by Al Maxey

Issue #377 ------- December 8, 2008
It is not the big armies that
win battles; it is the good ones.

Maurice de Saxe {1696-1750}

Royal Order of Gnats
Mighty Mustard Seed Militia

A "gnat" is defined in the dictionary as "any of several varieties of small, two-winged insects, a good many of which bite." There is a wise old maxim that states, "It is not the size of the dog in the fight, it is the size of the fight in the dog." Yes, something rather little can indeed have a huge impact, given the right circumstances. Thus, those who dare to "despise the day of small things" [Zech. 4:10], do so at their own peril. Proverbs 26:17 describes the folly of "taking a dog by the ears." The trembling little Chihuahua may appear to be powerless, but lift him by the ears and you will be spending some time in the ER.

Have you ever had a gnat fly up your nose? Into your ear? Have you ever watched a bull, plagued by a swarm of gnats, go tearing across a field trying desperately to flee? Bulls fleeing from gnats?! Seems absurd, doesn't it? And yet, sometimes the most powerful entities and forces in the universe are not massive in size, but rather minute. Split an atom under the proper conditions and see what happens! Throw a single lighted match into an extremely dry forest and you'll behold the awesome power of something small. "Behold, how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire," says the brother of our Lord Jesus [James 3:5]. In this same chapter, James speaks of a large, powerful horse being compelled to obey the will of another by a small bit in its mouth [vs. 3]. Even gigantic ships, "though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, are still directed by a very small rudder, wherever the inclination of the pilot desires" [vs. 4]. Behold how small the tongue is, says James, and yet it "defiles the entire body and sets on fire the course of our life" [vs. 6]. "No one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison" [vs. 8]. So small, yet so potentially deadly.

We humans tend to live in "size conscious" societies where quite often "big" is equated to "better," and "small" is regarded as "inferior." Such a standard of measure, however, is not always the most accurate guide. Sometimes the reverse of this standard is true. Indeed, quite often our God has purposefully chosen that which the world regards as insignificant and inferior to be the recipients of His greatest honor or the source of our greatest blessings. The brethren in Corinth were losing sight of this fact, and were thus beginning to judge and condemn one another based on worldly appearances. The apostle Paul, in the very first chapter of his first epistle to them, pointed out the basic flaw in their thinking. "For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong" [1 Cor. 1:26-27]. From a human perspective, size may matter to many; from a heavenly perspective, spirit matters more! Had it not been for divine guidance, Samuel might have made the same mistake by following human instinct when choosing who would reign as Israel's second king. "The Lord said to Samuel, 'Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart'" [1 Sam. 16:7].

Jesus was a disappointment to many within Judaism because of the circumstances of His birth and rearing. He just didn't meet with their preconceived expectations for their Messiah. He wasn't "kingly" enough; much too "common" to be God's Son. And just look at the little rag-tag group of "mangy misfits" He gathered around Himself. These were to be the apostles of a message that would transform the world?! When the Jewish Sanhedrin, for example, "observed the confidence of Peter and John, and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were marveling" [Acts 4:13]. How could these insignificant men be causing such a huge stir in the community? The elite leaders of the Jews had greatly underestimated the powerful force for change within this growing swarm of godly gnats. It would cost them dearly, both religiously and spiritually.

And yet, these rulers couldn't say they hadn't been informed ahead of time that this would be the very nature of God's kingdom! Time and again our Lord taught the multitudes, which often included representatives of the Jewish leaders (and even some of the leaders themselves), that from seemingly insignificant beginnings would come the mighty Messianic community. "The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches" [Matt. 13:31-32]. When you scatter seed (just as when you scatter a swarm of little gnats) you increase the area of influence of that seed (those gnats) proportionate to the range of scattering. The swarm/church in Jerusalem was becoming much too big. The solution to the problem, therefore, was perceived to be the scattering of these pesky little insects. "A great persecution arose against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria" [Acts 8:2]. What was the result? "Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the Word" [vs. 4]. To put it another way: you don't put out a brush fire by fanning the flames!! The legalistic leaders of the Jews didn't perceive that principle back then, and the hardened legalists today are equally oblivious to it (which is certainly beneficial to the cause of Christ, so ... shhh ... don't let them see this!!).

The reality is --- responsible change IS coming to the beloved Family of our heavenly Father. These refreshing winds of change, stirred and directed by the Spirit, are sweeping over the land. The fresh air of freedom in Christ is filling the nostrils and lungs of a people far too long shackled and enslaved. The legalists can't stop it ... and they are becoming increasingly aware of this fact, much to their consternation. Like the old bull in the field, they are becoming enraged, and are storming about snorting and stamping and madly foaming at the mouth. Really, it is a rather sad sight, for in the realm of the royal order of gnats, our Leader has the power to transform an old bull into a vibrant winged member of the spiritual swarm. Most bulls are much too thick-skulled to perceive this, sadly ... even though the message is being graciously and repeatedly conveyed to them. Thus, their misery, as well as their ultimate demise, is assured.

Reformers are almost always perceived by the hardened leaders of accepted orthodoxy as little more than irritating insects in need of extermination. Samuel Butler (1835-1902) stated, "Reforms and discoveries are like offenses; they must needs come, but woe unto that man through whom they come!" And yet, "to give up the task of reforming society is to give up one's responsibility as a free man," writes Alan Paton (1903-1988). Reformers are rarely given a second thought until such time as they "become a nuisance," and then the standard solution is to grab the can of bug spray and "nuke 'em!" We see this happening more and more today within our own faith-heritage (and also various other movements within Christendom). Those infuriating "change agents" have reached the "nuisance" stage, and all the rigid religionists are grabbing their cans of "solution" and filling the air with their "poison." It is too little too late, however. Our Lord's Royal Order of Gnats has reached plague proportions! Reform is coming, whether the legalists like it or not!! Like the third plague unleashed against Pharaoh and the Egyptians, which was a plague of gnats [Exodus 8:16-19], no power within Egypt could stop it. It was of God, and it would accomplish its mission. This bit of wisdom at times is even recognized by that rare legalist, as is seen in the advice of Gamaliel with respect to the Way -- "Stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action should be of men, it will be overthrown; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them, and you may even be found fighting against God!" [Acts 5:38-39].

Mark Twain (1835-1910) was absolutely right on when he observed, "Reflection is the beginning of reform!" Before genuine reform can occur, men must engage in genuine reflection. They must reflect on the state of the church, and whether or not we are truly seeking to live as God's children or simply perpetuating a religious system. If it's discovered that it's the latter, then brave souls must step forward, sometimes at great personal risk, and initiate and lead a much needed reformation. Carl Jung (1875-1961) wrote, "As any change must begin somewhere, it is the single individual who will experience it and carry it through. The change must indeed begin with an individual; it might be any one of us. Nobody can afford to look round and to wait for somebody else to do what he is loath to do himself." Choosing to be a reformer -- an agent of responsible, needed change -- is risky; it calls for great personal sacrifice. However, if those so called by the Spirit of God to lead such a reformation fail to answer that call, the negative consequences can be extremely far reaching! No one person can do it all, but each man and woman must do his/her part in bringing about this change. I may be only a single gnat, but when joined by my fellow gnats, we make up a swarm!! And it is this that will bring about the change needed in the church today. Yes, we are the Royal Order of Gnats, commissioned by and operating under the authority of the King. And our growing success in carrying out our mission is, quite frankly, driving the old bulls of legalistic patternism to distraction, as evidenced by the increased intensity of their fierce bellowing and snorting!

Down, But Not Out
A Study of Divorce and Remarriage
in Light of God's Healing Grace

A 200 page book by Al Maxey
Publisher: (301) 695-1707
Readers' Reflections

From a Reader in Maine:

Dear Brother Al, I'm pleased to be one of those described by David Brown as "the people who support you and encourage you to continue down that broad way unto destruction." None of us, according to Brown, supposedly "know enough about rightly dividing the Bible to fill a gnat's thimble." In point of fact, however, it is an honor to hold membership with so many of your other readers in The Order of the Gnat's Thimble --- I guess because we are all simply "fools for Christ's sake" (1 Cor. 4:10). Blessings to you, brother!

From a Reader in North Carolina:

Brother Al, I chuckled several times while reading David Brown's comments to you in the readers' section of your last issue of Reflections (i.e.: "The Lord is being very good to you in giving you as much time as He has to repent," and also his comment about "a gnat's thimble"). Very patronizing, and just downright pathetic. Wouldn't it be nice if people like this David Brown spent more time teaching the lost than trying to "reteach" brethren who are already saved?! Please keep up the great work, brother! Your example of "faith under fire" is an example to us all.

From a Reader in California:

Brother Al, Sometimes I just have to shake my head at these Contending for the Faith types. However, I think I'm beginning to understand why the attacks from these twisted individuals don't really bother you. Anyone who has faced Vietcong bullets probably isn't too worried about a few nasty comments from cowards who lob verbal bullets from afar. I believe the Lord has sent you "through the flames" of military service in war so that you could hold His banner ever higher without fear. Continue using the talents the Lord has given you, brother!

From a Reader in Washington:

Bro. Al, I believe defending a brother is Scriptural, so I will continue to defend you as needed. Solomon said, in Ecclesiastes, that one man could be overpowered, two could defend themselves, and three are not easily defeated. You have got a whole lot more than that standing alongside you, brother! Isn't it amazing that the "full armor" given to us has no mention of protection for the back? I believe there are a couple of reasons for that. First, we are to go forward, and second, we are to defend each other. The shame of our situation now is that this defense is against supposed Christian brethren! I do believe we should continue to pray for them, however. I also pray that you had a great Thanksgiving, and I wish you and Shelly a Merry Christmas. God bless you, Al.

From a Reader in Alabama:

Dear Bro. Al, If you are discouraged by the criticism described in your recent Reflections, you shouldn't be! You should be thrilled that you are having a positive impact on so many, many people. I happen to be one of thousands who appreciate very much what you are doing!

From a Reader in Florida:

Brother Al, I just wanted to thank you for both your service to our country and your service to our God! May He continue to bless you and this vital, much needed ministry richly!

From a Reader in California:

Bro. Al, Your debate with Darrell Broking was very effective in revealing the twisted mentality of the Contending for the Faith group. However, the two brief messages in Reflections #375 from Morris Bowers and Daniel Denham revealed the true mean-spirited attitudes of the leaders of this group far more succinctly, clearly and starkly than did the debate!!

From a Reader in New Mexico:

Dear Brother Al, I recently found Darrell Broking's web site he created to tell people "What Al Maxey Does Not Want You To Know." Is this guy serious?! Is this even legal?! Isn't this defamation of character?! I read through the comments he has posted and most of them are his own, or from other people, not from your own writings! Does he really expect people to believe what he says simply because he's said it? -- Unbelievable! This man is obviously not a Christian because a Christian would not do this sort of thing. Also, my guess is that nobody that agrees with you will ever be allowed to sign his guestbook, even though you have put their crazy emails to you in your Reflections! Again, unbelievable!

From a Minister in Tennessee:

Bro. Al, I left the ContendingFTF forum due to the tone it had taken on (the language used in their attacks upon others). The problem I see is that these brethren are sincere in their attacks. They truly believe that anyone who does not agree with them 99% -- maybe even 100% -- of the time are actually "filled with Satan," and they must be exposed to protect their flock that is getting smaller and smaller. How many times have we heard the expression from these brethren, "There are yet 7000 who have not bowed the knee to Baal"? Although I do believe they are sincere in their attacks, I must say -- so were the Pharisees! They actually thought Jesus was a heretic. It took me 22 years before I began to slowly, and painfully, open my eyes, and I didn't really see clearly for a number of years after that, but I was well on my way to experiencing God's wonderful grace and escaping from all the manmade laws that had been in the making for a century and a half. Brother Al, thank you for your part in helping others to open their eyes to God's grace and helping them inhale the wonderful breath of freedom in Jesus.

From a Minister in Texas:

Brother Al, I typed in "Behold the Pattern" in Google and found your article on Goebel Music's book by that name [Reflections #209]. I fully agree with you on this. I studied my way out of patternism over the years. The ultimate conclusion I came to about patternism is that it is a legalistic effort to turn the NT into a revised OT. Anyone can see, however, that they are not the same. The NT is based on principles, rather than specific commandment keeping. Please keep up the good work, brother. By the way, in addition to preaching and serving as a Hospice chaplain, I am also in a Christian rock band (my most recent "digression").

From a Minister in Alabama:

Brother Al, I would like to share with you a post that was submitted to our congregation's Internet site recently (the grammar has not been corrected) --- "I would like to pray for you librals. yall have fellowship halls and gyms and playhouses for yall to eat in. Read 1st Corinthians 11:22 and 34 as well as Romans 14:17. Then you have your Instatutions, 1 Tim. 5:3-16 and 1 Corinthians 16:1. And how did you get an idea for handclapping. That is definately not accapella music. BTW you also need the CHURCH OF CHRIST part to be bigger on your sign. You do not deserve to even be called a Church of Christ!!! Not error tear down your gyms and fellowship halls your life centres everything and be more like a Church of Christ rather than recreational centres. In Christian Love, (name withheld). May God Be With You Always." Al, I especially liked the "In Christian Love" part. I felt so loved!! Keep up the good work, brother!

From a Reader in Virginia:

Bro. Al, It has been a long time since I have communicated with you, but I just wanted to write to encourage you to keep up the good work. I benefit from almost everything that you have posted within your weekly Reflections to date. I am currently teaching a class on the English Bible and am using as hand-outs for the class your evaluations of several English versions which are currently on your web site. I hope you had a great Thanksgiving, and that your Christmas and New Year are wonderful too.

From a Reader in New Mexico:

Dear Brother Maxey, We have not had the good fortune of meeting, but you've been sending your Reflections to my brother, a Major in the Air Force stationed in Iraq. He and I were just speaking on the phone, discussing how much I have enjoyed New Mexico since moving here from Texas about 18 months ago. He asked me if I had ever heard of you, and I had to confess that I had not. He went on to say that he received hundreds, if not thousands, of emails from people, and that he was not able to remember or respond to the vast majority, but that your correspondence was very uplifting and appreciated. On behalf of his entire family, I want to say Thank You for providing him encouragement during a time that would test the strongest of faiths!!

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