by Al Maxey

Issue #388 ------- March 2, 2009
What youth found and must find outside, the
man of life's afternoon must find within himself.

Carl G. Jung {1875-1961}
Essay on Analytical Psychology

Musings of a Sexagenarian
Random Reflective Retrospectives

Gen. Douglas MacArthur (1880-1964), in a speech delivered at an American Legion dinner given in his honor in the city of Los Angeles, California on January 26, 1955 (when MacArthur was in his middle-70's), made this memorable observation: "Nobody grows old by merely living a number of years. People grow old by deserting their ideals. Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up interest wrinkles the soul. ... You are as young as your faith, as old as your doubt; as young as your self-confidence, as old as your fear; as young as your hope, as old as your despair." The noted French author André Maurois (1885-1967), which was just the pen-name of Emile Salomon Wilhelm Herzog (who had his birth-name legally changed to André Maurois in 1947), stated that "old age is far more than white hair, wrinkles, and the weakening of the body." Instead, it is "the indifference of the soul."

In many ways, age is truly a state of mind. We have all heard the expression: "You're as young as you feel." There is a measure of truth to this. I have seen people who were forty who acted like they were a hundred, and I've seen people quite advanced in age who still retained the vigor of youth. Although one's body does indeed wear down, and a person's physical limitations do increase with the years, nevertheless the quality of one's life is far more determined by the heart and mind than by the body. You are only as old as you make up your mind to be. "Young at heart" is more than just an expression -- it can also be one's reality.

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 B.C.), the great Roman philosopher, statesman, lawyer, political theorist and Roman constitutionalist, declared, "Give me a young man in whom there is something of the old, and an old man with something of the young: guided so, a man may grow old in body, but never in mind." I suppose that there comes a time in each of our lives when it finally dawns on us that we're moving into the afternoon or evening of our earthly lives. For some, this is a traumatic experience; for others, merely a new adventure: just another phase of our journey through life. I personally have never minded growing older. Birthdays don't bother me. Like most, I find the natural physical limitations of the aging process to be somewhat frustrating at times, but such things are truly minor in the overall scheme of things. The positives far outweigh the negatives -- after all, with each passing year we are just that much closer to home!

Today, March 2nd, which is Texas Independence Day, marks my 60th birthday. That means that I am now officially what is known as a sexagenarian -- a rather strange sounding word, to be sure, but, believe me, I've been called far worse! I'll have to be honest, there is a part of me that is somewhat surprised I made it this far!! In almost every area of my life I have sought the front lines of life's battles. I've been a risk taker, and was never afraid to "go where no man has gone before." That is not always the best formula for longevity, although it does tend to make for an interesting journey through life! The last four moves Shelly and I have made, for example, were transoceanic in nature (twice across the Atlantic; twice across the Pacific). I guess it's safe to say that I have always had more of a global vision, with regard to my life's goals and work, than a local vision (although I certainly appreciate the merit of the latter). This has broadened our horizons greatly, not only in coming to better understand the physical world about us, but, even more importantly, in better understanding the unique lives and cultures and perspectives of the differing peoples of this world. It has truly helped to break down prideful feelings of personal, cultural, national and even theological superiority, and has helped us to see the value and worth of ALL God's children, as well as the necessity of excluding no one embraced by our Creator and Father.

I am a firm believer in the need for prayerful introspection and reflective retrospection at various points during one's journey through life. There are "markers" along the pathway that seem to be appropriate times to pause for some critical self-evaluation, as well as reassessment of one's goals and objectives. What exactly is my destination? And am I living in such a way as to arrive there? What is my purpose in life? And am I laboring in such a manner as to fulfill it? Am I staying true to my God? True to my values? True to myself? Am I just "going with the flow," or am I daring to walk the path less traveled? Have I sought a life of ease, or am I willing to sacrifice self? Am I seeking to please men in order to further a career, or am I seeking to please the Lord in order to further His cause? These and hundreds of other questions and concerns must be regularly addressed during one's journey lest one lose his or her way! Perhaps reaching the sixty year mile marker is a good time for just such a "pit stop." Now, clearly, much of any such assessment will be quite personal and intimate in nature, and thus probably not appropriate for sharing in such a public forum as this. However, in this present issue of Reflections I will share with you, the readers, a few observations on where I've come from and what I've seen in the past several decades, and where I'm going and what I hope to see in the years my God has left for me. Perhaps these insights will aid each of you in your own self-evaluations.

One of the great lessons in life that it took me a number of years to learn is that no one person can ever be all things to all people. In a local ministry situation, this is, unfortunately, quite often expected of the "paid, located preacher." This man is virtually viewed as the "property of the church," and I am aware of locations (as are you) where the members felt they had every right to dictate to the preacher and his family the parameters of virtually every aspect of his life (and his family's). When I first began my ministry (back in the mid-70's), I truly felt that I had to make every single member of the congregation happy, and bow to their individual whims for my own life and ministry. It drove me nuts! In time, however, I came to realize that although I work with the Lord's people, I don't work for them. My life's labors are for the LORD, not for any man or group of men. I can't even begin to tell you how liberating that revelation was ... and still is!! The apostle Paul summed it up well with these words -- "For am I now trying to win the favor of people, or God? Or am I striving to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ" [Gal. 1:10].

It was a painful lesson to learn, but I finally realized that the harder I tried to please every person around me, the less focused I had become on pleasing my Master. I had become so distracted by the endless expectations of my fellow disciples, that I was failing my Father. It was He who had called me to this life, not they, and it was He to whom I must one day give an account. Thus, about 25 years ago I came to a crossroads in my life -- I would either continue trying to please men, or I would take a new path, and seek only to please my God. I chose the latter. As a result, I have made some enemies over the years. Men and women whom I loved dearly, turned away from me when they realized they could no longer dictate the particulars of my life and ministry. Brethren, that really hurts!! But, such sacrifice is nothing new to those who have dared to place God above men. King David lamented, "It is not an enemy who insults me -- otherwise I could bear it; it is not a foe who rises up against me -- otherwise I could hide from him. But it is you, a man who is my peer, my companion and good friend! We used to have close fellowship; we walked with the crowd into the house of God" [Psalm 55:12-14]. Yet, regardless of personal cost, "we must obey God rather than men" [Acts 5:29; cf. 4:19]. Paul knew that it was the Lord who would ultimately examine the worth of his service, thus he regarded it as rather insignificant that some of his brethren desired to be inquisitors of his ministry [1 Cor. 4:1-4]. He was God's steward, and so it was to Him he must prove trustworthy in his calling.

So, what exactly does all the above mean from a practical point of view? What it simply means is -- God has allotted to me a certain "measure of faith," as well as specific gifts "according to the grace given to" me [Rom. 12:3, 6]. There are things my Lord has called and equipped me to do for Him, and there are things He has called and equipped others to do. The measure of my faithfulness is NOT by way of comparison with the service of another; rather, it is measured by what I have done with what I have been given. There was a time, during the early years of my ministry, when I used to feel rather badly if I wasn't doing some of the exact same things that "Bro. So-and-So" was doing (and there were people more than willing to point out to me that I wasn't doing those things). It took me a while to realize that I didn't have to do what "Bro. So-and-So" was doing. I wasn't called to that particular service ... he was. God didn't create Al Maxey to be a carbon copy of another of His servants. I was called to be ME ... and to be the very best "me" that I could be. Through our individual faithfulness to God's individualized callings, HE would then provide the divinely desired increase! "I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. ... each will receive his own reward according to his own labor" [1 Cor. 3:6, 8].

One of the most significant facets of my life's work is my writing. I have touched far more precious souls with God's Truth through my writings than I ever could, or ever will, through my sermons and classes. The latter is largely local in scope, whereas the former is genuinely global. With the latter I am reaching out to hundreds; with the former I am reaching out to tens of thousands. Both aspects of my ministry are important, and I am thankful to God that He allows me to engage in both at the same time! Yes, it requires some degree of effort and sacrifice, but I love doing both and will continue as long as the Lord allows. Sadly, however, there are a few beloved brethren who are openly critical of my writing ministry. In fact, a few absolutely hate it, and would force me to abandon it if they could. I'll admit that it saddens me to see them so troubled. Yet, I have no choice but to submit to the will of my God rather than the whims of my brethren. If that seems harsh or cold-hearted, it wasn't meant to be. It is simply the only choice one can make in light of the reality of one day having to give an account for that which He entrusted to me and how I employed it during my journey through life. What would I say to my God on that Day if I bowed to man's will in this matter rather than His? Frankly, I'd rather suffer their wrath than His. Therefore, my writings shall continue until HE tells me to stop!

In keeping with the above thoughts on writing about one's convictions, I received an email a couple of days ago from a very dear friend and beloved brother in our Lord Jesus Christ, Dr. Don Givens, who is an author and gospel preacher, and with whom I was privileged to work and worship in Hawaii for a number of years when we were both serving as ministers over there --- a picture of Don, standing with Randy Travis, can be viewed at the beginning of the Readers' Reflections section of Reflections #367. We have remained good friends over the years, and I love and respect him, and his dear wife, with all my heart. You will never meet a finer man (or one with a greater sense of humor). Don and I have both been "written up" together in the Non-Institutional periodical Guardian of Truth, so he and I have shared some similar afflictive experiences for our faith. Don also mentioned in his email a letter he had received from Homer Hailey, who preached at the same congregation I preached for in Honolulu, Hawaii (although years earlier). Many of those Hailey had baptized were still members at the congregation there when I preached for them (from 1992-1998). Don gave me permission to share his email and this letter with all of you, writing, "Al, you have my permission to use any of this in Reflections -- in fact, I would appreciate (and I think it is needed) you writing about what genuine scholarship truly is, and how we need much more of it today." Following is Don's very encouraging email to me and the letter from Bro. Hailey:

I concur completely with my brother and friend on the need for genuine biblical scholarship over mere mindless regurgitation of party tenets as though they were timeless, eternal truths sent forth directly from the Throne of God. I am firmly convinced that if the disciples of Christ would simply spend more time truly thinking and reflecting upon God's Word, and less time seeking to defend the traditions of long deceased forefathers from one's faith-heritage, the number of schisms and factions within the Family of God would be significantly reduced. If the oneness for which our Lord prayed [John 17] is ever to be achieved, we are going to have to be willing to place on the table each and every one of our many sacred cows and revered rituals for thorough review. And we're going to have to be open and honest enough to embrace change when such is truly necessary to bring ourselves more in line with God's will. This is going to be painful for many disciples, but the alternative to such sincere biblical scholarship is the perpetuation of the faulty exegesis and misguided applications of the past. It is time for us to step out boldly and acknowledge the distinction between tradition and Truth, thereby ceasing our incessant separation from one another over the tenets of the former. Such division is shameful and should be forever shunned by disciples simply seeking to love Him and one another.

Another lesson it took me a good while to learn, and I suppose I have, at least in part, my faith-heritage to blame for not having come to appreciate it sooner, is the primacy of a Person (Jesus) over any particular party, position, practice, perception, preference or pattern. Our unity is to be found in the former, NEVER in the latter. Men have sought to impose uniformity with respect to positions, practices and patterns, but our Father never sought a family of clones. Children in a family are unique, diverse; individual in nature and ability. Yet, they are one because they are begotten of the same mother and father. And so it is within the Family of our God. Begotten of Him, we're all ONE ... even though we are all, individually, different and unique. This is the beauty of Unity in Diversity, the only genuine unity there is in a body or family. I'm fond of saying: You don't have to be my twin to be my brother. To the great chagrin of my more legalistic brethren, some of whom are dear friends, I refuse any longer to discriminate between disciples of Christ based on party, position, practice, perception, preference or pattern. Wherever the Father has a son or daughter, Al Maxey has a brother or sister. Period!! If you're in Him, you're with me.

This is not popular teaching in some Churches of Christ (although such congregations are decreasing in number and relevancy very rapidly). Indeed, in their view it is absolute heresy. Everyone knows (right?) that WE are the "One, True Church," and that all others are godless "denominations." Everyone knows that WE are the only ones who have properly perceived Truth and the only ones who practice it perfectly. WE are bound for heaven; all others are bound for hell. There sits before you a weary sexagenarian who is sick unto death of such sectarian arrogance! It is Satanic! That I once used to think this way shames me even to this day. I will never, ever preach, practice or promote such nonsense again!! One reason that I honestly believe we are presently witnessing a dramatic decline in our movement (and in many other conservative, rather fundamentalist, groups) is because the younger generations are largely abandoning the rigidity of religion for the simplicity of relationship. They are no longer interested in loyalty to a brand-name, but loyalty to His Name. I often hear it stated that our youth are deserting the church. I disagree. I believe they are finally discovering it. It is not about patterns performed precisely in a particular place ... it is about a relationship with a Person lived out in one's daily life. "Church" isn't something that one goes to, it is something one IS. You are called out ones -- called out of the world and into relationship with the Father through the Son.

I personally have no desire whatsoever to spend the remaining years of my life on this earth engaged in silly sibling rivalries! My Father's Family is much bigger than the factions of my forefathers. Thus, it's time to set aside our sectarian feuding and begin behaving as brethren. We have wasted far too much time trying to conform those around us to our own image. Perhaps it is now time to begin inviting those around us to simply join with us in our quest to be conformed to HIS. "For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren" [Rom. 8:29]. I have many spiritual siblings ... many of whom I have never met ... many of whom I have been discouraged from meeting. Those days are now behind me. If my Father is going to actually allow me to sit at His table with His other children in the here-after, I might as well begin getting to know them, and begin my association and fellowship with them, in the here-and-now.

As I contemplate my journey through life thus far, and as I look to whatever time my Lord has allotted me in the future, I feel a deep longing to bring more precious souls out of legalistic bondage in the future, and a deep disappointment that I have not been able to free more in the past. Could I have done more to rescue more? Perhaps. But, I must not let my frustration over missed opportunities distract me from the daily opportunities my God will provide in the future. In some ways I feel very much like Oskar Schindler as he spoke to his Jewish factory workers at the end of the war. By the way, if you have never seen the movie Schindler's List, please do so! It is one of the most important movies ever made. As Schindler said his farewells to the many hundreds of Jews he had saved from those who sought to destroy them, he lamented the missed opportunities to save even more. I can identify with that feeling. Nevertheless, the past is past ... let us move into the days to come with a heightened resolve to rescue those perishing in the world and those languishing under law. God's grace is abundantly available to both. May we have the courage to take it boldly into the death camps!

Another significant truth that has been powerfully revealed to me over the years is the fact that one person CAN make a difference. Too many seek to excuse their lack of action by suggesting that just one person, standing alone, is powerless to effect any real change. Nothing, though, could be farther from the truth. Countless cases from the past and present may be cited to the contrary. Oskar Schindler, for example. Over 1200 Jews survived the holocaust solely because this one man dared to risk all for his convictions. History is literally filled with the names of men and women who dared to stand boldly and courageously for their beliefs, and, in so doing, forever changed the lives of those about them ... and in some cases actually altered the course of history. It is tempting to believe the lie that we are just a small part of a massive herd, and thus incapable of ever making a difference in the world about us. We are urged to merge with the masses and not "make waves." Go with the flow and don't rock the boat. Well, those who know me know that this is not my philosophy. I will quite frequently swim upstream against the current, make waves and rock a few boats. Sometimes one has to in order to help the herd perceive God's will for their lives. Never fear standing up and speaking out for what you believe in. Although this will incur the wrath of some, it just may well result in the salvation of a good many others. Achieving the latter is certainly worth experiencing the former.

Although there is much more I could say here (and which I will share with you in coming issues of Reflections), let me close these few random, rambling, reflective thoughts with a plea to each of you, my beloved brethren in Christ Jesus. I don't want to be a "prophet of doom and gloom," but I'm personally convinced that we are entering some very dark days in the history of our nation, and it will become a time of increasing difficulty for those of us seeking to walk in the footsteps of the Savior. I genuinely believe we are in the last days before the coming of our Lord, and that Satan has been loosed. It is going to prove very costly to be a professing disciple of Christ, and so I plead with you to surround yourself with brethren, immerse yourself in our Father's Word and Will, and remain focused on Jesus as you journey toward the goal of a better home. Try to bring as many with you as you can. And, brethren, in view of the dark days ahead, let us lay aside the petty party squabbles, and let us instead learn to love one another as our Lord pleaded with us to do. For by this we'll show forth the Light unto those in darkness, and by this the world will know we're His disciples. May our God give us each the strength to face the years ahead, and if you and I never have the opportunity to meet in this life, I look forward to an eternity of fellowship with you in the next. May His blessings and His grace be upon you all.

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Readers' Reflections

From a Minister in California:

Bro. Al, Thanks for putting the driving motivation of your ministry into clear perspective in your last Reflections article "Prancing Patternists." We all need to forget the "prancing patternists" like Broking, Brown, Denham, Hatcher, et al, as they are truly a lost cause. But, we need to work and pray like crazy to rescue those in their clutches who are still willing and able to think for themselves. Please keep up your amazing ministry! For every legalistic character assassin out there, there are a hundred grace-filled believers lifting you up and supporting your brave ministry. Blessings, brother!!

From David Brown, Editor & Publisher
of Contending for the Faith Magazine:

Al, I am very sorry for you, but it certainly appears that you will have to learn, when you step into eternity, that you've been wrong and standing in opposition to the Truth of the Gospel. But, Al, you will never be able to declare that many of us have not attempted to get you to see your error. If you ever decide to come out from behind your emails and electronic publishing to meet on the public polemic platform to orally discuss a subject upon which we differ, please contact me. Al, believe it or not, I do not hate you. In fact, I love your soul and want to see you in heaven. Therefore, I will continue to offer to debate you. I have no reason to believe you will ever change your stance on oral debating, but I will continue to offer to debate you orally. However, if you refuse to debate orally, is there any person of your persuasion that you know of who would engage in a public four night oral debate?

From a Reader in Oklahoma:

Keep swinging, Bro. Al. You're making great headway! The ultra-patternists are really feeling the heat. More and more people are leaving their hate-filled teachings and are breaking the shackles of tyranny. After just a taste of freedom, most never go back to bondage again. Every ultra-legalistic congregation is losing people in droves, and most of these people are attaching themselves to congregations that have broken the shackles of legalism. Brother, these legalists will never defeat you, so fight on.

From a Reader in Texas:

Stay strong, Brother Al. I am blessed to be a member of the Richland Hills Church of Christ where Rick Atchley does a wonderful job of sharing God's Word (not man's). I pray for both you and Rick to remain strong when all these personal attacks come down upon you. We need men of courage like you two in order to keep us focused on what God has said, rather than on the teachings of men. Thank you for your Reflections -- I look forward to them each week.

From a Reader in [Unknown]:

Brother Al, I am giving you a standing ovation for your most recent article on "Prancing Patternists." All of your Reflections have been great lately, but this one is simply outstanding. You are so right about all of it. I have known several who have gotten out of the legalistic, patternistic sects, but it is so hard for them to do so, and the damage done to them remains with them for years. However, these people are now experiencing the freedom and the grace that our God so much wants us to have. Thanks, Al. Keep up the good fight, brother!

From a Minister in Tennessee:

Brother Al, I just read your latest article -- "Prancing Patternists." Your analysis of the legalists in our churches is dead-on!! Trying to make headway with someone who is imbedded in legalism is like trying to knock down a brick wall with a feather. I have a great friend who is a former Presbyterian minister. Some time ago, I shared with him one of your Reflections articles. He really appreciated your thoughts, and so I gave him the URL for your web site. Al, I just wanted to tell you that I love you, and that I stand as a part of that "great cloud of witnesses" to support, encourage and hold up your hands in this battle for freedom, grace, and the hearts of men and women. God bless you, my brother!

From a Reader in North Carolina:

Brother Al, While reading your last article, I was thinking about our Bible class this morning on John 12. Why were the scribes and Pharisees plotting to kill Jesus? Because He did not follow their traditions and their interpretations of the Scriptures! Jesus disrupted their unholy cliques and establishments! He confounded them with sound reason and logic and Truth! He infuriated them with meekness and compassion and love! No wonder they hated Him so vehemently! He was everything they were not. Thanks be unto God for a Savior like Jesus! And thanks be unto God for men like you who are willing to stand firmly for the Truth of the Scriptures so that you might help others like me who were once trapped within the patternistic ways of the Pharisees within the Churches of Christ. Thank God that I have now seen the light of the glorious gospel of grace and love!! God's blessings on you always, my brother!

From a Reader in Colorado:

Dear Bro. Maxey, I know only too well the feelings these brothers are going through who have contacted you for advice as to how to deal with legalists. You are so right, brother -- there is no way to rationally deal with the hardened legalists. In their minds, they alone have the Truth. Also, these people get together and feed off of one another. They're like a pack of vicious dogs on the attack. Individually, they will rarely attack, but put them together and it will look like they haven't had a meal for months!! Please keep up the good work, brother. Someone needs to confront them. Hang in there!!

From a Minister in California:

Bro. Al, These bands of legalistic rule-makers are ridiculous. You have far more patience with them than I, brother! And this business of not speaking at the same event as Rick Atchley or Al Maxey is silly. What happens to me if I should attend such a conference where you are speaking? What if I happen to be in the same town as Atchley? What if I'm on the same planet? Where exactly does one draw the line? All I can say, brother, is that you are in very good company! I would be happy to speak alongside of the names on Broking's list any time!! God bless you, brother.

From a Reader in Michigan:

Dear Brother Al, You should be proud to be listed by Darrell Broking among those deemed "sinful to work with." If he had any guts at all, he would have added other names to his list as well. Names like Alexander Campbell and Barton W. Stone. I am also disappointed that he didn't list other heroes of mine, such as Carl Ketcherside, Cecil Hook, Leroy Garrett, and Olan Hicks. What a Church of Christ Hall of Fame list it would have been then!!

From a Reader in California:

Brother Al, God bless you this morning ... and every morning! I have just finished reading your latest Reflections, and also the letters from readers (which I always enjoy very much). These letters are always so enlightening, and it is heartening to see and understand that we are not alone in our endeavor to break free of legalism and all it entails (as you know, my husband and I have been gone from the one-cup, one-loaf, non-instrumental music, etc. group of the legalistic Church of Christ for 27 years now). Hugs to you and yours!

From a Reader in Utah:

Dear Brother Al, A couple of years ago I wrote to you about my personal experiences within the One Cup church, and of the attitudes of many within this legalistic group. Al, I almost fell out of my chair when you mentioned Walter Swain in your last issue of Reflections. Swain was the minister of a small congregation in San Marcos, California. I spent most of my working career in San Diego, and my family and I attended that little congregation in San Marcos. At that time, I felt Swain was somewhat of a troubled individual, and he was certainly very difficult to know. He reminded me of many of the rigid folks I had known in the One Cup side of our movement. I have a feeling that your experience with this man may have been somewhat the same as mine. Brother Al, I always enjoy your insights. Thank you.

From a Minister in Texas:

Brother Maxey, I want to thank you for your tireless efforts in faithfully bringing your weekly Reflections to your many subscribers. You are doing a great work for the Lord's Body, and I just wanted to encourage you to continue your work for as long as you are able. Thanks so much for all that you do for the Lord.

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