Issue #425 -------
December 20, 2009
Few people have enough character
to endure the truth, and to speak it.
One of the sad realities of our time (and I suppose this has been true throughout the history of the Christian church) is that too many of us have seemingly forgotten (if indeed we ever knew) the purpose for our gathering together at the Table of our Lord. Frankly, I have seen far too many food fights, and far too little fellowship, at this Table. One can only imagine how grieved our Father must be as He watches His children tear into each other at His Table (assuming that they'll even sit down at this Table with one another ... which many will not). What we have tragically forgotten is that this meal was divinely designed, in great part, to be a time of sweet communion with one another; a celebration of our unity, harmony and oneness. "Since there is one loaf, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one loaf" [1 Cor. 10:17]. Yet, the disciples in Corinth were squabbling over every conceivable personal perception, preference and cherished practice. "Therefore, when you meet together, it is NOT to eat the Lord's Supper" [1 Cor. 11:20]. Oh yes, they were all still consuming the elements ... but they were also consuming one another, a fact which invalidated the Lord's Supper. Their attitudes and actions, whether they realized it or not, were sending a message that they had very little regard for (indeed "despised") the church of their Savior [1 Cor. 11:22], and those who failed to discern the oneness of the body/church of our Lord, and who were in actuality working against that blessed unity by their behavior, were eating and drinking judgment unto themselves whenever they partook of these elements that proclaim to both us and the world about us that Jesus shed His precious blood to establish ONE United Universal BODY [1 Cor. 11:27-29]. In Ephesians 2:14-22, the apostle Paul makes it clear that at the cross our Lord Jesus united us ALL into one universal body of believers, a fact we celebrate as we come to His Table in memory of His loving act.
Unfortunately, the Body of Jesus Christ has been brutally dismembered and eviscerated over the centuries by feuding factionists and squabbling sectarians. We have ripped and gouged one another, bitten and devoured one another, maligned and mutilated one another to the point that the beautiful bride of Christ looks much more like a battered, bruised bar maid. We should be utterly ashamed of ourselves. Even worse, when such sectarians surround the Table of our Lord, they make a mockery of this event commemorating the unity and oneness our Lord died to accomplish. He went to the cross to break down barriers that divided men ... barriers we have erected anew "in His name and to His glory." And God help those "poor, misguided souls" who seek to restore the fellowship of ALL God's children and bring them together at the Table. One would think we had invited Satan himself given the reaction of these hardened schismatics. "What? You expect us to partake of the Lord's Supper with him/her present?!! But, they're not one of us!!" We can't come to the Father's Table with that guy ... he endorses Sunday School. That apostate over there sings with instrumental accompaniment, and that heretic next to him eats in a church building. And that so-called "preacher" over yonder actually uses PowerPoint slides during his sermons!! That's "entertainment." What's next? Popcorn and coke? Slippery slope, you know. "Gotta stand firm for Truth, you know!" Truth?! Brethren, Truth has nothing to do with it. These are stands taken on nothing more than personal and/or party preferences. This is not about Truth, it's all about Tradition. The VAST majority of the divisions within Christendom today (not to mention the fragmentation of its various factions) is over what does or does not happen within a so-called "worship service" inside a church building!! And yet these are "weighty matters" that -- shock, shock -- God's Word never even mentions, much less seeks to regulate.
A number of weeks back, in Reflections #420 ("A Rose By Any Other Name"), I discussed the problem within the church at Corinth, and then I made several observations about how that same twisted mindset was playing out among God's people today. I also mentioned an attempt by some to bring our scattered siblings back to the Table of our Father -- an event known as "The Great Communion." Let me share with you again the last three paragraphs of that particular article, as it is relevant to this current issue of Reflections:
There were "roses" in the city of Corinth that were making distinctions among themselves based upon personalities. Some had denominated themselves as being of Paul, or of Cephas, or of Apollos ... and some had even denominated themselves as the called out (church) of Christ [1 Cor. 1:12]. It wasn't so much their personal preferences that were wrong here, it was the fact that they were beginning to divide the Family of God over these preferences. It was okay to be a "son in the faith" of the apostle Paul -- Timothy was [1 Tim. 1:2; 2 Tim. 1:2; 2:1]. However, it was not okay to use this to elevate oneself above, or array oneself against, or position oneself apart from his fellow disciples, as many were beginning to do back then (and as countless disciples do today). I happen to love many of the traditions of my own heritage (just as other disciples love the traditions of their own heritage), but am ashamed of the fact that I once, decades ago, perceived those traditions as the very basis of one's salvation. They are NOT. They merely denote the reality of diversity among devoted disciples of our Lord. I am a part of that part of the Stone-Campbell Movement that denominates (names) itself the Churches of Christ. Yes, I'm that kind of rose. More specifically, I am associated with that bunch within that wing of that movement that would probably be considered "progressive." Yes, I am also that kind of rose. In the eyes of some of my fellow plants, that makes me not a rose; however, in the eyes of the great Gardener, I have no doubt I smell just as sweet. My fellow roses may choose to call me "stink weed," but If GOD perceives me as a rose, then I shall sleep quite well at night, for, after all, that which is a rose, even though it be called by any other name, smells just as sweet!! If God favors the scent, then I shall keep right on blooming right where He planted me ... and shall allow the other varieties within His garden, planted at His pleasure, to do the same.
My fellow red roses, why is it we can't bring ourselves to accept those pink roses that are growing nearby in God's garden? Why must we denounce them for being of a different color? Why must we form plots against fellow plants?! "But, they are pink!" Yes, but there is one soil. "But, they are climbing roses!" True, but there is one fertilizer. "But, they are miniatures!" Yes, but there is one Gardener, and He only has one garden ... and we are both in it. Brethren, I'm going to speak bluntly here ... and some of you aren't going to like it. But, here goes: I am in sweet fellowship with other roses that do not grow on my bush! Okay, there ... I said it. There are other bushes in this garden besides ours. I have grown beyond "bush-ism" (and I'm not talking politics here). After studying my Bible more closely, and learning from the Gardener Himself, I have forever given up "bushing" in favor of gardening! In other words, I shall fellowship ALL of my fellow roses, no matter their color or size, and I shall continue proclaiming to the world around me the reality of One Garden consisting of countless precious roses on a number of different bushes ... each of which smell just as sweet to the One who planted them!! I will never again preach or teach that only red roses from my bush will appear as the centerpiece on the banquet table at the wedding feast of the Great Gardener's Son. There will be a colorful assortment.
Further, I am not the only rose "petal-ing" (yes, pun intended) this Truth. On page 6 of the November, 2009 issue of
The Christian Chronicle, in an article titled "Restoration Movement Branches Observe
Great Communion," we discover that at over 35 sites across the country, all on a single day (Sunday, October 4), brethren from the various
denominational divisions of our Stone-Campbell Movement assembled as one to celebrate the Lord's Supper. It was characterized
"The Great Communion," for it was one of many steps now being taken, 200 years after Thomas Campbell's Declaration and Address,
by unity-loving saints, to bring our movement back together (as well as a step
toward bringing Christendom closer together). I am pleased that one of those 35+ locations was the Montgomery Blvd.
Church of Christ in Albuquerque, New Mexico (where some of my in-laws are members). Over 600 people at that visionary congregation
took part in that communion! Has this time of great communion solved the problem of our great division? No. But, it is progress ... we
are moving in the right direction!!
Saints took some time to stop and smell the roses blooming next to them ... and they discovered that, although those roses might be called by
a different name and are growing in a different location, they smelled just as sweet. In so doing, they detected a whiff of heaven. May
that whiff become a mighty wind! [NOTE: For those readers who might be interested in further study of the above mentioned historical document, may I
suggest a study of Reflections #417 -- Campbell's Declaration and Address:
Quintessential Quotes from a Defining Document.]
Needless to say, the reaction to this event was mixed. Some loved it; some hated it. Some saw it as a step toward reconciliation among brethren; some regarded it as a step toward compromise with digressives. The emotions on both ends of the spectrum were intense! What all parties acknowledge, however, is that change is coming. For some this is good news; for some it is not. As you have probably guessed, I side with the former view. Our silly sectarian squabbles have gone on long enough. It is time for such foolishness to come to a screeching halt. The line in the sand has been drawn in our Movement; we are leaving our comfortable ruts, from which we lobbed grenades at our siblings in other ruts, and we are moving together toward our heavenly home. No longer will our personal preferences divide us; each will respect the convictions and practices of the other in areas where God has said nothing, and we will enjoy sweet fellowship as One Body at our Father's Table. Instrumental and non-instrumental, one cup and individual cups, Sunday school and non-class brethren are at long last stepping from behind their barriers and embracing one another as beloved brethren; neither group surrendering their convictions, but rather surrendering their prejudices. We don't have to be twins to be brethren, we just have to have the same Father ... and we DO.
Sadly for the church of our Lord Jesus Christ, not all of my brethren share this resolve. There are those within the ultra-conservative wings of the various factions of our own faith-heritage who are determined to "fight to the death" to terminate this "apostasy." A flurry of articles from these party leaders is flooding the landscape. Let me direct your attention to one of these, just by way of a singular example. In the November, 2009 issue of Gospel Advocate magazine, there is an article by Phil Sanders simply titled: "The Great Communion." The title leaves very little doubt as to his topic, and I can assure you, if you have not yet read this article, that his "take" on the event is less than positive or flattering. By the way, I do urge you to read this article, and if you do not subscribe to Gospel Advocate, perhaps Phil will send you a copy. For those who may not know of Bro. Phil Sanders, he is now associated with (and host of) the television program In Search of the Lord's Way, which is a ministry based in Edmond, OK. Phil and I have "crossed paths" on previous occasions, which some of you may recall -- refer to Reflections #269 and #269a, by way of one example.
The Sanders Article
Bro. Phil Sanders expresses concern over the desire of many within our historical movement to pursue unity with those in the various wings that separated from one another over a century ago. He boldly wrote, "This call for unity asks the churches of Christ (supposedly of the American Restoration Movement) to set aside their convictions on a number of serious biblical issues and grant fellowship to some in error and some who are not Christians at all." One thing that immediately leaps out at the reader of this statement is the typical denial of these ultra-conservatives that they are, in fact, part of the Stone-Campbell Movement. They will insist that the "Church of Christ" church dates to the time of Pentecost itself, a position they will profess regardless of the testimony of history. Yes, it is easy to perceive why they need this "revision" of history to be true, but few reasoning disciples today dare make such a fallacious claim (at least not with a straight face). If Phil worships with the group that is denominated in the Yellow Pages as "Churches of Christ," then whether he likes it or not (and whether he admits it or not), he is part of a historical movement of rather late origin. That is simply a fact, and all the denials in the world will not change it; they will only succeed in making such a person appear out of touch with reality and foolish, which certainly doesn't help their cause any.
Phil Sanders opined, "I was not baptized into the name of the Restoration Movement; I was baptized into Christ. I did not come to Jesus Christ to join an American movement; I took up my cross to follow the Lord Himself." I don't think anyone is suggesting that a person is baptized into a particular movement, or that he joins a movement, rather than being united with the Lord Himself. Indeed, we could extend this out a bit and say just as correctly, "I did not come to Jesus in order to join the Church of Christ church; I came to Jesus to be joined together with HIM." As a result of my union with Jesus, I am also united with all others the world over who are in Him. This gathering is known as the universal One Body of our Lord. It is not restricted to any one historical movement, nor any faction thereof. We may indeed find ourselves in association with a certain group of disciples, who may share certain worship traditions and theological insights, and our physical families may have a long history with these groups, but our genuine union is with Christ. Therefore, I think Sanders, if he had bothered to investigate, would have found that those who took part in the Great Communion would agree completely with his above bold assertions. I also agree with them. My loyalty is to a Person, not to a particular party within a movement. I'm glad to hear Phil acknowledge this, for it is the first step toward greater unity with our estranged brethren in Christ Jesus.
I found it interesting, as well as disturbing, that Phil felt these brethren promoting this Great Communion were asking him to "set aside" his "convictions on a number of serious biblical issues." There is nothing wrong with disciples of Christ having strong convictions. Each of us have them (hopefully). But not all convictions strongly held are truly based on biblical Truth. Many are based far more on traditions that have come to be regarded as Truth by those who embrace them. If indeed these are "serious biblical issues," then we would expect to find some clear, definitive "thus sayeth the Lord" passages in support of them. Instead, about all that you'll find is theology formed around what God didn't say in Scripture. Such assumptions, deductions and inferences of mere fallible men can never rise to the level of "serious biblical issues." Yes, our assumptions may rise to the level of serious convictions for the ordering of our own lives, but they may NEVER be imposed upon those around us as tests of fellowship or conditions of salvation. My deductions are not divine; neither are yours. I may choose to live by them, but I may not demand that YOU do so, nor may I separate from you if you refuse. NO ONE is urging Phil or anyone else to "set aside" their cherished convictions based on their assumptions drawn from what God never said. Those who prefer a cappella are urged to keep it; those who prefer instrumental accompaniment to their worshipful and heartfelt singing are urged to keep it. All that is being asked is that these disciples of varying traditions simply grant to one another the same freedom to form their convictions that they themselves enjoy. That which should be forever "set aside" is the desire to RULE another man by one's own convictions. If Phil Sanders can't bring himself to "set aside" this desire to impose his own assumptions and deductions upon others as divine law, then this says more about the heart of this man than he probably ever intended to convey!
Sanders declares he is being asked to "grant fellowship to some in error and some who are not Christians at all." Brother Phil, let me ask you a question: are you in fellowship with anyone at all who is NOT in error? Are there any disciples anywhere on earth who are "error free"?! If so, I'd like to meet them! Brother, we are ALL "brethren in error." As for declaring that some "are not Christians at all," I have to wonder just when the Throne of God was vacated so that Phil could sit as the judge of the hearts of his fellow disciples. Yes, there are some who indeed make no profession of following the Lord; indeed, some curse Him. I believe we can safely inspect the fruit of such lives. But, what Phil is saying in his above statement is with regard to those who DO profess faith in the Lord, and who are seeking to the best of their understanding, ability and opportunity to live for Him. The "problem" is that they have differing worship traditions than Phil, and in some cases have differing perceptions of what God's will for them is with respect to the exact relationship between faith, confession, repentance and baptism!! Even in Churches of Christ we don't all share a single perception. There are some within my own congregation with whom I differ on some of these matters, but we regard one another as beloved brethren. We are simply at different points in our journey of spiritual discovery. To suggest that one who has not achieved your own level of perception of some text or tenet is "not a Christian at all" is the epitome of arrogance!
Bro. Sanders wrote, "Those behind the Great Communion seek to unify the estranged without dealing with the reasons for that estrangement." Phil, sometimes the reasons for brethren becoming estranged is so absurdly petty that the best way of dealing with it is simply to give one another a hug and move forward into a new relationship. The things that divided our movement over a century ago had nothing whatsoever to do with clearly revealed Truth; it had to do with perceptions and preferences that became elevated to the level of eternal LAW, and with personalities determined to impose these decrees upon all others. Those who resisted such imposition were blamed for the ensuing division. The reality is: we are different, and we have differing traditions. Get over it, brother!! "But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt?" [Rom. 14:10]. Well, I'll tell you: it's for the same reason John sought to hinder another disciple: "he does not follow along with us" [Luke 9:49]. Well, guess what, Bros. John/Phil? He doesn't have to!! If he's in relationship with JESUS, then he is your brother!! And you had BETTER begin accepting him as such!!
Notice the following statement from Phil -- "the refusal to use instruments in worship ... is not just opinion." Rather, this stand, claims Phil, is based "on God's Holy Word." Really?!! Then perhaps Phil will quote me that passage in which God declares the use of instrumental accompaniment to singing to be a "sinful practice" (as Phil declared it to be in his article). I would truly like to see that passage. I have searched for it for decades and have yet to come across it. But, since Phil says this view is based on the Word of God, it must be there ... right?! So, provide it! As soon as Phil Sanders provides this passage where GOD HIMSELF declares in no uncertain terms that singing with instrumental accompaniment is a "sinful practice," then I will immediately provide that passage to all my readers in the next issue of Reflections. Don't hold your breath, though. I can tell you now (and Phil knows this only too well) --- no such passage exists. Indeed, there is not even a HINT of divine displeasure of instrumental accompaniment to worshipful singing in all of the Bible. NOT EVEN A HINT, brethren. I hereby challenge Phil Sanders to prove me wrong!! Until such time as he does so (which will be never), the refusal to use instruments in worship IS INDEED just an opinion!! And one man's opinion is just as good as another's.
"When someone practices sin, Christians should mourn not celebrate." So wrote Phil, and I agree. But, let us be very, very sure that what we "mourn" is in fact an actual SIN, and not just a difference of opinion. If it is truly a SIN that is being practiced, then God Himself will have specified it as such ... or at least HINTED that it constitutes an action disapproved by Him. If such a passage cannot be found, then we may find ourselves in danger of putting words in the mouth of our God. If HE doesn't call something "sin," then by what right do I do so for Him?! Phil further wrote, "Unity can come only when all parties hold to the same standard of truth and turn away from error." All parties DO hold to that same standard of divine Truth, and all parties ARE seeking to turn from error. None of us will ever achieve "error-free" perfection, however. Not even Phil Sanders. None of us will ever understand perfectly every passage of Scripture, or even fully perceive the entirety of God's will for man. Thus, we're ALL "in error" on various matters ... and always will be. Thank God for GRACE!! Now, if only WE could show a bit more of it to one another!! Therefore, "accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us" [Rom. 15:7]. He accepted us "warts and all" (as Reuel Lemmons used to say). Now, go and do likewise!!
Bro. Sanders declares in his article, "To fellowship and support those who teach and practice false doctrines means that one participates in his evil deeds." IF what one teaches and practices truly IS a false doctrine, then Phil has a point. If what one teaches and practices is merely something with which one may differ personally, this is another matter. The use of instruments as aids or accompaniment to one's singing in a worship setting (and, frankly, all of one's life is a "worship setting," not just what is done in a building at certain times) does NOT constitute "false doctrine." If so, as Phil claims, then let's have that passage in the Bible where GOD says this!! He and I both know it doesn't exist. Thus, Phil has "added to" the Word of God by declaring something "false" that even God Himself has not. It seems to me that is dangerous ground upon which to take a stand. Phil continues, "Glorifying God means the corrupted must repent and leave their error and once again obey His commandments." Okay ... show us the command where God says, "Thou shalt NOT use instruments of music as aids or accompaniment to singing in worship." In fact, Bro. Sanders, I will be happy just to see even one passage that even HINTS at His disapproval. Provide that passage, then perhaps you'll have some basis for your argument. Otherwise, Bro. Phil, you're doing nothing more than elevating a personal opinion based on an assumption drawn ex nihilo that you have elevated to the grand status of some divine precept, and that, my friend, is no foundation upon which to base a theology of exclusion and condemnation. You are teaching as doctrine the precepts of mere men, thus invalidating the Word of God by your tradition [Matt. 15:9, 6].
"Blending God's people who hold to God's truth with a body who say human innovations are permissible leads to corruption." Phil, based on this logic, those more conservative and legalistic and patternistic than you will declare you "false" and "corrupt." What IS an "innovation" anyway? --- It is anything you approve that I do not. If I approve it, then it's an "expedient." Good grief. What ridiculous word games we factionists play in our quest to prove to all others that we, and we alone, are the "one, true church." If our faces aren't bright red with shame, they should be. There are none of us in Christendom today, Phil Sanders included, who do not make use of "innovations" in our worship of and service to the Lord. The fact that Phil preaches via the medium of television is itself a human "innovation." And, yes, there are those who will tell you that this is "going beyond" Scripture, and thus it "leads to corruption." Frankly, it's time we got over ourselves and began behaving more maturely. The sectarian games we've been playing are a disgrace and an embarrassment. We dishonor our Father by such silliness among siblings. Some of us, to be perfectly blunt, need a good smack up the side of the head!!
Brother Phil Sanders wrote, "Only the truth can set us free. Men have no right to 'one-up' God. ... Are human suggestions greater than God's instructions?" Nope! I completely concur; they are not. Therefore, Brother Sanders, please quit trying to "one-up" God by declaring something "false" and "sinful" that HE HAS NOT. Are your suggestions greater than God's instructions?!! Then, knock it off!! If God is displeased with the use of instrumental accompaniment to worshipful singing by His people, He most certainly could have clearly said so somewhere within the pages of the inspired Scriptures. He did NOT. Indeed, there is not even a single, solitary HINT of divine displeasure!! So, Phil, your suggestions to the contrary are totally irrelevant and irresponsible. Only Truth can set us free ... your "suggestions" will only further enslave us to human regulation. Phil declared, "Let us be content with the instructions of the New Testament." Sounds good to me, Phil. When might we expect you to begin doing this?!
From a Reader in Barbados:
Brother Al, Thank you so much for your article on The Manhattan Declaration! It was very much appreciated! This is really needed in my country as well, as we appear bent upon emulating the unfruitful works of the bigger and more imposing societies. It is no coincidence that these three areas (sanctity of life, the covenant of marriage, religious freedom) are cited in the Declaration. They are the bedrock of all societies! If they are treated callously or rendered ineffective then the obvious consequence is societal carnage. We do not have to look far to see the obvious. The once clear and defined demarcations of societal behavior of the western world are now so blurred that almost any behavior is viewed as acceptable. A word to the wise should be sufficient. Thanks again for this Reflections.
From a Reader in Australia:
Brother Al, Thanks for placing your Sunday morning sermons online [Sermons]. I have listened to them all up to the very latest, and I find your teaching challenging as well as "to the Word." I was disappointed when your audio sermons were cut out in May, but was absolutely delighted when they returned in November!! I'm so glad to be able to hear you firsthand --- it makes one feel part of the service there. Now I long for the day when I can download all your sermons as videos as well. Take care, my brother, and keep up the good and faithful ministry. Stay strong and bold.
From a Reader in Alaska:
Dear Bro. Al, Greetings from Alaska! My wife and I stopped by to visit you a couple of years ago and gave you a can of "home-canned" Alaska red salmon. She is now putting together her Christmas boxes for mailing, and we would like to send you one. It will be a combo of canned salmon and homemade jams and jellies, plus a few extras. Al, you have affected our lives so dramatically! I read many of your Reflections to my wife (she especially appreciated "A Rose By Any Other Name" --- Issue #420). So, we'd be honored if you'd accept her gift to you. Also, we'll be traveling in the lower 48 the last part of January and look forward to seeing you again --- hopefully for a Sunday service! God bless you, Al. It means so much to know that someone is out there standing up for Freedom in Christ!! We're glad to see that you signed The Manhattan Declaration. Maybe our nation can do an about face! God bless America!
From an Elder in New Mexico:
Brother Al, Your article today ("The Manhattan Declaration") was dynamite! Keep the faith!
From a Minister in Tennessee:
Dear Brother Al, Thanks for your insights into The Manhattan Declaration. I had read some brief comments about it, but had not read it. I really appreciated your commentary about it and the link to where it could be read. I have now read it, and I have also signed it. Then I sent it out to everyone on my email list.
From a Reader in Texas:
Brother Al, I couldn't sign The Manhattan Declaration fast enough, and I have sent your article on to others. Thank you for taking a stand and encouraging your readers to do the same! May God be with us all.
From an Elder in Connecticut:
Dear Bro. Al, Just a brief note to let you know that I consider friendship with you and being your brother-in-Christ to be one of the true blessings in my life. I want to thank you especially for calling my attention to The Manhattan Declaration. I will be sharing your appeal (through your last issue of Reflections) with a number of believers on my mailing list. Give my greetings to Shelly, and may God bless you!
From a Reader in Georgia:
Bro. Al, Thank you so much for making me aware of The Manhattan Declaration. I have already signed it. I will also make sure that all my friends and relatives know about this wonderful project. I know without a doubt that you have checked this out thoroughly, and so with God's blessing and your recommendation I will do everything I can to help. I am so thankful that God led me to your Reflections. This old woman is still learning every day!!
From a One Cup Minister in New Jersey:
Brother Maxey, Just to let you know -- I have referred to myself both as a "preacher" and as a "minister." In fact, I have no problem with either term. As for Glen Garrett, I don't believe I have ever met him. Brother Maxey, you have been a great help to me, and for that I say "Thank you!"
From a Reader in Arizona:
We want to wish the Maxey household a very Merry Christmas and the best of the New Year. We wish also to thank you for all the articles you share with us, and we look forward to many more this coming year. We appreciate the stand you take in the Lord's name, and we remember to pray for you as you continue to serve Him. God's richest blessings on all your family.
From a Reader in New Mexico:
Brother Al, I have been doing my "bedtime Bible reading" from the Lamsa translation, with one or two others alongside for comparison. I was reading in Acts and found something I thought was really interesting, and I wondered if you had ever noticed this as well. Acts 17:11 says that the Bereans "were more liberal than the Jews who were in Thessalonica." I was rather amused by that. I suppose some of your critics would declare this translation a "tool of Satan" and throw it out (along with the NIV).
From a Reader in Texas:
Brother Maxey, I worship with the One Cup churches that are associated with the Old Paths Advocate, and yet I find some of their interpretations of Scripture to be more in keeping with maintaining certain traditions (which they do with very little consistency). One of the very first areas that I began to question and study for myself was their teaching on the "covering," and their idea that the total concept behind 1 Corinthians 11 is that Paul does not want a woman to trim her hair. I read and appreciated your study on this topic -- "Trim Not Thy Tresses: The Snipped Hair Hairesy" (Reflections #276). Also, I would love to read and follow a written debate between you and one of the Old Paths Advocate preachers on "The Silence of the Scriptures." Unfortunately, you desired them to publish/promote this in their publication ... which they will never allow to happen!! If you put this on your own web site, however, I believe it would be read and followed closely by hundreds within the One Cup fellowship.
From a One Cup Minister in Missouri:
Brother Al, Concerning the two letters from OPA leaders that appeared in the readers' section of your last Reflections, it is wonderful to see that the leaders of the Old Paths Advocate are actually reading your articles!! Maybe they'll learn something and finally come to the Truth!! I find it ironic that one of them said, "It's 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." First of all, I'm surprised that he acknowledged your great talent. Second, he obviously is not aware that he may be the very agent of Satan that he has urged you to "target." Keep up the good work, Brother Al. Perhaps one day, by the grace of God, these old legalists from the OPA will learn the Truth, and they'll come to Christ Jesus through your writings!!
From a Reader in Nevada:
Brother Al, I seldom write, but I do enjoy and appreciate each of your Reflections. Al, just who is this Glen Garrett? I have been a One Cup member all of my life, and I have never heard of him! Hey, brother -- you are really stirring up great interest among the One Cup brethren!! Because of this, many of them, although they are remaining within the One Cup movement, are finally ignoring the nonsense from these Old Paths Advocate leaders!! Their attitudes toward fellowship are now becoming much more open than some of their "ministers" would like to admit. I really LIKE these changing attitudes -- they are far more godly. May the Lord bless you.
From a One Cup Minister in Kansas:
Dear Bro. Al, I knew that the Old Paths Advocate, as well as the Contending for the Faith, power brokers would once again attack you personally rather than actually deal with any of your teaching!! As we know, this is SOP (standard operating procedure) for both camps. I want to thank you for posting all the comments over the years from your One Cup readers. There is a growing number of brethren within our small fellowship that are now walking away from the legalistic patterns handed down to them by past OPA leaders. The new crop of OPA leaders don't have the same level of influence that the old guys had, so you can understand why the OPA power brokers are worried by the impact you're having. Al, I'm really looking forward to meeting you at The Tulsa Workshop!! You are truly a blessing to the Body of Christ. Have a wonderful Holiday Season, and may God bless all who seek unity!!
From a Reader in Nevada:
Dear Brother Al, Those letters from the Old Paths Advocate leaders (that you provided in your last Reflections) contain just about every mindless legalistic cliché currently used. Note that the letter writers judge that you are in possession of "strong delusions" and the "root of bitterness," when it is actually these self-appointed guardians of the "truth" (which is really just a dumpster load of human tradition) who are the ones caught up in their self-importance as self-professed "brotherhood guardians." THEY are the ones who are ill-tempered and spiritually caustic! They do not even address you as "brother," which just further illustrates their ignorance of what relationships are all about. By the way, things are jelling well for me to travel to Tulsa for The Tulsa Workshop in late March. You will have many people who will wish to talk to you, so how about a "Lunch with Al Maxey" session, where a number of people can be together with you all at once?
From a One Cup Minister in Missouri:
Brother Al, In your last Reflections you posted the comments of another One Cup minister from my state who said, "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." Actually, they are having no impact on the world even now!! That's their whole problem. They are so focused on themselves and their own righteousness that they have failed to make a meaningful difference in the communities around them. No wonder their churches are closing at an alarming rate. Keep up the good work, brother. See you at The Tulsa Workshop.
From a Reader in Texas:
Dear Brother Al, I've just finished reading The Maxey-Martin Debate. I had accidentally run across David Martin's "Questions No Church of Christ Preacher Can Answer" awhile back. I was really quite surprised by what he claimed we believed. I wrote him several emails expressing to him that I did not believe he should be expressing that these are our beliefs. After several exchanges, he basically told me that I did not know what we taught!! I was really surprised that someone from another heritage was telling ME what I believed! I finally gave up in frustration. I see that running with blinders on (as per the OPA and Contending for the Faith letters you received) isn't confined to our own heritage!! Keep up the tiring, but tireless, work you are doing, brother, and may God bless your ministry.
From a Reader in Mississippi:
Dear Brother Al, Thank You for your message on The Manhattan Declaration!! I hope and pray you can help people wake up and make a difference before it is too late. America is being destroyed before our very eyes, and too many are blinded in such a way as I have never seen before. So many "Christians" are loyal to a political party that is controlled, in my view, by the devil himself. It just makes me sick to hear church-going people take up for this President. Soon Christians will have no rights in America, and, sad to say, we probably deserve it. We have been silent far too long!! The Manhattan Declaration is a step in the right direction. Thank you again for all you said in your article. Please know that you are in my prayers daily!! Brother Al, I really do depend on getting your messages every week. If you only knew what they have meant to me, and the hope they have given me!!
From an Elder in Missouri:
Dear Brother Al, Thank you for sharing this information on The Manhattan Declaration!! I read the Declaration and explored their web site, and then I signed the Declaration myself. I seldom (as close to never as possible) sign any such petition. However, after I read it, I had to agree with it in its entirety, so I signed it. I then became a "fan" on Facebook (I notice you also are). I will be sharing your Reflections on this with others. We can no longer afford to be a "silent" majority ... OR minority. Silence is not "golden" when faced with sin. Satan's lies have been slowly eroding the very fabric of the freedom and liberty that this nation has stood for and defended for so many years. I recall the prophet's burden of being a watchman. If doom is impending, and he fails to sound the warning, then the blood of his people is upon his hands! But, if doom comes, and he has sounded the warning, but none heed it, the blood is on their own hands since they closed their ears to the warning. We cannot be silent or passive! I also agree with your conclusion that this should not be a militant, physical conflict, but must be a commitment to never compromising Truth or our faith. That is why I signed, and that is why I will not be silent.
From a Reader in California:
Dear Bro. Maxey, I haven't written in some time, but I wanted to thank you for all that you are doing to open people's eyes! I so appreciate your Reflections. They keep me edified and continue to assist me in my spiritual development!! This past weekend I watched "The Passion of the Christ," as well as "The Gospel of John," with fresh eyes. After viewing them, it became ever more clear to me that our inter-faith squabbles are unbelievably pointless, and that WE are the true Pharisees of the religious world. I can no longer have any part of it within my heart, although I will not stop attending the assembling of the Churches of Christ (as per your own resolve in Reflections #20: "Why Do You Stay?" -- Rationale for Continued Association).
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