to see any sights, but we were able to get everything done early and so my customer arranged a private guided tour of Jerusalem. I had been to Jerusalem two or three times in the past, but had never been through the city with a professional guide. We were able to cover a lot of the sights, and, at my request, we went to The American Colony. I had just read about this place in your article on Horatio Spafford a couple of weeks ago in your Reflections article. There are many things on display there, including a handwritten manuscript of the hymn "It Is Well With My Soul." Thank you so much for that article on Spafford, Bro. Al. Had I not read it, I would not have visited The American Colony.

From a Minister in Alabama:

Brother Al, Great stuff this week, as usual. My prayers for and encouragement to you are that you will continue to proclaim that which is truly biblical, and not just traditional, and that you will be a voice of reason for years to come. Thank you.

From a Minister in Tennessee:

Dear Bro. Maxey, We need many more men like you who will stand up for the Truth. One of the elders here at ------- Church of Christ gave me the link to your web site. I would like to be added to the mailing list for your Reflections. We are trying to get the Truth to our congregation and to the people of our county. Please keep up the good work!

From a Reader in Pennsylvania:

Dear Bro. Al, I think you are doing a fantastic work with your Reflections ministry. You have challenged many to reflect upon the basis for their beliefs, and have caused many, as a result, to change positions.

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