by Al Maxey

Issue #346 ------- April 18, 2008
Faith is the bird that feels the light
and sings when the dawn is still dark.

Rabindranath Tagore {1861-1941}

Welcome To Your Wings
A Reflective Review of the Book
Simple Faith by Charles Swindoll

So many of my beloved brethren in Churches of Christ have been in religious cages for so long that I fear they no longer know how to fly (if they ever did). Over the years I have sought repeatedly in my ministry to open the doors to these cages, inviting the precious little birds within to come forth and FLY. A few have done so and have felt the wind beneath their wings (some for the first time). Others fear the unknown, and so they remain in the cage. But, I keep trying. Birds should be free. They should soar ... not sit on a perch in a tiny enclosure until they die. On the back of the cover for a book titled "Simple Faith" there appears this statement: "How did so many people wind up trapped by complicated systems of performance-based faith? Why do we tend to push ourselves past our limits in pursuit of more works than any reasonable Pharisee would have demanded? Must we run at a pace somewhere between maddening and insane to prove we're among the faithful? 'No!' is the emphatic answer from best-selling author Chuck Swindoll. In this liberating book, he shows us how to get free from such arbitrary confinement. He reminds Christians that we serve a God who promised freedom, peace, and rest. Here at last is an exhilarating invitation to simple faith. Move beyond rat-race Christianity and break the bars calculated to wilt our free spirits. A cage is no place for a Christian. Welcome to your wings."

I have long been a huge admirer of the work of Charles R. "Chuck" Swindoll, who has devoted his life to a ministry focused on bringing the Lord's people to a greater appreciation of the transforming influence of the Holy Spirit within them and of the joys of simple faith and amazing grace. He perceived long ago that too many of his beloved brethren were being increasingly confined in cages, religiously speaking; they were being trapped behind the bars of a system of religious tradition that was so complex and confusing that most disciples were incapable of even grasping the concept of freedom in Christ, much less being able to perceive the way of escape from their enslavement. Chuck realized something had to be done; someone had to take the initiative in calling the Lord's people out of their bondage to law and into a state of liberating grace. Many years ago I answered that same calling, and have since been seeking to join my voice with his (and the voices of many others) in this effort to give wings to these precious caged birds, many of whom do not even realize there is a world of joyous living awaiting them just outside the bars of their prisons.

Charles R. Swindoll was born on October 18, 1934 in El Campo, Texas. He was the third of three children born to Earl and Lovell Swindoll. After graduating from high school in Houston, he served some time in the Marine Corps, being stationed, among other places, in Southeast Asia. He and his wife Cynthia were married in 1955, and they have four children. In 1959 he entered Dallas Theological Seminary, graduating magna cum laude four years later. In fact, he received the Faculty Award for being the most outstanding graduate of that institution that year. Over the years, Swindoll has served as a senior pastor in a number of congregations, but in 1998 he founded a new work in Frisco, Texas called The Stonebriar Community Church, where he continues to serve as the senior pastor of a congregation that now numbers in the thousands. He has received several honorary doctorate degrees in recognition of his contributions to ministry, including the honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Pepperdine University (in 1990). Through his Insight for Living broadcasts, which are aired in all 50 states and on more than 2100 outlets worldwide (in many different languages), his message has truly become global. In 1996 Baylor University named him one of the top 12 preachers in the nation, and in 2006 Christianity Today declared him one of the top 25 most influential preachers of the last 50 years. He has written numerous books, one of which will be our focus in this present edition of my weekly Reflections.

"For many years I had wished someone would write boldly and biblically about our freedom in Christ Jesus ... about the stranglehold legalism has on many (most?) Christians ... about the delights and discoveries to be enjoyed if folks would only get beyond the petty, man-made demands and restrictions of the grace killers and enter into a life that is free of guilt and shame, intimidation and manipulation. To my surprise, I wound up writing that book myself. The response I've received from readers has only reinforced my assumption: A multitude of people in religious bondage long to be free, and they have nothing but gratitude for anyone who will help them break the chains so they can run for daylight. I know; I have a file folder full of grateful letters" [p. xv-xvi]. So wrote Bro. Charles Swindoll in the introduction to his book Simple Faith. He was speaking, of course, of his previous work: The Grace Awakening, which became an instant best-seller. If you have never read either of these books, please do so. If I had the money, I would purchase copies of these books for every disciple of Christ I know (and, indeed, Shelly and I have done so for a number of friends and family). When I was living and preaching in Honolulu, Hawaii, I had someone ask me: "If you could recommend just one or two other books for someone to read, besides the Bible, what would they be?" Without any hesitation whatsoever, I said: The Grace Awakening and Simple Faith by Charles Swindoll. Further, if you know of someone who is still caged by legalism, but who has a heart to be free, run to the nearest book store and purchase these books for that seeking soul. It will be one of the best investments you ever made.

I have in my own library a copy of the original hardback version (280 pages), while my wife has a copy of the paperback version (291 pages), which was released about a dozen years after the former. All quotes in this issue of Reflections will be from the hardback version (actually, the quotes are the same in both editions, but the page numbers will vary somewhat). The book contains an introduction, a conclusion, and fourteen chapters in-between. Let me just briefly comment on each of the sections and chapters, providing a few quotes from each, to whet your appetites for a more careful reading and study of this fabulous work.


I've already provided one quote from the introduction: a statement in which Bro. Swindoll spoke of what motivated him to write his marvelous study of God's grace, and how the disciples of Christ need to be awakened from their spiritual slumber, and loosed from their bonds to legalism, to the joys of freedom in Jesus. Many of those who were led out of captivity then wondered, "Where do we go from here?" They were free ... but, now what?! Many of them found themselves continuing to take part in organized religion, but enjoying it less and less. True, they were indeed free from a legalistic mindset, but now they seemed to be equally frustrated by the numerous complexities of the institutional system. "The people I have in mind for this book are those who have become victims of tyranny, not legalism. That tyranny is the pressure and frustration and disappointment brought on by the never-ending demands of organized religion. This kind of tyranny is intensifying because nothing in our world today is being simplified. In fact, everything in life has gotten complicated, including a life of faith" [p. xvi].

I completely agree with the author on this. I am convinced that Jesus never intended walking with Him to be something so complex that it would boggle the mind. In reality, it is something so simple that a child can comprehend it. "We have turned a walk with God into a ruthless obstacle course, an exhausting marathon. We have added enormously heavy weights to the runners, and, as a result, many are opting not to enter the race at all" [p. xviii]. There are enough heavy burdens in this life; we're already loaded down. Jesus, however, said that His burden was light. Frankly, that's hard for many to imagine when they are forced to view His calling through the spectacles of organized, institutionalized religion. "The Christian life is not based on high-level performance but on quiet faithfulness, not on impressive works but on deep relationships" [p. xx]. I have been proclaiming this truth for years and years. Jesus came NOT to establish a new religion (there was plenty of that already); He came to re-establish relationship (both horizontally and vertically). The keys? A life of simple faith; a heart of fervent love!

Chapter One

Chuck Swindoll's first chapter is titled "Let's Keep It Simple." That pretty much says it all. "Long years of legalism, mixed with the pharisaic power plays designed to intimidate and control, held the general public in bondage. Man-made systems of complicated requirements and backbreaking demands" [p. 4] had shackled those men, women and young people who simply wanted to know the Lord Jesus more intimately and to walk with Him. A religious institution must feed itself in order to survive, however, and this requires the energy, labor and resources of its adherents. It will drain them dry, equating faithfulness and righteousness with the number of boxes checked off on the never-ending list of works to be performed and regulations to be followed. Swindoll rightly observes, "When we attempt to become more spiritual by doing more things, we do nothing but complicate the Christian life" [p. 7]. In this first chapter, the author takes a much closer look at the Sermon on the Mount, and he sees therein a call to a simple life of faith and devotion, not a return to the numerous heavy burdens of religious LAW. The primacy of relationship over religion means that we must learn to love one another, and accept one another, and bear long with one another ... differences and all. NO person should seek to dominate another with regard to personal preferences. Love does not behave that way. "Be tolerant of those whose fine points of theology differ from yours. Be tolerant of those whose worship style is different" [p. 12]. Yes, we can be as different as night and day ... and still be brethren!! What a concept!! Once we grasp that fact, the next step toward simple faith is to behave accordingly, and to cease trying to be little lords over the household of God. "My way or the highway" is NOT the motto of those who seek simple faith.

Chapter Two

In chapter two, Bro. Charles returns to the Sermon on the Mount to illustrate "The Qualities of Simple Faith." Indeed, the entire book draws its primary inspiration (though not exclusively) from the teachings of Christ found in Matthew 5-7. He points out the contrast between the institutional sermons of many ministers today, and the inspirational sermon shared by our Lord. He spoke His words outside, rather than in a building. He sat among the people, He didn't stand behind a pulpit. He dialogued; He blessed; He encouraged. "Having endured a lifetime of verbal assaults by the scribes and Pharisees, the multitude on the mount must have thought they had died and gone to heaven. A pinch of positive blessing does more for our souls than a pound of negative bruising. When will we preachers ever learn?" [p. 23]. In this uplifting chapter, Charles Swindoll focuses on each of the beatitudes, showing how the Lord is seeking to help us perceive in each some special aspect of our relationship with the Father and His other children. "Though simple sounding and easy to read, each beatitude offers a radical rearrangement of our ordinary value system, daring us to be different. What we find here, in short, are guidelines for true Christian character" [p. 25].

Chapter Three

The reality spotlighted within the third chapter is that we live in trying times, and "the world is a war zone full of foes that must be faced" [p. 42]. We have a vicious enemy (Satan), and this evil spirit-being has a host of vicious, evil forces in his employ. Sadly, some of his best workers are found among those who profess to be disciples of Christ, but who in fact don't have a clue who Jesus is or what He is about. Thus, what they promote is more a religion of this world: complex, legalistic, institutionalized and "faith-killing." Jesus calls us to be salt and light, and neither one can be effective when left in a container or covered over. Salt must mix in to be effective; light must shine. So, get out of those pretty shakers and start mixing in with the people of the world who are in desperate need of what you have to offer. A pretty shaker is pointless if the salt merely remains inside. A lamp may be attractive, but if it blocks the light how can it push back the darkness? Swindoll suggests it is time to cease shining the light upon each other (preaching the gospel to the saved in our crystal cathedrals), and begin shining it upon the lost. Charles quotes C. T. Studd, who observed, "Some wish to live within the sound of Church or Chapel bell; I want to run a Rescue Shop within a yard of hell." Poetic and to the point! Evangelism really isn't complicated -- just let your light shine where it will do the most good. And, all of you who claim to be the salt of the earth -- shake yourselves out of those pews! Get out of those pretty shakers. I guess this is why he titled this chapter: "A Simple Counterstrategy: Shake and Shine."

Chapter Four

Swindoll turns the reader's focus inward in the fourth chapter. Jesus did that with the Pharisees when He told them they looked great on the outside, but inside they were filled with corruption and decay. I believe He might have the same thing to say to many disciples (and even congregations) today. Christianity is simplicity itself. However, men have taken this beautiful vertical/horizontal relationship and turned it into a complex system of ritual and regulation. Jesus came challenging Tradition and promoting Truth; He came to remove Religion and restore Relationship. And the legalistic lords hated Him for it. "In the final analysis, it was when Jesus had the audacity to question those longstanding traditions that plans for His demise were put in motion" [p. 63-64]. Things haven't really changed a whole lot over the past 2000 years. Just dare to question tradition today -- then sit back and watch what happens!! Disciples continue to miss what they missed back then: "It is the inner heart that God searches and rewards" [p. 67]. The heart was the very least concern of the hardened legalists of the Lord's day, however, and "Jesus wasn't always tactful with the grace-killing Pharisees of His day. ... He exposed them without mercy" [p. 67]. Jesus' disciples sometimes told Him that His words were offensive to the Pharisees. Jesus Christ refused to back down, though. "They needed to be offended. One might hope the well-deserved rebuke would awaken them!" [p. 68]. The legalists back then never truly grasped what Jesus sought to teach them ... and legalists still don't! The great truth He sought to convey was: "The principles of Scripture go deeper than externals. The Pharisees never learned this. If all you get from your church or from your Bible study is surface religion and the importance of superficial appearance, you are missing what true Christianity is all about" [p. 74].

Chapter Five

A life of faith is really not complicated. Systematic religion IS, however. "Jesus never promoted a performance-oriented, surface-only religious lifestyle, but rather an authentic, true-to-the-core life of faith" [p. 83]. In chapter five, Swindoll looks to the way in which our Lord addressed some of the serious issues of His day (and of ours, for that matter). Most specifically, He looks at the problem of adultery. The Jews of Jesus' day were squabbling over countless rules and regulations pertaining to marital infidelity. Jesus swept all this aside and simply stated that if one's heart was right, then such horrible things would not occur. Making up more laws doesn't solve the problem, instilling deeper faith and love does. Again, religion is not the answer to what ails us. Being indwelt, transformed and led by the Spirit is.

Chapter Six

Let's face it: some people in this world (and even in the church) are self-serving and strong-willed. It is their way or the highway. Period. They will love you and hug you and socialize with you as long as you are in agreement with their cherished convictions. Step outside those boundaries, however, and you will very quickly witness a vastly different side of these people. They will "stomp a mud-hole in you," as a beloved professor used to say. What is the problem here? Lack of Love. "When love is at work in us, it is remarkable how giving and forgiving, understanding and tolerant we can be" [p. 106]. If the rigid religionists loved their brethren as much as they loved their personal and party preferences, the church would be enjoying far greater harmony and fellowship today than it does. Nevertheless, those on the receiving end of such self-centered rigidity should seek to display a higher standard. "I think of the late Corrie ten Boom and her response to the Nazi guards who had brutalized her sister. She was able to forgive them. She refused to live the rest of her life brimming with resentment and bitterness. True love sees beyond the treatment that it endures" [p. 107]. Brethren, I'll admit that this is a difficult principle to put into practice. We must continue to love even those who have ceased loving us. Nevertheless, this doesn't mean we surrender our convictions and submit to their religious demands. Sometimes the most loving thing to do is keep moving forward (inviting them to come with us), rather than returning to the rut in which they have chosen to remain. They may hate you for it, but being their doormat is not an act of love (either for Truth or for them).

Chapter Seven

In chapter seven, which brother Charles Swindoll titles "Beware! Religious Performance Now Showing," he discusses the difference between genuine worship and putting on a religious show. "Something within me recoils when I sense that the program is choreographed right down to the last ten seconds and I am an observer of a performance instead of a participant in worship. ... When something as meaningful and beautiful as worship gets slick or bears the marks of a complicated stage show or starts to look contrived, I start checking out the closest exits" [p. 118]. Chuck points out that "a humble, uncomplicated walk with God has been replaced by a prime-time performance of religion" [p. 121]. Such people have apparently completely forgotten, if they ever knew, that "Faith is not a long series of religious performances" [p. 121]. "Walking humbly with one's God was never meant to be a theatrical performance" [p. 122]. Simply stated -- "Simple faith and showtime don't mix" [p. 123].

Chapter Eight

In a statement that somewhat reflects one of my recent Reflections, Swindoll observed that the religious extremists "will stop at nothing until we get out of the realm of balance" [p. 135]. Legalists, quite clearly, have no use for balance, because promoting balance means that the preferences of others will bear equal weight with their own. NO legalist will ever, ever tolerate such a thing. It is their way, or it is no way!! All others must submit to them, and NEVER will they agree to submit to others. And why should they? After all, they are right, and everyone else on earth is wrong!! Simple faith flies in the face of such rigid religious arrogance. "Only on the rarest of occasions did Jesus ever spell out some precise pattern to follow in any of the disciplines of piety. It is as though He left the nuts and bolts to each of His own, not expecting us to jump through a prescribed set of hoops" [p. 139]. Simple faith is flexible; it is not rigid. Too many people have just enough "religion" to be thoroughly miserable with life. They're so busy trying to jump through hoops and keep rules (while imposing the same upon everyone else -- after all, misery loves company) that they fail to see the JOY our Lord has in store for us when we embrace freedom in Him. There's an ancient rabbinical saying: "A man will have to give an account on the judgment day for every good thing which he might have enjoyed, and did not." Have you ever seen someone who looked like they'd just sucked a large lemon? Christians shouldn't look like that! Those who truly grasp the nature of faith enjoy life. "Have you allowed yourself to fall under the thumb of somebody's will? No wonder you don't enjoy life! You are taking your cues from those who frown back at you. What do they know about what the Lord is doing in your life? I'll be candid with you. The older I get the less I worry about what people think and the more I concern myself with what God thinks. When I get His green light, I confess, I move in that direction and He and I have the time of our lives" [p. 147]. We have allowed the grace-killers and the faith-stiflers to hold us back long enough. It's time to move forward. After all, GOD has given us the green light, which is far more significant than any red light of tradition-bound MEN.

Chapter Nine

This chapter has been titled "When Simple Faith Erodes." Although the principles contained therein easily apply to all disciples of Christ, the group primarily in view is ministers of the gospel. Those who have devoted their lives to full-time service to the Father face some rather unique and special challenges that, if they're not very careful, can erode their faith, transforming it into something it was never intended to be. Dr. Richard H. Seume characterized it: "the lure of a lesser loyalty." In order to maintain "the good favor of all the good brethren," ministers will far too frequently begin to soften the message and compromise their convictions. "Tone it down, brother; preach unto us smooth things," is often the plea from those who don't want to "rock the boat." "A maintenance mentality can emerge" [p. 153] as spiritual leaders seek to maintain the status quo rather than challenging their flock to move on to more fertile pasture land. Swindoll characterizes it: "the tragedy of settling for less." Erosion is a slow process; a little here and a little there. In time, however, one's faith has been worn down by those who seek to redirect it according to their own personal or party preferences. One may try to rationalize that a few small compromises here and a little "caving in" there don't really amount to much, but in the final analysis they each constitute vital parts of the process of erosion of one's faith. Like boiling a frog: before one knows what has happened one is "in the pocket" of these grace-killers. It is a tragedy witnessed far too frequently in far too many congregations in the lives of far too many leaders.

Chapter Ten

Worry. Charles Swindoll, in the title of this chapter, calls it "The Subtle Enemy of Simple Faith." I was impressed with the following insight by this author, and feel he has truly put his finger on one of the root causes of this phenomenon: "Worry occurs when we assume responsibility for things that are outside our control" [p. 174]. Chuck gives us the example of Jesus in the home of Mary and Martha. One was stressed out, the other was simply satisfied to sit at the feet of the Savior. One had taken on far more than she could handle, the other was content to listen to the Master, knowing some things take priority over the little things of life. "Harassed and haunted either by what we think might happen or by something that has already occurred -- neither of which we can control or change -- we become fearful and unsure. ... If we were to keep a record of all our fears over fifty years of our lives, chances are good that 90% (or more) of those things we dreaded never came to pass" [p. 178]. God takes care of His people; He will see that your needs (though not always your wants) are met. "As you care more and more about giving Him first priority, you will care less and less about the things that once 'strangled' you emotionally and spiritually, thereby stealing your peace" [p. 184]. Remember, "no squirrel ever had a coronary because he failed to store enough nuts for two winters instead of one," and "no dog ever lost a good night's sleep over the fact that he had not laid aside enough bones for his declining years" [p. 182]. In other words, trust God, and keep life simple.

Chapter Eleven

This chapter is a fabulous one, for it strikes very close to home for many of us. Swindoll talks about a game we each have played at times (and some continue to play) -- "Let's Label." We don't particularly like someone, or we don't agree with their position, so we set out to destroy them in any way we can. We undermine their work, we talk about them behind their back, and we shun them. In our effort to cut down and cast out all those who dare to differ with us, "the life of simple faith gets lost" [p. 198]. Swindoll says that playing this game "can be addictive" [p. 200]. In fact, it seems some actually enjoy it. But, it's a killer. At the end of the chapter he tells of a young preacher's wife. "She had been reared in an extremely legalistic home and fell into the clutches of that negativistic, grace-killing lifestyle. The man that she married became a preacher in the same religious system: long lists of taboos, exceedingly rigid expectations, unending requirements, judgmental suspicions -- the works" [p. 201]. Over the years this lifestyle began to destroy her faith (as well as the faith of her husband and children). "The legalism was killing the tiny bit of joy that still existed" in their lives. Finally, her husband was forced to acknowledge their problem. "Even though he knew that his career was on the line, he determined not to continue living a lie and promoting such a graceless and condemning message" [p. 201]. He resigned. Their joy returned; their marriage and family life strengthened; their faith grew ever more dynamic. "Their relationship with others is now free of binding legalism" [p. 202]. The sad part of the story is that all their former church friends have dumped them. "They have labeled us as liberals," she sighed, "even though we are not that at all. Actually, we are walking closer to Christ than ever before. In many ways we expected it, though. After all, for most of my life that is the same way I handled anyone who did not agree with me. We were right, and whoever was not in our group was wrong. Those are the rules of legalism" [p. 202]. When will we ever learn! Legalism destroys simple faith ... and it destroys relationships.

Chapter Twelve

With regard to the legalists of His day, Jesus "never once retreated from His all-out assault against the scribes and Pharisees. He reserved His sharpest goads for them" [p. 207]. "Every time I hear someone in a speech refer to Jesus as if He were some kind of meek 'n' mild, spineless wimp, I want to raise my hand and ask, 'Ever read Matthew 23?!'" [p. 208]. Jesus didn't fall for the nonsense proclaimed by these legalistic patternists; He saw through the foolishness and He exposed it in no uncertain terms. Jesus Christ called us to be a people of simple faith ... not simpletons! Yes, we need to confront those who have given themselves over to law rather than grace. Seek to rescue the perishing, and those affected by their teaching. But a point comes, declares our Lord, when we must realize that we're wasting our time on them and we need to move on. NEVER allow the legalists to hold you back from going where the Lord has called you to go. "Jesus teaches that there will be occasions when perpetually closed minds need to be left on their own" [p. 209]. "There does come a time when it is best to 'let stubborn dogs lie'" [p. 210]. Don't make the mistake of lying down with them ... "gather up your precious pearls and move on!" [p. 211].

Chapter Thirteen

"Every day in America the United States government issues 50 more pages of regulations" [p. 221]. Sounds kind of like some churches (and brethren) we know, doesn't it? Those enamored with law will continue to produce it. "Then Jesus said to the crowds, and to His disciples, 'You would think these Jewish leaders and these Pharisees were Moses, the way they keep making up so many laws!'" [Matt. 23:1-2, Living Bible]. "The scribes and Pharisees sat around splitting hairs over theological and theoretical minutia," and Jesus Christ, "in effect, said, 'Enough of external religion!'" [p. 225]. It's all about simple faith displayed in daily living. It is knowing Jesus, not knowledge of law, that is truly redemptive. In Matt. 7:23, Jesus told the religious practitioners, "I never KNEW you." "If you are the religious type who loves creedal affirmations more than biblical application, those words Jesus spoke probably make you nervous. Plenty nervous. They were spoken to get the religious professionals off the fence of theory (where things sound so right, so pious) and into the world of reality (where true Christianity is put into action)" [p. 233]. "There is a major difference between mouthing the right words or carrying out impressive deeds and being men and women whose hearts have been invaded by the Lord Jesus Christ. The former is religion, the latter: relationship" [p. 234].

Chapter Fourteen

In this final chapter, Bro. Chuck Swindoll speaks of the inevitable storms of life. We must face reality: "life is difficult ... storms are inevitable ... pain and discomfort happen. There is no escaping life's calamities" [p. 244]. The question is: Will our faith withstand the storms? "If you are only hearing and reading the truth, you are not prepared for life's storms" [p. 245]. Charles Spurgeon once noted, "There are tens of thousands to whom the preaching of the gospel is as music in the ears of a corpse." It simply has no impact. Thus, they are not transformed, and they are not equipped to face the challenges of life. When the storm comes, they will collapse just like the house built on a foundation of sand. "To listen with no plan to act -- to read with no interest in responding -- is to miss the whole point of Christ's great message on the mountain. Divine truth is given not to satisfy idle curiosity, but to change lives ... not to lull us to sleep in church, but to equip us for today and ready us for eternity" [p. 246].


It is time for God's children to "push aside all the clutter of religious activity and return to the basics of simple faith" [p. 248]. We have spent so much time focused on the externals of a rigid religion that we have lost sight of the internal realities of spiritual relationship. We'll fuss, feud and fume over whether or not our personal preferences are followed in a "worship service," thinking that is where true righteousness is displayed, but never give a second thought to the message we send to the lost of this world by our faithless focus on form. "In a busy, angry, complicated world like ours, I know of no greater need than an authentic display of simple faith. Surrounded by a jumble of activities being carried out by exhausted, joyless people -- many of them claiming to be Christians -- the presence of a life that demonstrates love and extends grace, a life that represents compassion, humility, and mercy, is long overdue" [p. 252]. May God help us to become a people of simple faith. We have been squabbling factionists far too long! It's time for change.

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Readers' Reflections

From a Reader in New Jersey:

Dear Brother Al, I just finished reading your latest article regarding carrying concealed weapons. I then forwarded it on to my son, who is a deputy sheriff (and who has wondered about carrying in the assembly). Let me take this opportunity to thank you for all your thoughtful articles. I always find myself better educated on any topic about which you write. I've even quoted (with attribution, of course) from one of your Reflections (on the duties of elders) in the literature review chapter of my doctoral dissertation. Thank you again!

From a Reader in Alaska:

Brother Al, I consider myself reasonably well-versed (pun intended) in the Scriptures, but your last Reflections article ("Concealed Carry Christians") brought out a couple of points that I hadn't previously realized about the role of swords associated with Jesus, and also that "love always protects." This just illustrates once more that the New Testament's 8000 verses are a bounty of unrealized lessons! Another aspect of your spiritual solicitation's synergy is your great ability to summarize or encapsulate the best individual comments. The way different people write is another value of your readers' input. Sometimes one person makes a point in a way that makes it clearer than anything else said. Your approach is thus oftentimes more valuable than your own words, as good as they are!

From a Minister/Elder in Florida:

Brother Al, Thanks for your study on Christians carrying concealed weapons. I am pleased to see the overwhelming support for Christians carrying even in the assembly. Where I worship, two of the elders, at least one deacon, and two or three other members all have their permits and bring their weapons to the services. So at any given service there are probably six or more weapons in the hands of stable, responsible individuals. This gives me a very secure sense of safety. I don't know how many in the congregation even realize that there are guns present when they assemble together, but they are much safer (even though they may not have the knowledge that these weapons are present). To allow a congregation to be a "sitting duck" for any unstable, drug-crazed or alcohol-impaired person who might walk in and open fire, demonstrates, in my opinion, a great deal of irresponsibility on the part of the leadership. Knowing that we have the ability to protect innocent lives gives us a true sense of security.

From a Reader in Texas:

Brother Al, Excellent study!!! Over the many years that I have been a member of Internet discussion forums among Restoration Movement churches (especially the Church of Christ forums), it has amazed me just how many of our members do not realize that there were armed disciples with Jesus who would protect Him at all costs, and also protect those around Him (such as the women who traveled with Him). That same responsibility is still with us today. Those among us who are trained have, in my opinion, a God-mandated directive to protect those in the church who cannot protect themselves, especially the children. Reading the responses you received that you posted really gives one an idea as to where we really stand on this issue, even though no one ever speaks about it openly when in church or in small gatherings. I am looking forward to meeting you and Shelly when we are in Alamogordo, New Mexico this June. We plan to be in your area from a Saturday through a Tuesday. I pray for God's continued blessings and growth for your online ministry.

From a Reader in Oklahoma:

Brother Al, I think it is only wise that every congregation conduct a thorough analysis of potential threats, and then develop a plan of action to handle them. And this is not only with regard to crazed killers, but also weather threats like tornados, floods, or a fire, or an outbreak of serious illness, etc. I am afraid that our small, rural congregation has not done this. I am giving the elders here a copy of your article!

From a New Reader in [Unknown]:

Dear Brother Maxey, A friend forwarded your "Concealed Carry Christians" article to me. I appreciated it and agree with your conclusions. The implication to be drawn from Exodus 22:2 and Jesus' endorsement of it (as per Matthew 24:43) is enough alone to convince me of the divine bestowal upon God's children of the right to self-defense -- even lethal in nature, if necessary. Would you please add me to your mailing list for your weekly Reflections. Thank you!

From a Reader in California:

Brother Al, In your response to the first reader in your last issue of Reflections, with regard to legalistic absurdities, you wrote: "Unless one has actually witnessed such behavior firsthand, it would probably be rather difficult to convince somebody that such a phenomenon was truly real. 'Oh, come on, brother Maxey. Nobody would actually do something like that. You're just making it up.' If only we were!!" Bro. Al, at one point, in a congregation of which I was once a member, some in the group wanted to install a microphone so that a couple of the elderly people could actually hear what was being said. And so they did. But, the person leading the prayer was required to go in front of the whole gathering and stand at the microphone. At least one of the brethren "pitched a fit," saying he could NOT use the microphone because he would have to stand to use it, and everyone knows that one must kneel to pray!! By the way, I enjoyed the article on carrying concealed weapons in the assembly, and the many responses you shared with us. Thank you for that.

From an Elder in Missouri:

Brother Al, With regard to the concealed carry question, I am in agreement with the majority that responded to you. I have been in congregations where members carried concealed weapons. I know a couple of congregations where the leaders carry, and where they have even asked some other members to take on special roles much like a security guard concept: placing them strategically in the assembly so they might be able to render aid should it be needed. I plan to go through the concealed carry process myself in the near future. I had to face for myself the question as to whether I could take another's life a long time ago when I was in the military. Like many who responded, I am willing to lay down my life in defense of the gospel, or as a result of facing persecution for my faith. However, protecting loved ones and family, and responding to an unbalanced or evil person is a completely different matter. I have made peace with myself that I could indeed act with deadly force if the circumstances called for it, and as a last resort. Al, I want to thank you once again for your work, and for your efforts in these Reflections. The topics are often difficult ones, yet you present the information in such a fair and balanced way that it promotes further study and spiritual growth.

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