by Al Maxey

Issue #337 ------- February 19, 2008
The greater the ignorance,
the greater the dogmatism.

Sir William Osler {1849-1914}
Montreal Medical Journal {Sept, 1902}

Ostracism in Oklahoma
Ultra-Legalism Strikes Again

Arnold J. Toynbee (1889-1975), in his extremely important work "Change and Habit: The Challenge of Our Time," which was published in 1966, made this very astute observation: "Thinking for oneself is always arduous and is sometimes painful. The temptation to stop thinking and to take dogma on faith is very strong. Yet, since the intellect does possess the capacity to think for itself, it also has the impulse and it feels the obligation. Therefore, we may feel sure that the intellect will always refuse, sooner or later, to take traditional doctrines on trust." I have a feeling Toynbee might have rethought this statement somewhat if he'd had any significant contact with the ultra-conservative, legalistic, patternistic factionists within the Stone-Campbell Movement. These persons are so hardened in their dogmatism that I firmly believe they are no longer capable of independent, rational thought. They have adopted over time what the existentialist philosophers would characterize as being a "herd mentality," which is simply an unreasoning enslavement to the master credalism of their particular brand of party "orthodoxy." Frozen in the past, they have become fossils on display; little more than calcified recalcitrants.

John Dewey (1859-1952), in his study titled "Experience and Education," observed: "Any theory and set of practices is dogmatic which is not based upon critical examination of its own underlying principles." Toynbee's assertion is that most people, by virtue of their capacity to think, will feel the obligation to do so. I'm not sure that is proven in actual practice. Indeed the whole theory of mass marketing through mass media revolves around the "herd mentality" expounded upon by the existentialists. Most people, it is sad to say, are followers, not leaders; they are sheep, who'll blindly follow [even to the slaughterhouse] one who asserts himself over them as a shepherd. It would be nice to think that the herd/flock is filled only with independent thinkers. But, this is not the case, and the false shepherds know it only too well. Scattered within each fold, however, are some sheep who have grown weary of the aimless wandering, and who long for something more substantial. It is these I have sought to reach in my ministry over the years, bringing them out of their slavery in the arid desert of dogmatism and unto the green pastures of freedom in Christ Jesus.

When these daring disciples truly begin to exercise their individual cognitive abilities [Toynbee is correct in his assertion that the intellect does possess this capacity] then CHANGE is inevitable. It doesn't take much reflection before honest hearts and minds realize they have been duped by dogma. When that happens, they will turn from it. Chamfort (1741-1794) quoted, "Dogma is like a bitter pill: if you chew it, you will never be able to swallow it." Thus, for these few disciples the words of Toynbee are certainly apropos: "The intellect will always refuse, sooner or later, to take traditional doctrines on trust." This is what I like to call a "Berean spirit." The Bereans were not like the unreasoning mob in Thessalonica [who sought to run off and destroy all who differed with them]. They were far more noble-minded. When something new came their way, rather than foaming at the mouth and grabbing the nearest weapon, they "examined the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so" [Acts 17:11]. The apostle Paul challenged those in Thessalonica, and each of us as well, with these words: "Examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good" [1 Thess. 5:21].

There is an ever-growing body of disciples within my own faith-heritage [and within other groups and movements in Christendom also] exercising their God-given cognitive capabilities. In other words, they are daring to think for themselves. This is a deadly threat to dogmatism, and the dogmatists know it. Therefore, they're attacking these sentient sheep with stunning ferocity. The world looks on in horror as various party potentates pounce upon those individuals and congregations who dare to differ with their established preferences (elevated to precepts). Cries of "false teacher," "apostate," "digressive," and worse, ring out across the land as more and more discerning disciples display independence of thought, and even dare to act upon the truths they are now perceiving. It is the latter that probably infuriates the Pharisees of today the most. They can, up to a point, tolerate some degree of independent thought, as long as such persons remain subject to their theological whims, but when these thinkers begin to act upon that which they have perceived to be greater truth, then the blood-letting begins in earnest. A perfect example of this was witnessed this month in the state of Oklahoma. On Wednesday, February 6, 2008, on page 6E of The Daily Oklahoman [a newspaper that is published in Oklahoma City, OK], there appeared a full-page paid "advertisement" [which must have cost a considerable sum, as it is quite large]. A reduced view of this ad has been placed at the beginning of this current issue of Reflections so the readers may see that a lot of work and money went into producing this statement to the public. At the end of the page, at the bottom right corner, there appears the following:

This ad is paid for by faithful
members and area churches of Christ

Research material available upon request while supplies last
Contact us at or 405.756.8629

What brought this "advertisement" about was the fact that the Quail Springs Church of Christ, like a growing number of congregations within our faith-heritage, has, as a result of some serious study of the Word and prayer unto the Father, come to the conclusion that there are a number of differing worship styles that are all equally pleasing to God, uplifting to the saints, and conducive to reaching out to genuine seekers. The traditional a cappella worship assembly is still loved by many within our heritage, and has great value in speaking to their hearts. However, many are coming to realize that this style of worship has more to do with our tradition than His Truth, and that other styles of worship are equally relevant to the life of the church. Acceptable corporate worship before our God is not restricted to just one form, with all other forms constituting "heresy." Therefore, the Quail Springs congregation, beginning on Sunday, January 27, went to two services. The first, at 9 a.m., is a contemporary experience in which musical instruments are used, and the second, at 11 a.m. (with Bible class for both groups at 10 a.m.), is a traditional experience employing a cappella singing. This change was noted within the community, apparently even being mentioned in the newspaper, and the legalists in that part of Oklahoma literally went crazy!! How dare anyone adopt a worship style different from theirs!! Don't these "apostates" realize that they will all burn forever in Hell because they dare to differ with their preferences?!

Thus, the "faithful" in the area took it upon themselves to inform their fellow Oklahomans of the "heresy" being promoted at the Quail Springs Church of Christ. In particular, they singled out the preacher -- Bro. Mark Henderson. After all, everyone knows that when something "bad" happens in a congregation, it is always the preacher's fault. Right?! So, at the lower right corner of the page you will see a picture of Bro. Mark Henderson. The caption that appears above the picture reads: "Oklahoma churches rise up, Henderson marked." The paragraph that appears just below the caption, and to the left of the picture, states: "Pursuant to the Lord's instructions in Romans 16:17, congregations all across Oklahoma and Texas have marked and now publicly identify Mark Henderson as a false teacher for adding elements to the worship which God did not authorize; thereby placing himself outside of fellowship with God and the church." It seems somewhat interesting to me that only the preacher is marked as a "false teacher." I can assure you that this change at Quail Springs congregation was not the work of one man. A great many saints, both among the leadership and the membership, were involved over a long period of time in coming to the place where the vast majority of the congregation felt this was a responsible change that would glorify their Father and further their mission as His church. Nevertheless, these caustic critics conclude this paragraph by saying, "Prayers and supplications still rise on Henderson's behalf for his repentance."

Can you just imagine what those outside of our faith-heritage are thinking and feeling as they read such statements published in their local paper?!! Is it any wonder that many are left with a "bad taste" in their mouths, as well as a sick feeling in their stomachs, whenever they hear of the "Churches of Christ"? Frankly, if I was not a member of any church, but was perhaps seeking a deeper relationship with the Lord and His people, and I read this "advertisement," I would turn away in disgust from these people who took out this ad. People who are genuinely in search of spirituality are not going to be attracted to rabid sectarianism. People seeking peace are not desirous of warfare. This one page ad in the local paper most likely set back evangelism for the Churches of Christ in that area of Oklahoma for years to come, although some seekers might very well be drawn to the brethren at Quail Springs by this ad. That would indeed be the bright "silver lining" to an otherwise very "dark cloud."

Let's be brutally honest here, brethren -- such "advertisements" as this one from The Daily Oklahoman [and just exactly what were they advertising, other than their own sectarianism and mean-spiritedness?!] accomplish absolutely NO positive result for the cause of Christ Jesus. Indeed, the only purpose of this full-page presentation was to attack a congregation and its preacher for daring to differ with the traditional tenets of an ultra-conservative faction within a particular historical movement. The public couldn't care less, other than being amused by the squabbling of religious sectarians. It's just another strong punch to the head of Christianity, frankly, and the only one scoring points is Satan. To be perfectly blunt, those persons who took out this ad should be ashamed of themselves, and I believe they will have much to answer for one day as they stand before the Throne of God. For a while, the Christian Chronicle was placing very similar "advertisements" within their periodical. Several of us challenged them on this divisive practice [see: Reflections #315], and, as you all know, they have vowed not to run such ads in the future. Secular publications, however, have no such qualms about taking someone's money and placing such "attack ads" within their papers. What do they care if churches chew on each other in public, as long as the check doesn't bounce!!

Several concerned brethren in Oklahoma wrote me, as soon as they had seen this paid ad in their paper, informing me of what had transpired and expressing their disappointment, and even outrage, at the tactics of these legalists. One brother in Oklahoma City sent me a copy of the ad, and wrote a lengthy letter expressing his frustration over such malicious militancy. He wrote, in part, "In spite of the clear thinking promoted by you, Edward Fudge, and the late Cecil Hook, there are still, and I guess there always will be, those who are opposed to freedom in Christ. These people demand (much like the early Christian Judaizers) that every believer live under the sway of the same legalistic lack of freedom they themselves embrace. I live in the Oklahoma City metro area, and in the past month one of the larger congregations (Quail Springs), after a year of deliberation among the elders and the congregation, decided to bring the use of instrumental music into one of their worship services. You can imagine the noise this generated. It didn't take long for a response to appear in a paid full-page ad in the paper. It is the typical response of the legalistic paradigm, thus not unexpected, but it still makes me initially mad, and then just sad. Why should anyone in the world turn to Christianity when they see our 'light' being used as a torch to burn to death our own?! Thank you so much for your ministry, Brother Al, and for the thoughtfulness, love and care you and Brother Edward Fudge continue to provide." When our light becomes a torch, the intended purpose of which is to set the wood aflame that burns "heretics" and "apostates" (i.e., all those who dare to differ with us) at the stake, then something has gone terribly wrong with our focus. We have clearly embraced a ministry of intimidation, rather than one of reconciliation. The circumcision party of the first century was so vehemently vocal and vicious that even the apostles Peter and Barnabas feared them and began to sever their fellowship from their brothers and sisters in Christ simply to appease these factionists [Gal. 2:11-14]. The apostle Paul strongly rebuked them for "not acting in line with the truth of the gospel" [vs. 14, NIV]. The tactics of such terrorists have always been malicious marking and maligning of all those who dare to disagree with their countless traditional tenets. I would urge the readers to consider again my study of these satanic strategies in Reflections #319 -- Unity Through Surrender: Forfeiting Freedom for Fellowship.

Although it was asserted that "this ad is paid for by faithful members and area churches of Christ," not one single signature appears, nor is a single supportive area congregation identified. One is left to wonder just exactly who these "faithful" members and congregations are. Do they constitute a majority of the Christians and congregations in the area, or, as I suspect, a rather small number of vocal malcontents? It seems to me that anyone who assumes for themselves the right to publicly attack others in such a forum should also be courageous enough to identify themselves, rather than lobbing a grenade from the dark recesses of some cave. Having said that, I should note that three names do indeed appear on this paid "advertisement" -- Gil Yoder, Brant Stubblefield and Rick Popejoy. These three were chosen as the "mouthpieces" of the anonymous swarm of "faithful members and area churches." None of these three men actually live in Oklahoma City, and one of them doesn't even live in Oklahoma. Gil Yoder preaches for a little congregation in Richwood, Texas, which is near Houston. He shares his thoughts on a blog site known as Let Us Reason. I have known of Gil and his work for a good many years now, and I think it's safe to say that he would be considered by most to be an ultra-conservative, legalistic patternist. I think it would also be rather safe to say that he has no use for me whatsoever -- to put it mildly!! Brant Stubblefield is the minister for the Church of Christ in Lindsay, Oklahoma, a little town about an hour due south of Oklahoma City. In a blurb for their congregation one reads, "We are a sound congregation of the Lord's people seeking to remain true to the pattern of the New Testament." Rick Popejoy characterizes himself as "a missionary to Oklahoma," working under the oversight of the elders at the congregation in Lindsay where Brant Stubblefield serves as the local preacher. Rick and Brant are also the editors of a blog site known as Reflections Upon The Precious Book Divine. It was these two men, to the best of my own knowledge, who seemingly constitute the primary moving force behind this "advertisement," although the layout for the ad itself was designed by Jim Nash (never mentioned in the ad), who is the preacher for the Church of Christ in Marietta, Oklahoma (a little town right on the Texas border, just north of Dallas). Contributions to pay for this ad were sent in by unspecified individuals and congregations throughout the area.

There were also some interesting comments made by Rick and Brant on their above mentioned blog site (comments which did not find their way into their ad, for rather apparent reasons). In their blog article dated January 29 -- "Quail Springs, Church of Christ?" -- they wrote, "The elders of Quail Springs have assisted their entire congregation in committing spiritual suicide as these religious racketeers defiled the church of Christ by invading her with foreign innovations and unwarranted worship. These so-called elders have led the sheep to poisonous waters and shall be responsible to God on the Day of Judgment for such destruction. Rather than 'stopping the mouths of those who subvert whole houses,' they have decided to feed the beast of false doctrine with selfishness, pride and politics!" They accused the leaders at Quail Springs of spiritual whoredom, saying, "My friend, when God calls you a whore, you are a whore!" They referred to the minister, Bro. Mark Henderson, as a "frolicking fornicator" engaged in "ongoing whorish activity," all because of his "love affair" with instrumental music. Because this congregation has dared to defy the tradition of these legalists, they state that Quail Springs "has indeed flat lined and no life is left." "Today we wear black as we sit and mourn the loss of an entire congregation to death by spiritual suicide." They spoke of this congregation in this way: "As the body lay in the emergency room grasping for any hope of life, it was Mark Henderson, known spiritual adulterer, that was grinning ear to ear, as he gently pressed his foot on the oxygen supply cord until the very end." They went on -- "Funeral services for the Quail Springs Church of Christ are pending with the Reflections Funeral Home of Oklahoma. Gospel preachers around Oklahoma are asked to wear a black band as they preach throughout February as a symbolic reminder of the loss."

Brethren, this ought to give you some idea as to the spiritual mindset of these men who produced this "advertisement" earlier this month. Such are the godless tactics of the legalistic patternists. They're absolutely appalling, and the people of God everywhere should be absolutely outraged that these factionists have fouled the fair name of our Lord Jesus in such a public way. Nor, within the three brief articles situated on the paid "advertisement" page, does one discover any reasoned, rational arguments presented to the public for their narrow, restrictive position. It's merely a repetition of the same old sectarian tenets that have long since been shown to be fallacious. Yet, they continue to regurgitate them in public to the utter horror of the spiritually enlightened. By way of example, in the first article of this ad -- "God's Silence" -- which appears at the top of the page, and which was authored by Gil Yoder, the statement is made: "The principle of silence states in effect that authority from God is expressed by what the scriptures say, i.e., where the Bible speaks, and that where the Bible is silent authority from God is absent." It is the latter part of this rather bold assertion that's particularly fallacious in nature. The legalistic patternists absolutely swear by their so-called "Law of Silence," believing that silence is prohibitive. Where silence exists, authority does not ... or so they postulate. I've done study after study after study from God's Word showing the absurdity of this teaching, and would invite the readers to simply review those studies, if they so desire, under the heading "Law of Silence" on my Topical Index page. The legalistic patternists I would invite (again) to refute my teaching with regard to silence. I have been issuing this invitation to them for years, but they have yet to emerge from under their desks to take up the challenge. Perhaps one of these three men will dare to do so. We'll see!!

As an illustration of the fallacy of this tenet that biblical silence equates to a complete lack of authority, one merely needs to mention such things as four cups of wine in the Passover celebration, assembling in a synagogue, and observance of such days as the Festival of Lights. For an excellent study of how these clearly refute the legalists' assertions, I would highly recommend a reading of Bro. Bobby Valentine's article Anomalies in "The Pattern" which appears on his blog site under the date February 11, 2008. Bobby is a good friend and dear brother, as well as a strong supporter of my Reflections ministry. I too have used these same examples time and again to show that biblical silence is NOT prohibitive. Jesus used cups of wine in the Passover celebration, and yet the Bible is totally silent with regard to their presence and use. Thus, may we say that Jesus was a "frolicking fornicator" engaged in "ongoing whorish activity" because He led His disciples into the use of "foreign innovations and unwarranted worship"? If not, why not?! What about His frequenting of the synagogue services? Where did the OT writings ever authorize such a "innovation"? And what on earth was Jesus doing at the Festival of Lights?! Didn't He realize this was NOT one of the "holy days" established by God in His Word? Therefore it was "unauthorized" because of the "silence of the scriptures." Oklahomans, send in those contributions to Rick and Brant; they'll soon be taking out a full-page ad exposing that apostate Jesus!! "Oh, you are just being ridiculous, Al." No, I'm just applying their theology to the life of Christ. If biblical silence does equate to lack of authority, and therefore prohibition, then Jesus violated the "law of silence." I have challenged them time and again for years to respond to these examples, and they are still hiding in a cave. One has to wonder why they fear responding!!

In the second article, which appears in the middle of the page on this "advertisement," and which was written by Brant Stubblefield and titled "The Challenge," the author makes this astounding statement, "Christ never used it in worship." The "it" referred to is instrumental music. Thus, Brant asserts that Jesus "never used it in worship." Really?! Jesus never went to the temple for worship? Is this brother aware that instruments were used in worship in the temple service? Jesus was still living and worshipping under the temple system, which included instruments in worship. Thus, Jesus Christ most certainly did worship with instruments of music. Brant then issues this challenge: "We challenge Mark Henderson to a public debate on this vital subject." Wonderful ... I'm sure that will provide the stimulus for greater evangelism in the Oklahoma City region!! The local lost will certainly be attracted to those groups who specialize in eviscerating one another in public. Then in the third and final article on this ad page, titled "Bible Authority," written by Rick Popejoy, he begins by referring to the New Testament as "the rulebook." Keep the "rules" and you'll get to heaven. Sounds to me an awful lot like a return to LAW, and we know what the apostle Paul had to say about that. "You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace" [Gal. 5:4]. Yes, under LAW there were a great many "regulations of divine worship" [Heb. 9:1], but these regulations and rules were only imposed upon mankind "until the time of reformation" [vs. 10]. The NIV says "until the time of the new order." That new order is the Christian dispensation. To view the NT writings as a "rulebook" is to return to the old order and to seek to be justified by the keeping of rules, regulations and law. We have been freed from that, yet these modern day Judaizers would have us return to it. No thanks. "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].

Brethren, I believe it is important to expose, as well as oppose, such outrageous attitudes and actions on the part of the hardened legalists among us. They are doing unbelievable damage to the cause of Christ Jesus by their godless antics. The apostle Paul commands, "Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them" [Eph. 5:11]. That has been the purpose of this present article. It is time for the people of God to stand firmly in the trenches and face the forces of sectarianism as they seek to dismember the Body of Christ. They have won far too many battles already; they must win no more! Join me, brethren, in taking a stand against this evil. It will not prevail if you and I will simply stand united as grace-centered, Christ-focused disciples against it.

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Readers' Reflections

From an Elder in Tennessee:

Dear Brother Al, As I was settling into the Churches of Christ in the early 80's, I occasionally would hear the name of a former professor/preacher from my wife's alma mater who was feared to be "going off the deep end." This fear was confirmed in 1986 when he published the book "I Just Want To Be A Christian." It wasn't a book that showed up in our church library, and I certainly didn't want to lend an ear to a "false teacher." Last year I was selected to be an elder. During the years that I have spent learning how to shepherd, I also came to realize I would never be able to embrace the exclusivism required by the absolute, yet ambiguous, CENI ideology, nor could I ever be an effective overseer (interpreter/enforcer) in that regard. In my quest to learn more about the origins, intricacies and consequences of the patternism hermeneutic, I began to venture beyond the recommended reading lists. I encountered names unfamiliar to my narrow ear, such as Prentice Meador, Jeff Childers, John York, Leroy Garrett, Jay Guin, Al Maxey, and others, and it has been a reunion with family I never knew I had. A few months ago my son gave me a copy of Rubel's classic text (which was mentioned above). It is poetically tragic that for years I had struggled with questions about fellowship and forgiveness and just who "qualified" for grace, and there were simple answers all along within that book that I had once "known better" than to read. Al, one thing I am sure of is that your ministry is truly in the spirit of Christ Jesus, who accepted sinners and challenged the self-righteous. May you have many more years in His service!

From a Reader in Georgia:

Good Afternoon Brother Al, I have been thinking of you, and want you to know that you are in my daily prayers. I haven't written in a long time, but we are all fine here. I always eagerly anticipate your Reflections each week. I don't miss a single issue! You are a wonderful brother and an excellent scholar. Your many readers, myself included, have gained so much from your dedication to and perseverance in your ministry. God bless you my good brother and friend. A "Hi" to Shelly, also.

From a Reader in Texas:

Brother Al, "Before the Evil Days Come" was another excellent study, and it was one that was of interest to me personally since I am now in my 66th year and am ministering to the senior adults in our congregation. Keep up the good work.

From a Reader in Arkansas:

Brother Al, Your term "animated dust" is spot on. Great article!!

From a Reader in Tennessee:

Bro. Al, Not that it matters a whole lot what I think, but here I go telling you what I think -- Carrie Nation was as much in Jesus as any person! What the Lord has in mind for her I will leave to Him. Second, there most certainly is a significant amount of poor scholarship regarding "forever," "everlasting" and other such biblical phrases. Thank you for being willing to struggle with this and other difficult subjects. Please keep on blessing me!

From a Ministry Leader in California:

Brother Al, As someone who works with those addicted to alcohol and drugs, I found the article on Carrie Nation quite thought-provoking. I plan on doing a lesson on Carrie Nation for the group that I lead. The emphasis of the story will be that Carrie Nation attacked the outward manifestations of alcohol abuse with a hatchet and the sheer force of her personality, and in so doing she became a household word. What type of victory would we experience if we went after the enslavement to sin in our own lives with the same zeal as that of Carrie Nation?! Is there any doubt that God would see this and be pleased? I think not. Also, I wish to urge the dear reader who has recently left the International Church of Christ to please refrain from painting this whole group with such a negative broad brush. There are many former ICOC congregations who are working diligently to change their practices to conform to what pleases the Lord, and not just one man. They are also reaching out to others within their communities in an effort to be brought into fellowship with their brothers and sisters in Christ in other congregations. While many strange branches shot off of the main trunk, the roots of this church are still firmly planted in Christ Jesus. If we continue to seek His will, He will continue to change us. Thank you for your work in this ministry of change, Bro. Al.

From a Minister in Kansas:

Brother Al, One Cup man here. I have just returned from the Las Vegas meeting. What a thrill it was to be with some of the most wonderful people on the planet!! The meeting was a huge success, and we are already planning to have another one in 2009. I met several brethren that I had heard about over the years, but who I had never seen face to face. Wonderful people, each and every one of them. The moderator did a fabulous job, and the brethren discussed several Bible subjects. We were all free to discuss our views without fear of being labeled as something other than a Christian. Even though we did not all agree on every topic discussed, not one person was angry, nor was anyone mistreated by the other disciples present. I thank God for the sweet spirit exhibited by all who attended the meeting. It was so very refreshing to be with a group of Christians who have all had enough of the power brokers in the Church of Christ. I can now see the day coming when congregational autonomy will be reclaimed by congregations of the One Cup group, and I thank God for this! The Old Paths Advocate power brokers are always looking for the next "digressive" in the One Cup group, and they will seek to destroy anyone who does not line up with their program. The brother in Missouri you mentioned in your last Reflections whose identity is being sought by the OPA hounds is one of the finest men I know. My dear brother in Missouri, when you read this please remember: Jesus is Lord of your life and you now have a group of brethren who will stand with you against all those who try to destroy you!! You are a free man in Christ, and the Lord will not forsake you! Brother Al, once again I want to thank you for being such a great help to all who seek freedom in Christ. May God bless you and all who seek unity in Him.

From a New Reader in [Unknown]:

Bro. Al, I just read your Exchange with John Waddey and really liked your answers to the things he said (or, should I say -- the things about which he accused you and judged you). I just wanted you to know that I spend so much time thinking on these very things, and long for the truth, even if that truth bothers me. I'm a truth seeker, and not just someone who has itching ears that need to be scratched. I used to be afraid to think differently than my church did, and yet I couldn't help it. There were just too many things I couldn't bring myself to believe. I never knew what grace was; I was too busy trying to merit my salvation through "works of obedience." I never really knew God. In fact, I was petrified of Him. He was harsh and scary in my mind, so I acted out of fear in my obedience rather than love. But now I have come to think like you do, although I notice that you still consider yourself "Church of Christ." I, on the other hand, have left them completely. Bro. Al, I know you're a really busy guy, and I would never want to be bothersome to you -- it's just that when you find someone who understands what is troubling your soul, you reach out to them for further understanding, and even validation. If I didn't feel forsaken by "God's people," I might never have found you! Thank you for your time, and I will be talking to you here and there, if you don't mind.

From a New Reader in California:

Dear Brother Maxey, The first of this year I started a Bible reading plan with my church. It's been great ... until I read the story of Jephthah. I'm a 44 year old man with two daughters whom I love dearly. I went to bed almost in tears; very, very troubled in my spirit. Needless to say, I could not sleep. I awoke at 4:30 a.m. and have been awake ever since. I took out two Bibles, trying to get a better translation of what could have happened. No luck. I then decided to try an Internet search. I found a couple of Internet sites, but I still could not find any reasonable logic behind this account; my faith and this story seemed so much in conflict. I really began praying!! Then God led me to your very long and in-depth, but, Thank God, very well-thought-out commentary on the account [Reflections #224]. Thank You!! I am still in tears, but the tears are now of gratitude. Your research and conclusions have finally helped me make sense of this account, and I feel so much better. I don't normally email people I don't know, but I just had to convey my thanks to you!

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