Issue #424 -------
December 11, 2009
When the drum has beaten the charge, when you
must march straight upon the foe, bayonets fixed,
your gloomy silence pledging victory -- Soldiers,
remember to be worthy of yourselves!
It's extremely rare indeed that I will sign a public petition of any kind, or that I will affix my name to some document or declaration that promotes a personal or party perspective or position, especially one that openly advocates any kind of radical societal shift (even though I might totally agree with the proposed shift and the underlying spirit that was calling for said change). However, I have made a singular exception to that previous firm stand in the case of The Manhattan Declaration. After some very careful, prayerful soul-searching, as well as a line-by-line examination of and reflection upon this declaration itself (13 pages [MS Word format], 4728 words) and its stated objectives, I have chosen to sign The Manhattan Declaration, along with 281,015 other concerned persons (at last count). Will this action on my part make a real difference in the "eternal scheme of things"? Probably not (though God can do wonders with much less). However, it is eternally significant for me personally because I'm convicted that it's essential for an increasing number of spiritual leaders to take a public stand against the ever-growing spiritual and moral darkness that is overwhelming our society. It is time for God's 7000 souls who have not bowed the knee to Baal [1 Kings 19:18] to become a voice crying out in the wilderness for societal reform: a nation-wide return to GOD.
I won't get into a lengthy tirade against our political leaders in this issue of Reflections; no need -- you're all painfully aware of their abuses and excesses. Suffice it to say, they have failed us. Worse: we have failed ourselves by empowering and emboldening such men and women over the years who are ever more openly and unashamedly leading us away from our God. Edmund Burke (1729-1797), an Anglo-Irish statesman, author, orator, political theorist and philosopher, quite often thought of today as the philosophical founder of modern conservatism, rightly observed, "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." We have done nothing long enough; it is killing us! It is time for good men and women to take a stand, to speak out, to demand change!! And if our political leaders won't turn our nation around, then we the people need to turn our politicians out ... of office, that is!! We are in desperate need of a purifying purge from the very top of our government down! And we need it ... yesterday! I am not in any way at all advocating any kind of a militant insurrection, although some perhaps might favor such radical measures. I believe a more reasoned, rational approach, but no less determined, is required!! It is time for God's people to be HEARD, rather than huddling helplessly in a herd outside a house of slaughter. Dylan Thomas (1914-1953), a Welsh poet and writer, declared: "Do not go gentle into" that dark night, but rather "rage, rage against the dying of the light."
During the final days of September, 2009 a number of Christian leaders met together in Manhattan, New York. From out of that meeting came the determination to produce a rather carefully worded, well-reasoned, yet respectful document declaring the grave concerns of a large number of religious leaders throughout our own nation (and indeed around the globe) regarding the deterioration of spiritual values throughout the United States and the world. The draft was produced on October 20, and it was released in its final form on November 20. Because of the location of the meeting at which the need for such a public statement was expressed, it has become known as The Manhattan Declaration. The primary framers of this declaration (the "Drafting Committee") are: Chuck Colson (Founder of the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview), Dr. Robert George (Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University), and Dr. Timothy George (Professor of Divinity at Samford University). Though the liberal media is largely ignoring it (no real surprise there), it is nevertheless receiving significant attention and coverage from more responsible journalists and commentators, and tens of thousands are daily signing this passionate plea for a spiritual awakening and revival in societies that are becoming increasingly depraved and godless.
If you have not yet done so, please take a little time to study this declaration (you may access it by clicking on the link in the first paragraph of this article). Whether you choose to sign it or not, at least examine it and begin doing some serious reflection upon the tenets and principles contained therein. Let's rouse ourselves from our stupor and shake off the apathy that so easily sweeps over a people at ease in their abundance. The godly prophets of old cried out to those who were "at ease in Zion" [Amos 6:1f] to turn back to their God. They refused, and were destroyed. That same call is going out to us today. Will our fate be the same as theirs?! The answer, sadly, is "Yes!" ... unless we can turn our nation around. It will not be easy ... and it may already be too late (God alone knows) ... but we must at least try. This declaration is an attempt, by a few good men, to do something. Let us join hands with them. A lone voice may never be heard, but the cry of millions is hard to ignore!
This bold document -- this "Call of Christian Conscience" -- is divided into five distinct sections: Preamble, Declaration, Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty. The first section is a brief (six paragraphs) overview of the strength of Christian conviction down through the ages. We, as the disciples of Christ, "are heirs of a 2000 year tradition of proclaiming God's word, seeking justice in our societies, resisting tyranny, and reaching out with compassion to the poor, oppressed and suffering." As individual believers, we are each far from perfect; each of us are flawed ... so also are our various religious movements and institutions. Yet, throughout history God's Spirit has moved and operated within such earthen vessels to shine forth His love through our feeble efforts to impact those about us in a positive way and to push back the darkness with the Light from above. In the face of a host of societal ills such as racial oppression, slavery, infanticide and genocide, sexual trafficking, diseases and starvation, God has always raised up saints among us to confront those forces and circumstances that would overwhelm us and ultimately destroy us. Mother Teresa, and her work with the poor and afflicted in Calcutta, is a perfect case in point. Such noble, godly spirits are a powerful witness to the mercy and compassion of our heavenly Father.
The Preamble concludes with this statement -- "Like those who have gone before us in the faith, Christians today are called to proclaim the Gospel of costly grace, to protect the intrinsic dignity of the human person, and to stand for the common good." This, the framers declare, is an integral part of our call to discipleship. It is through our service unto others that we can each make the most "profound contribution to the public good." I genuinely appreciate the reference to the "Gospel of costly grace." Although God's grace is truly a gift to man, it was not without cost. It cost Him the death of Jesus on the cross. And what is the "cost" to us? -- a life fully surrendered to His will, not ours! When Paul commanded the disciples of the Lord to "present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice ... which is your spiritual service of worship" [Rom. 12:1], he was "counting the cost" of discipleship. God's grace is free, but it isn't cheap!! This doesn't mean we do anything to merit it or earn it, but once it has been bestowed our response of faith and love is manifested in our willingness to give our all in service to Him and others. It is this spirit of self-sacrifice to a higher good/cause that permeates The Manhattan Declaration.
Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty are actually sub-sets of the Declaration, although in this review I shall examine them separately. The Manhattan Declaration is primarily concerned with three great social ills of nations today (although there are certainly many others that are in need of being addressed as well): the slaughter of the unborn, the breakdown of marriage and the family, and the legislation and/or suppression of religious conviction. "We are especially troubled that in our nation today the lives of the unborn, and the disabled, and the elderly are severely threatened; that the institution of marriage, already buffeted by promiscuity, infidelity and divorce, is in jeopardy of being redefined to accommodate fashionable ideologies; and that freedom of religion and the rights of conscience are gravely jeopardized by those who would use the instruments of coercion to compel persons of faith to compromise their deepest convictions."
"Because the sanctity of human life, the dignity of marriage as a union of husband and wife, and the freedom of conscience and religion are foundational principles of justice and the common good, we are compelled by our Christian faith to speak and act in their defense." I believe this expresses their case quite well, and it should be a reflection of our sentiment also. The framers have declared, as have the signers, that it is their right ... indeed, their obligation ... "to speak and act in defense of these truths," and that "no power on earth, be it cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or acquiescence." Amen!! The apostle Paul declared that he was "put here for the defense of the gospel" [Philp. 1:17], and Jude, the brother of our Lord Jesus, urged his fellow disciples to "contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints" [Jude 3]. We today must do no less, and we must "join together across historic lines of ecclesial differences," united as one people under one Shepherd, if we hope to accomplish this mission. Satan has divided us into warring camps of schismatic sectarians far too long. It is time to come together as a people of common purpose, party and personal preferences and traditions set forever aside as unworthy of our fratricidal feuds, and to present ourselves as a united Family, strong in the Lord, to a world gone mad. Only then will change become a reality. Preaching patterns and pontificating on party preferences has caused the world to turn away from us in disgust (as indeed they should) -- proclaiming a Person can turn this around, but it will take a united effort. The world does not need a message of Law, it needs a message of Love!! It doesn't need more rigid religious rituals, it needs a renewal of relationship with its Redeemer. If we're preaching the former rather than the latter, we're aiding and abetting the enemy!
Pope John Paul II declared some years ago that we are living within a "culture of death." The pontiff specifically had reference to a growing lack of commitment to the sanctity of life. We live in a time (and perhaps this has always been true to some extent in various societies) where some of our fellow citizens, born and unborn, are viewed as "inconveniences" in need of being removed. Precious little souls are literally being ripped from the womb and dismembered as little more than a "birth control procedure." Millions have been slaughtered in this manner. "A culture of death inevitably cheapens life in all its stages and conditions by promoting the belief that lives that are imperfect, immature or inconvenient are discardable." Assisted suicide and "voluntary" euthanasia are on the increase globally, and some are even considering the legalization of such procedures. Genocide and "ethnic cleansing" are claiming the lives of countless men, women and children who are perceived as "in the way." All of this horror "flows from the loss of the sense of the dignity of the human person and the sanctity of human life." The noble framers and signers of The Manhattan Declaration vow to remain silent about these godless crimes no longer. We shall become the "voice" of those unable to speak for themselves, and we shall cry out for radical reform so that we might become a culture of life, rather than death.
The largest section of The Manhattan Declaration deals with the "social pathologies" manifesting themselves within the very core institutions of a society: marriage and the family. Sexual promiscuity and marital infidelity have always been besetting evils within the world's societies, and these can be deadly if left unchecked. Just as human lives are being discarded, so also are covenants of marriage. As hard as it is to believe, there are actually places renting wedding rings (paid for month by month), with the expectation that these rings are temporary commodities, soon to be returned and/or recycled. Same sex and multiple partner relationships are on the rise, and efforts are being made to legalize and legitimize such perversions. Sexual intimacy is viewed as little more than a casual "fling," often with total strangers -- party favors and door prizes! The marriage bed is dishonored and defiled [Heb. 13:4], and the divorce rate climbs. So also does the number of children born out of wedlock (and this doesn't even factor in those pregnancies terminated by abortion). Fifty years ago the birth rate of unwed mothers, in comparison to those born within wedlock, was only about 5% ... today it is well over 40%. We have a problem!! Somebody needs to begin speaking out about this blight upon our society. Should that someone be you? Me? God's people collectively? If not, why not? If not, then who? Should not His people promote His will?
Tragically, mankind has lost sight of God's Ideal for marriage (as well as His purpose and intent for the family), and this is causing the inevitable breakdown of the very foundation of society. Little wonder that nations collapse when the family fails. Today, rather than address the problem in such a way as to restore God's divine design, our leaders seek to recreate these foundational institutions in the image of their own perverse ideologies. "The truth is that marriage is not something abstract or neutral that the law may legitimately define and redefine so as to please those who are powerful and influential. ... the last thing we can afford to do is to redefine marriage in such a way as to embody in our laws a false proclamation about what marriage is." Therefore, in the words of the framers of this declaration, "it is out of love (not 'animus') and prudent concern for the common good (not 'prejudice'), that we pledge to labor ceaselessly to preserve the legal definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman, and to rebuild the marriage culture. How could we, as Christians, do otherwise?!"
"Christians confess that God alone is Lord of the conscience. Immunity from religious coercion is the cornerstone of an unconstrained conscience." No person or group, and especially no government agency, has the right to impose upon another individual or group his/their personal religious and/or irreligious convictions. And yet, this has been done throughout history, resulting in the religious bondage and martyrdom of countless believers. Even today, our own government is seeking to increasingly legislate, and in some cases forbid, religious conviction. For example, "In Canada and some European nations, Christian clergy have been prosecuted for preaching biblical norms against the practice of homosexuality. New hate-crime laws in America raise the specter of the same practice here." Several Christian institutions here are now being stripped of their tax-exempt status for refusing to perform, or allowing their buildings to be used in the performance of, a homosexual union. I personally faced this possibility when preaching in Hawaii (1992-1998), when the state sought to legalize "gay marriage." We were told that if we refused to perform such a marriage we would be stripped of our permits to perform weddings in Hawaii. Thankfully, the people refused to allow the state to adopt such a view of marriage, but the ministers in the state were largely united in our resolve to oppose the will of the state in order to abide by the will of our God, regardless of the personal price we might be called upon to pay.
Why is this so serious? Well, there are a great many reasons, not the least of which is that our God is quite displeased by such departures from His will. But there are some very practical, closer-to-earth, concerns as well -- "Disintegration of civil society is a prelude to tyranny." The more society declines, the more we give way to the ascendancy of tyrants. We literally become the breeding ground of our own oppression and enslavement. When this happens, as it is now happening in our own nation, Christians must be willing to take a stand for God's will, even if it means they may find themselves in opposition to the will of their own government. The Manhattan Declaration concludes with this extremely powerful statement -- "We will fully and ungrudgingly render to Caesar what is Caesar's. But under no circumstances will we render to Caesar what is God's!!" This could well require some degree of "civil disobedience" on our part, both as individual disciples and as congregations of disciples, for which we may appeal to the example of the apostles. The Jewish high court ordered them to cease their public proclamation of Jesus and His teachings, to which they replied, "Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God" [Acts 4:19]. Later they declared, "We must obey God rather than men!" [Acts 5:29], for which they were severely flogged [vs. 40]. And yet, "day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ" [vs. 42]. Dear Lord and Father, give each of us, we pray, that same strength of conviction and resolve, so that we too may make that same bold declaration and then live by it daily to Your glory and to the common good of all men! Amen!
From a Missionary in American Samoa:
Dear Bro. Maxey, I would like to request to be added to your mailing list for your weekly Reflections. I found your exposť in "Search and Destroy Missions" quite interesting. Also, the comment from the missionary in Fiji you included in your readers' section was appreciated. This missionary has been emailing your Reflections to me. Fortunately for me, I regard myself as a vocational missionary in American Samoa. Sadly, I have seen the struggles my brothers and sisters, who are fulltime missionaries in the South Pacific, have experienced. It seems that a great deal of their time and energy is spent in dealing with outside "evangelists" and/or supporting congregations regarding tradition, rather than in telling people about Jesus!! Working to support myself, I at least do not have to continually engage others in trying to "justify" my purpose here in American Samoa!
From a Minister in Hawaii:
Dear Brother Al, The only issue I have with your latest Reflections is the subtitle -- "The Dark Side of Legalistic Patternism." Do you actually intend to imply by this that legalistic patternism has a bright side?!! The closest I have come to such a perspective is Paul's attitude, which I am confident you share, as expressed in Philp. 1:17-18 --- "The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice." Of course, this assumes that the legalistic patternists are, in fact, actually "preaching Christ."
From an Author in Texas:
Okay, Al, my buddy ... Before I even begin to read your latest article, I must point out the obvious --- Your subtitle is: "The Dark Side of Legalistic Patternism." Is there reeeeeally any OTHER side?!!!
From a Reader in [Unknown]:
Dear Brother Al, "Search and Destroy Missions" is probably one of the most timely Reflections that I have read!! Oh, if only every Christian trapped within these legalistic prison camps could read it!! I wonder how many of them would recognize themselves instantly? I know that you and your family have suffered persecution over the years for your stand for Truth. However, you can take comfort in knowing that when these hounds "stand and sing" the old hymn "Will There Be Any Stars In My Crown?" ... somewhere thousands of Christians are coming to the realization that their reply should be the hymn: "No, Not One." Brother, please know that your Reflections are helping me to teach my own family; helping them to break the chains of sectarianism! You have been a far greater help in this matter than any counselor, book or seminar could ever have been!! Thank You!!
From a Reader in Virginia:
Brother Al, You have hit the nail on the head ... again! I admire your wisdom and courage. God truly has raised you up to be a voice for those of us who have been seeking freedom from the bondage of our many "brethren" who would much prefer for us to be in the chains of their legalism. They have dazzled us with their misuse of Scripture, and they have brought down fear upon us by running in packs and by threatening to "disfellowship" us from the body of believers that we have grown to love. Ultimately, they have failed us, for they cannot see how our congregations have become less relevant in the world (a world Christ has asked us to teach and love). I love you, Brother Al. Thanks again for your ministry!!
From a One Cup Minister in Missouri:
Brother Al, I enjoyed your last Reflections. As long as I can remember, certain legalistic leaders from the One Cup church thought that they were doing God's will by chasing after and condemning anyone who dared question their authority or doctrines. It has become clear to me that the Old Paths Advocate preachers and their followers desire a church of non-thinking clones that will follow their absurd teaching without question! Glen Garrett, who seems to be a very cantankerous fellow, says that he knows all of the One Cup preachers, but I have never even heard of him, and I've been a One Cup minister for over a decade!! Oh, and yes, I did call myself a One Cup "Minister." It is funny that Glen got all wound up about that. I guess some people will never be happy no matter what you do. Keep up the good work that you are doing for the Lord, and I'm looking forward to seeing and hearing you at The Tulsa Workshop in March. God bless you!
From a Reader in Oklahoma:
Brother Al, I noticed in your last Reflections that you are scheduled to speak at The Tulsa Workshop in March, 2010. How awesome!! I hope and pray that we get to attend this year (we haven't been able to for many years). When we lived closer, several years ago, we used to open our home to the brothers and sisters in Christ from out of state who came for the workshop. I enjoyed that so much. Now that we are back in Oklahoma, maybe we will get to attend.
From a Reader in Oklahoma:
Brother Al, As you well know, "search and destroy" missions can come back to bite you badly!! Thankfully, the ultra-conservatives are experiencing this fact. The more the legalists attempt to destroy those in their midst who are waking up and beginning to think for themselves, the faster these good brethren are fighting back and leaving such ungodly environments! Al, your Reflections are a God-send to anyone who is searching for Truth! Keep up the good work. On a personal note: my wife and I will be at The Tulsa Workshop this coming March!! We can't wait to finally meet you!! Let us know what your plans are for that week so we can spend some time together around a good meal.
From a One Cup Minister in Kansas:
Bro. Al, One Cup man here. I have been a "Minister" within the One Cup group for over 28 years. I know many One Cup preachers/teachers who do not object to being called a "Minister." The definition you provided in your article is correct. Glen Garrett does NOT know "all" of the "Ministers" in the One Cup segment of our faith-heritage. As for myself, I have never heard of Glen Garrett, and I have been a member of the One Cup fellowship for 31 years! While I do not know him, I certainly know his type: "We are right, you are wrong; we can't ever let you lead a song!!" The Old Paths Advocate segment of the One Cup group would love to have the email addresses of all the One Cup brethren who write to you!! I know they want to "protect" their movement, and so are determined to eliminate all of those who will not line up with their particular fellowship views. I thank God that many within the One Cup group are now opening their eyes to the Truth regarding unity in diversity, although too many are remaining silent for fear of being attacked. Hopefully, they will come out of the closet as several of the old-timers die off. The younger members of the One Cup group are not interested in the OPA approach, and I try to stay in touch with as many as I can. I thank you, Brother Al, for being such a great help to the universal Body of Christ. You are doing a great work, and I pray that the Lord will continue to bless your efforts. God bless all who seek unity!!
From a PhD/Professor in Missouri:
Bro. Al, I always enjoy your Reflections. I am especially interested in them (and in the readers' reflections) when you are discussing the Old Paths Advocate and the One Cup congregations. As a lifetime member of One Cup churches, I wonder just where Glen Garrett got his information about preachers in this group not referring to themselves as a "Minister." I have used this designation for years!! It is not that uncommon, even among the One Cup churches. I am aware of quite a few members of the One Cup churches that have now shed legalism, and their number is growing daily! While I do not foresee a time (not even within the next 100 years) when these representatives of the ultra-conservative movement will be extinct, I do believe that they will be so marginalized that they will have no impact on the world at large. Keep up the good work you are doing. God bless!! P.S. -- I am sorry that the debate between you and the OPA leaders on the "law of silence" won't happen. I was looking forward to it.
From a Reader in Texas:
Dear Brother Maxey, Thanks again for your continuing Reflections ministry. I just read your issue "Search and Destroy Missions." I just wanted to say that I would have never imagined that there would be any controversy over the difference between using the words "minister" and "preacher." This would actually be funny if it wasn't so serious!! I mean, really!! Just how ridiculous can people be?!!
From a Reader in Texas:
Brother Al, Thank You for yet another excellent Reflections. Thank you also for your commitment and thorough understanding of your role as a good shepherd. As you certainly know, there's a huge difference between a good shepherd and a "hireling." I also want to thank you for your willingness to address reality. It is VERY refreshing!! Your current issue of Reflections is very timely for my family and me, as we are going through a situation with our "pastor" (we are Baptist, in case you were wondering). If this man only understood the role of a good shepherd versus a hireling a little better, there would be no situation to go through at all (isn't God's timing perfect?!! I thank Him for the timing of your latest Reflections). Thank you again, Brother Al, and stay in the Light, knowing always that the darkness comes unbidden.
From a Reader in Florida:
Bro. Al, Thanks for another excellent article. I work many hours in my secular business. That is what I was doing tonight ... until my printer gave me a problem that I, personally, could not fix. Therefore, rather than working until 3:30 a.m., as I did last evening (and which I do rather often), I was forced to close down. I decided to check out my email. It was then that I saw your article, and I began scanning it ... then I began reading it word for word!! I do not always have time to read each article (at least not in the kind of detail that I did tonight). That article ("Search and Destroy Missions") was a blessing indeed! I believe the Good Lord had a hand in causing my printer to quit on me so that I could really read and enjoy your most excellent Reflections. Though I am not always in total agreement with everything you write, I do very much respect your scholarship, and also your care and concern for your brethren. May God bless you and your ministry! Do not ever let those wolves get you down!!
From a Minister in Tennessee:
Bro. Al, Thanks for your latest article. I believe Paul spoke of himself being a "minister" (using the word diakonos). If it was good enough for Paul... Al, the thought has struck me several times that the reason some brethren do not want to accept grace is because it would be an admission that we -- God forbid -- have not been preaching the whole truth on that topic for 100+ years. If we haven't been preaching the truth on grace, then we are condemned, since that would be "fatal error" on our part. It would also be an admission that we have not completely and totally restored NT Christianity. My, now that would be an admission!! That would knock the very foundations out from under our entire system of "sound doctrine." So, some will bury their heads and refuse to preach on grace, other than showing what it "ain't." Even then, we would have to leave out the major point -- It is the very thing that we are under and refuse to acknowledge, which might just mean that we've been under the condemnation of Galatians 5:4. By the way, as a side note, I continue to marvel at how you manage to choose just the right graphic to go along with each topic about which you write in your Reflections.
From a Reader in Alabama:
Dear Bros. Al Maxey & Jay Guin, I wanted to thank each of you this holiday season for your ministries in reteaching those of us in the Church of Christ branch of the Stone-Campbell Movement. For the last twelve months I have been intensively restudying and meditating on many of the issues that you have been dealing with the past several years. In the last six to eight months I found both your blogs (and some others), and have felt a tremendous relief, support, and God-affirming grace for which I've prayed. I have no doubt that it was God's providence that helped me to find your teaching ministries. The Bible makes more sense to me now than it has my whole life. I see my life filled with more blessings and riches of His grace than I could've ever imagined. As a result of the things I have learned from both your ministries, my Christmas will be one of the most blessed and happiest of my life! My family will enjoy me more because I am more at peace with God in this season of peace. God bless each of you, your families, and your ministries.
From a Reader in Tennessee:
Dear Brother Maxey, I wrote you a few weeks back about obtaining a source for a study on Jesus the man (from His birth to His baptism), and you recommended The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah by Dr. Alfred Edersheim. Thank you so much! It was just what was needed. Bro. Maxey, I think I have told you before that we finally found a church here in East Tennessee that is grace-centered. It took us years to do so! However, I just wanted you to know that you were the one who kept us going until we found it! We studied with you online, and we also sought your encouragement. Because of you, we were spiritually sustained at a very difficult and lonely time in our lives as we left legalism behind. Thank you for that, and I pray that the Lord God will bless you with longevity so that you might further His grace!!
From a Reader in Washington:
Bro. Al, Thank you so much for your wonderful work!! Not many would have the fortitude to stick with this work when subjected to so much criticism! My heart hurts for those who are so wrapped up with the desire to prove their convictions that they cannot experience any spiritual growth because they are blinded to Truth. I grew up in the One Cup church many years ago, and have since gone through all the many stages of growth in order to put most of these legalistic beliefs behind me. Nevertheless, I am still very much a work in progress!
From a Contending for the Faith Leader:
Al, Do not ever send me your garbage again. You are going to hell for your false doctrine; you have been warned. You are a heretic, not worthy of consideration anymore (Titus 3:10). Furthermore, you cannot be helped because your conscience has been seared with a hot iron (1 Timothy 4:1-2). Just send your garbage to your mindless robot followers who like false doctrine. BTW, have a nice day!
From an Old Paths Advocate Leader:
Al, Greetings in the Name of Truth. I thank God that I and my brethren have the mindset to "keep the faith once delivered," which you have abandoned completely. Your new found truth (if you can call it that) is not new. It is the same old doctrine espoused by Satan called Calvinism (and the "faith only/grace only/better felt than told" Holiness heresy that's been around for a long time). Your problem is that you have been sold a so-called spiritual "bill of goods," and you have grown tired of God and His Word and His ways. Thus, you no longer "stand fast in the faith, nor speak the things that become sound doctrine, and have departed from the faith," so said Paul. I for one will never stop rubbing your feathers the wrong way as long as you put out this nonsense in your Reflections. I am sure that you believe what you write is for the good of the church -- well, strong delusions have been given to those who will not have the Lord or His simple, sound Word to rule their hearts.
From an Old Paths Advocate Leader:
Al, I do hope, for your own sake, that the Lord will give you time and space to learn about "keeping the traditions as they have been delivered" (2 Thess. 2). I have only sympathy for you and your avocation of attacking the Lord's people. Beware, Mr. Maxey, of your associates standing at your left hand. They smell slightly of brimstone! With charity I ask that you please take the time to expunge from your heart the "root of bitterness" that Satan has planted there, and that you'll turn your attention and great talents toward the target which deserves them: i.e., the devil.
From a Reader in Oregon:
Brother Al, I hope you don't mind, but I love your Reflections articles so much that I have posted them on my own Facebook page to share with all of my friends. I just think this is a good way to get them out. Are you okay with that? If not, please let me know!
From a Reader in Florida:
Brother Al, Thank you for standing up to the narrow legalists. These are exciting days indeed!! It is wonderful to see the Truth of God's Grace liberating those of us in the Stone-Campbell Movement who have longed for this day! We pray for you, and we stand with you!
From a Reader in Tennessee:
Dear Bro. Al, Your Reflections continue to be an inspiration to me. I eagerly await each of them. Your last article reminded me of a humorous story concerning our local One Cup congregation. One of their members is a very good friend of mine, and a dear brother in Christ. We have had some good discussions about the Bible in the past. Well, about ten months ago we were discussing some Church matters and the issue of the Lord's Supper and the use of one cup came up. He informed me that they were no longer a one cup congregation!! Of course, I asked him, "Why?" He told me their congregation had some visitors who had started attending their services, a couple of men (homosexual) who were related to one of the members. These men partook of the Lord's Supper!! The congregation held a special business meeting, and the next Sunday they had a new multi-cup communion tray set!! Hmmmmm!! It's funny (or should I say pitiful) how we can divide the Body of Christ over our traditions we hold up as LAW, and yet how quickly we will discard that tradition if it is perceived to be a "life or death" situation!!
From a Reader in Nebraska:
Howdy Al & Shelly, and Merry Christmas! You probably don't recognize my name, but we had a short email discussion a few years back when I was the minister at ---------, New Mexico. Anyhow, I saw one of your articles in a recent issue of Bulletin Digest and just thought I would write and tell you that you were right on each of your points from the Bible, including your teaching on instrumental music in worship. Which leaves me wondering: how many more times can Al Maxey be right on some biblical issue and me be wrong?! In fact, I visited a Church of Christ in western Nebraska that had a piano, and it was just fine!! Please keep in touch, Al.
From a Reader in Michigan:
Dear Brother Al, This is my first response to you, although I have been reading through your Reflections archive for a couple of years. A friend at church first gave me the link to your web site, and I began by reading various articles of yours on subjects of particular interest to me. I then started afresh at the beginning and have been reading through them all chronologically. I'm now within just a few articles of catching up. I have often wanted to say "Amen!" to some point, or to ask "What about?!" Then I would find a subsequent article would address these very objections I originally had. Anyway, I just wanted to say that I particularly appreciate an observation I first encountered within your writings -- that God does not expect us to deduce LAW from His inspired writings. In fact, if God had intended to write a new Law Book, He could easily have written Leviticus II for us today!! I love you, Al. May God bless us every one!
From a Reader in Texas:
Brother Al, Are you familiar with Joe Beam? I would be interested in hearing your opinion on his article What Is Happening? Thank you!
From a Professor in Kansas:
Dear Pastor Maxey, I've just discovered your web site and was very impressed with your treatment of the prophet Haggai (Study of the Minor Prophets). I'm a professor at Mid-America Nazarene University. I enjoy going to Ruidoso, New Mexico (just 40+ miles from you) in the summers -- kind of my "second home." Grace and Peace to you this season of Advent.
From a Minister in Iowa:
Dear Brother Al, This week I was studying in John 3 and was challenged by the phrase "only begotten Son." I had never doubted the traditional explanations I had heard in my past, but I have recently come across numerous other views from everyone from the Catholics to the Mormons. It was not until I stumbled upon your own study of this phrase (Reflections #26 --- A Study of Monogenes: The "Only Begotten" Fallacy) that I found anything that made sense!! When I found such a sensible study, I knew that I had at last found a brother with non-traditional thoughts similar to mine. I just had to write and thank you, and also to ask if you would begin sending me your weekly Reflections.
From a Reader in Georgia:
Dear Brother Al, I have been reading your debate with the Baptist pastor David Martin, and have even read some of his writings (that are listed on his page). He has got to be one of the angriest people in the world. I surely do hope you don't think ALL Baptists believe and behave like he does! Please don't confuse Pastor Martin with all other Baptists. Most are kind, generous people who love their God.
From a Reader in North Carolina:
Brother Al, I really loved your last article: "Search and Destroy Missions." I had a wide mixture of emotions while reading through it. At times I was hurting, at times I was embarrassed, and at times I was fired up! Growing up spiritually among "watch dogs" can give one the same type of "fleas" and "bark," and I certainly did my share of judging and attacking my brethren (and all in the name of trying to "defend the faith"). I am definitely ashamed of most of my personal church history, and I wish I could go back and do it all over again (and do it right this time). I can't believe I was so blind to the magnificent Grace of God. But, like the old hymn says, "Was blind, but now I see!" Thanks be unto God for the Spirit of Christ that dwells in men like you!! Keep the faith!
From a Minister in Florida:
Brother Al, Once more let me thank you for all that you do. I have written a couple of times before, but I just wanted to update you on what is happening with our congregation. It has been about 18 months since we introduced instrumental music into our worship assembly, and it has been quite a ride! We now have a blended service which includes both older hymns as well as more contemporary music, blending both a cappella and instrumental. The church here is currently experiencing steady and consistent growth, and there is an atmosphere of freedom and grace that absolutely permeates the congregation, which is being sensed and reported by nearly every visitor. One of the many surprises in all of this change is that although most of the families we lost three years ago were seniors, a great number of our new families are also seniors. Also, because we were ostracized by the local congregations of the Churches of Christ, thrown out of the Bible camp, and uninvited to regional events, we were suddenly and actually (for the first time) truly "Non-Denominational." This has led us to forge new relationships, and I can't tell you what a blessing it has been.
I visited a brother in town who had recently started a new work in a poor area (a non-Church of Christ church), and we began to work together in new ways to collaboratively work to affect our community. The two of us began visiting other pastors in the area to start a local "Pastors' Fellowship" with the intent of reaching across denominational boundaries to work together and to encourage each other ... and amazing things have begun to happen!! I was invited to speak at our city's Thanksgiving Eve service where there were about 15 churches from various stripes represented (although there were NO Churches of Christ present). The local Pastors' Fellowship is growing by leaps and bounds, and virtually every minister in town is jumping on board (again, no Church of Christ ministers present). The police department has publicly recognized our congregation for its involvement in the community, and doors are flying open everywhere. I have been the preacher here for 15 years, and I have never been so excited to be involved in ministry! What a ride!! Bro. Al, I want to encourage your readers and you with the news that positive things are happening out there! The journey to freedom is a bit scary and frightening at times, but oh how blessed we are as a congregation for taking it! The biggest regret I have is that I didn't start the trip earlier!! Sorry for rambling on, but I just felt compelled to share a bit of good news, and to let you know how much your work means to me personally. God is good.
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