by Al Maxey

Issue #464 ------- November 11, 2010
Happy Veterans Day
He knows not his own strength
who hath not met adversity.

Samuel Johnson {1709-1784}

Theological Reflection Paper
The Testimony of a One-Cup Preacher

Thomas Paine (1737-1809), a noted author, pamphleteer, intellectual and revolutionary, one of our nation's Founding Fathers, and "the voice of the common man," once wisely declared, "I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection." Life will occasionally place some enormous challenges before us, and how we handle them can determine the nature and outcome of our journey, both through this life and beyond. Some men reflect upon the events of their sojourn, thereby gaining greater strength for the journey, while others allow their circumstance to overwhelm them and cast them into a deadly despair. Personal fulfillment comes most often not to those who choose the path of least resistance, but rather unto those who dare to step out in faith upon that "road less traveled." Such might not be "the easy way," but it's by far the more satisfying. Thomas Merton (1915-1968), a Trappist monk and a well-known Catholic writer and thinker, mused, "We must make the choices that enable us to fulfill the deepest capacities of our real selves." I personally have tremendous admiration and respect for those who do just that.

Such an individual is the guest writer for this week's Reflections. A couple of times, during the eight years of this ministry, I have invited people to write a guest article. The dear brother who penned this week's thoughts has asked that he remain anonymous, although he realizes that a good many people will likely recognize who he is by the events described. I have known this young minister of the gospel for a number of years, and he has been a strong supporter of my writings. I met him for the first time at The 2010 Tulsa Workshop, where I was honored to have him in attendance at each of my three presentations in the pavilion. Last week he sent me a copy of a paper he had done for one of his classes at the college he is attending. I was so moved by this paper that I wrote him and asked permission to share it with all my readers. He agreed, with the only provision being that, out of respect for his family, I not identify him by name. Naturally, I will respect those wishes. I believe that you will be greatly encouraged and inspired by this account of his personal spiritual journey. Please keep this young disciple in your prayers as he grows in grace, and as he and his wife prepare themselves for whatever God has in store for their future. --- Al Maxey


Theological Reflection Paper

For this assignment, I have been asked to write a theological reflection on my life. It is my intention to explain the unique combination of experiences that make up my beliefs and relationships as they pertain to God. I hope to show how my background and my approach to the Scriptures have made me who I am today. As I contemplated my life in preparation for this assignment, I was able to break down my years on this planet into six stages. Each of these stages has contributed their own influence on my thoughts about God and life. It is my desire to share these six stages of my life and come to a better understanding of how I got to be who I am today. I may flip back and forth through the pages of my history, but by the end of this paper I hope that the reader will be able to easily connect the dots of this theological experiment which is my life.

Stage 1: In the Beginning

My own personal experiences of earthlife began in the early seventies. However there were many things at work long before I was born that was shaping what I was to become. Four generations before me on both sides of my family were faithful members of the One-Cup/No Sunday School Church of Christ. Many of my ancestors are considered pillars of the movement. By the time I was born, the Church of Christ was as much a part of our family as was our name. In fact, my own father was one of our most sought after young preachers. He would often be on the road holding Gospel meetings eight or nine months out of the year. After I was born, my mom and I would often join him on his preaching tours. I had been in thirteen states by the time I was one and a half years old. Needless to say, I was immersed into a strong religious culture even from infancy. Most of my earliest memories revolve around church meetings. Keep in mind that we didn’t believe in breaking up the assembly so I was always a part of the general congregation along with the rest of the babies and children that were present. While the details of my memories from my toddler days are blurry, I distinctly remember listening fondly to the sermons of many different preachers and enjoying the singing of many different crowds. I used to wonder why those memories always struck me as positive since I was much too young to know what was being said or what was being sung about. As I have grown older it seems obvious to me that I found the singing pleasurable because it was beautiful and pleasant, and I enjoyed hearing the preaching because it was usually the voice of my daddy.

Due to the fact that we were a part of a very strict acappella fellowship, I learned at a very young age that there was a reason that we don’t use instruments in our worship. As far as I can remember, that was when I first began to realize that God gets very angry if you don’t do church exactly right; a lesson that was reinforced in many ways in the years to come. Two other primary doctrines that I began to understand at a very young age were that if you want to go to Heaven, you can’t use more than one cup in Communion or go to Sunday school. I didn’t even know what Sunday school was, but I knew it was evil. It was becoming clear that my primitive understanding of church doctrine was coming along just fine, and it seemed sure that the religious traditions of my family would live on in my own life. Then one morning in 1977 my father died suddenly of a heart attack. He was thirty-one years old.

Stage 2: The Dawning of a Pharisee

Soon after the death of my father, we moved from Southern California to a small gold rush town in Northern California. My mom chose this town because she knew of a young congregation in our fellowship that was getting off the ground there, not to mention the price of living was much lower than in Southern California. We immediately got plugged into the church there and I quickly began to forge relationships with other kids, many of which I still value today. I would call Northern California home for the next twenty-six years.

While we didn’t take part in Sunday school or youth groups per se, the children would often meet in one of the member’s homes on Sunday afternoon to learn about the Bible. It was in that setting that I remember first being taught to memorize our brotherhood’s favorite proof texts. I usually emerged as one of the top students in my age group, and I began to take pleasure in knowing church doctrines better than others. I was baptized when I was eleven and I preached my first Wednesday night sermon at the age of twelve. I had a blast speaking in front of people about God, and people genuinely seemed to enjoy my efforts. As I continued to find myself on a semi-regular Wednesday night schedule, I continued to grow in my zeal for church doctrine. I even began to foster feelings of contempt toward those who didn’t worship like we did. While I did find it intriguing that our neighbors who went to one of the “other churches” seemed to talk about Jesus more than we did, I found satisfaction in knowing that I was part of the true church that worshiped the right way.

Stage 3: Gangsters and Hypocrites

My mom had remarried by the time I was almost five, but the man turned out to be one who was very lacking in his interest in being a leader and provider for his family. This meant that my mom has always been the primary provider and spiritual director in our home, even while she was furthering her education. However, since I had very little positive male influence from my step dad, by the time I got further up in my teens my interests began to turn to a life of delinquency and the approval of my peers at school. At the age of fifteen I took my first drink.

I began to enjoy drinking and partying with my friends. I soon was involved in something that some of them had connections to—gangs. The gangs in our area of Northern California were basically a bunch of wannabes, but they were definitely up to no good nonetheless. I wasn’t really devoted to gang life like some of them were, but I was attracted by the male companionship and a sense of belonging. This was the first time that I really began to struggle with my own divided loyalty between God and sin.

I continued to go to church three times a week and take part in the services, but I had an ever increasing feeling that I didn’t belong there. I remember often sitting towards the back of the congregation in the midst of one hundred fifty of my friends and brethren, feeling like I was all alone. I felt betrayed in that my church friends’ parents wouldn’t let their kids hang out with me anymore, although many of their children were just as wild as I was. However, the thing that bothered me the most was the fact that I had made decisions that slowly but surely were separating me from my church family. I felt like I was the only person in attendance that was living a life of duplicity. Fooling the people came easy to me, but the Holy Spirit’s conviction was hard to escape. Since I was certain that Heaven was not possible for me if I quit going to church and communing in the “Scriptural manner,” I kept coming. However, by the time I reached my early twenties, I began to identify more and more hypocrisy in the church. These inconsistencies were not only obvious in some of the members, but in many of the doctrines as well. The brotherhood’s façade of perfection that I had always accepted as reality was beginning to crumble fast. It wasn’t long after that that I left the church.

Stage 4: "But Wait, There’s More!"

Right about the same time that I quit going to church, I found a good job that consisted of traveling the country and doing live infomercials. I enjoyed my new found freedom from religious people looking over my shoulder all the time, yet I couldn’t escape the guilt that I felt for “forsaking the assembling” with the only true church. That guilt wouldn’t last very long. I was making a lot of money and was presented with many opportunities to party like a rock star—and even with some. As my drinking and revelry continued to increase, the guilt that I felt for leaving the church began to dissipate. Soon after, the only signs that were left of my Christian faith were the occasional discussions about God over a bottle of Southern Comfort.

In spite of some of the temptations that this job afforded me, working for Jesco was a very interesting and educational job in several ways. One thing that I was exposed to for the first time in my life was a variety of extremely different worldviews. The company employed a few homosexuals, several Hare Krishna, a couple of Scientologists, a handful of Wiccans, a slew of humanists, a number of actors, and a bunch of Canadians. It’s not that these people were just co-workers, but we traveled together and shared homes and even bedrooms with one another. We were a family. This was the first time that Christians were the minority among my closest associations. I found the many different stories and ideas fascinating. It also made me realize how far many people are from Jesus Christ. Most of all, it helped me begin to understand some of the thoughts and philosophies that are in the world today. My stint with Jesco was much more educational than any humanities class that I could have ever taken at the finest universities.

Probably the greatest thing about my time with Jesco is that it gave me a tremendous opportunity to hone my public speaking skills. I would basically go to work every day and give seven or eight half hour presentations throughout my shift. It was the same speech every time so I had to learn to keep it fresh. I also learned a lot about relating to people. I might “pitch” to a crowd of blue-haired rich ladies in the morning and to a bunch of hooligans at night, all in the same store. These kinds of experiences served me well to learn how to read my audience and find common ground with them. After all, my income depended on it. Looking back, there is no doubt in my mind that God was using these experiences to shape me as a communicator of the Gospel, even though I may have been totally oblivious to it then. By the time I left Jesco, I was more than ready to cut my ties with the company, but my passion for public speaking was burning hotter than ever.

Stage 5: A Different Kind of Jesus

When I got home from my final run with Jesco, I knew that my fast paced life had taken me further from God than when I left four years earlier. My partying and drinking had now become a normal part of my daily routine. My life was headed nowhere fast and I knew that it was time to re-evaluate who I wanted to become. I went back to college in the fall of 2002. One of the courses that I took during the spring semester was called “Career Planning,” or something like that. It was intended to help you discover who you really are so that you could determine what career path would be the best for you to follow. By the end of a semester full of aptitude tests and introspection, I had learned that my strengths were communication, leadership, and teaching. Preaching crossed my mind, but I didn’t want to do it just because of my heritage. I decided to pursue a career as a school teacher. Nevertheless, the class did cause me to reflect on my relationship with God.

I finally realized that furthering my education wasn’t enough. I had to change my lifestyle if I was to have any success as a person and a child of God. I had been cutting back on all my vices, but I had to totally get rid of them in order to be free from them. I remember praying in a way that I had never prayed before. It was very short and to the point. I basically told God that I knew He wanted me to change but that He was going to have to do it because I couldn’t. That was the most genuine prayer that I think I had ever prayed up to that point. The next day I stopped drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, and smoking weed cold turkey. The desire was gone. My friends soon began to comment on how different I seemed. I was just as amazed as they were.

The fact that God had worked so powerfully and so quickly in my life made me thirst to know Him more. I began to read the New Testament voraciously. I was reading as much as eight or more hours a day. I couldn’t put it down. While I had read the Gospels many times before, it was if I was reading them for the first time. It stunned me to meet a completely different Jesus than the one I had been introduced to at church. The Jesus I had met before was the one who extended grace to those who measured up. I knew a Jesus that loved the people who did everything just right. But now I was falling in love with a Jesus who first loved me. I was learning that He extended grace and love to those who deserved it the least. I was getting to know a Jesus who yearned for people to love and accept others in spite of their differences and shortcomings. While now it all seems so obvious, back then it seriously blew my mind. Once I began to understand Jesus for who He really is, the rest of the Bible began to make much more sense.

The more I got to know Jesus, the more time I wanted to spend with Him and His people. For the first time in my life I wanted to go to church. Before I had always gone to church out of fear, but now I wanted to go out of love. The only church I had ever known was the one I had grown up in, but I didn’t want to start going there again just because that’s where my family had always gone. My new relationship with Jesus Christ allowed me to go to other churches without feeling guilty for “worshipping wrong.” I started checking out other churches in the area. There were two primary things that immediately stood out in my mind as I visited different denominations. First, it became perfectly clear to me that all the sermons that I had heard that were intended to bash the denominations were preached by men who had no idea what they were talking about. Second, I realized that no church was perfect, but that they all had good things to offer. I couldn’t help but read 1 Corinthians 12 in a much broader sense than I had before. I always heard it taught from the perspective of the local congregation. I was now beginning to understand it from the perspective of the worldwide church. I noticed that each church I went to had different strengths and gifts, and they all ministered to me in different ways. My understanding of the Body of Christ was drastically changing.

I suppose one of the greatest things that happened to me during this time in my life was hearing about “Craftsmen for Christ.” They were a group of men, primarily from the Calvary Chapel church, who gave their time and resources to do construction type jobs for those in need (wheelchair ramps, new walls, fix roofs, etc.). Most important to me, however, was their Thursday night men’s group. I had never been a part of a men’s group before. In fact, I don’t even think that I had ever heard of one before. In this group, I met a bunch of godly men from all walks of life. Some were young, some were old. Some were rich, some were poor. But they all seemed to love God and one another very much. The thing that amazed me the most is that week after week these guys would come together and confess their sins to one another. One may have fallen off the wagon, another might have looked at porn that week, while still another may have used language that he was ashamed of. The point is, these guys would come together and confess these things to each other, and they would cry and pray with and for one another. I had never seen anything like that in the fellowship I had grown up in. I was now beginning to learn what true Christian community really is.

One evening, one of the elder members of that group brought in a brand new book that his daughter had given him. Nobody in the group had ever heard of it. He said he had only read the first few chapters, but so far he found it to be a great book, even life changing. He read several quotes from it and I must admit that the book seemed to make some very excellent points. I decided to purchase a copy of that book so that I could read it myself. The name of the book was “The Purpose-Driven Life.” Other than the Bible, no book has changed my life more than that one. I realize that it’s not a really deep theological book, and I know that there are many better books out there, but for me it was the right book at the right time. It helped me understand my purpose for living. It taught me that I am useful to God just the way He made me. It made me want to use my talents and gifts for God’s glory for the rest of my life. It made me want to become a preacher.

I remember feeling the desire to preach when I was a very small child. When we kids would “play church” I always wanted to be the one to preach. Sometimes after a church service on Sunday I would sneak up to the pulpit and begin drawing on the chalkboard, pretending I was giving a sermon. As I got older, the thought of preaching still intrigued me, but I assumed that these desires were just some subconscious way of trying to hold on to my memories of my father. I decided that I did not want to preach just because my dad did, so I began to set career goals in other fields. In 2003, after recently experiencing the life changing power of Jesus, after living a life full of the blessings of God, after taking that career planning course at college, and after reading “The Purpose-Driven Life,” I could find no earthly reason why I should not preach. In fact, I felt as if I had to preach. I believed that God had been grooming me for such a time as this. My decision to preach had nothing to do with my dad—it had everything to do with my Father.

As I continued to go to different churches, I realized that I really needed to find a place that I could settle into and become a part of a congregation. I chose the same church that I grew up in. I can’t begin to count the number of people who have asked me, “Why in the world did you go back to that church?” I will tell you. I was attracted to the fact that, while their interpretations may have been skewed, they held the Bible in very high regard. It is from this group that I learned to accept the Bible as the infallible inspired Word of God. I have always cherished the Scriptures and regarded the Bible as much more than just a book. I also agreed with their view on baptism. One of the few doctrines that I still found to be valid after my new reading of Scripture was immersion into Christ. However, the strongest force that pulled me back to that church was my heart. I was learning about the grace of God through Jesus Christ our Lord. I was learning the difference between freedom in Christ and bondage to religion. This was a concept that I had never heard about growing up—and neither had they. The people in the Church of Christ were the people I loved. I had grown up with them and was related to many of them. I wanted nothing more than to share this message of grace with those I loved. Surely, if they were forced to face the evidence of grace, they would come to some of the same conclusions that I recently had. I truly can say that in the years since, some of them have listened. Most of them have not.

My home congregation accepted me back with open arms. It was good to be back. It wasn’t long at all until I was given opportunities to preach. While they had all heard me preach many times before, it was different this time. I was now preaching with four years of solid experience in public speaking. I was more educated and a little more mature. Most of all, I preached with a passion that I never had before. For many I was a threat to their religion, for most I was a breath of fresh air. I put together a series of sermons that were primarily based on “The Purpose-Driven Life.” I immediately begin to receive good responses to my sermons. There were other small congregations in the area that needed help filling the pulpit. I began receiving requests to come speak at other congregations throughout Northern California. Before long, I was receiving more preaching invitations than I could accept. I really don’t think that the good response was as much because of the preacher as it was the message. Doctrine and “thou shalt not” sermons were about all that most people in our fellowship were hearing. To hear positive sermons on Christian living and the grace of God is what a lot of us had been missing out on for a long time. On September 1st, 2004, I was ordained as an evangelist by the Church of Christ. Three days later, I moved to Texas.

Stage 6: Growing Pains

I had first preached in Texas during a preaching tour that I had gone on that summer. Texas is where my parents grew up. The people there knew my family well and felt an emotional attachment to me. After hearing me preach in July, they offered me the job as their full-time minister. I accepted. I now wish that we had taken more time and communicated more. I started in the fall and it didn’t take long to realize that my vision did not line up with their vision. They wanted law, I wanted grace. They wanted KJV, I wanted NASB. They wanted suits, I wanted sweaters. They wanted me to vacuum the church, I wanted to clean their hearts. It didn’t take long to realize that this wasn’t going to work out. Just five and a half months after they hired me, the church asked for my resignation.

My trip to Texas was still worth the trouble. I got my first taste of full-time ministry, and I think I made an impact on a few of the people. Most importantly, I met the woman of my dreams who later became my wife. We moved back to where she was from and we tried to establish some normalcy to our marriage. After we had lived in Midland for about a year, I got a call from a small rural one-cup church in a town that I had never heard of in Missouri. After coming up to hold a meeting for the church, they decided to hire me and we moved to Missouri at the end of June 2006. While very small, my new home congregation is the most open-minded and the least dogmatic one-cup church that I have ever been a part of. That is the only reason that I still preach for them today.

Less than a year after I arrived, one of the main leaders died. Since he was the sole provider for his family, our little congregation had to help them out financially. This made their finances less than adequate to maintain a full-time preacher. We decided that after August, I needed to go to part-time. It just so happened that less than a month later, I heard of a small school called Ozark Christian College. My only interest in the school at the time was to attend the 2007 Preaching and Teaching Convention. After spending a few days on campus, I begin to be impressed with the mission of the college and I started to get excited about the notion of actually becoming a student. By the following April I was enrolled. There were times it seemed that the day would never come, but in May of 2011 I hope to graduate with a BA degree in Preaching Ministry.

The Rest of the Story

Now that I have told the story of my life up until this present time, I hope that you have a better understanding of my journey with God. Let me use my last two pages to tell you where I hope to go from here and the role that Ozark Christian College has and will play in that. While OCC has only been a part of my life for about three years, it has played a major role in the future of my ministry. It has been a privilege and an honor to call myself a student at OCC. I continue to be impressed with how well the administration is able to stay focused on and carry out the mission of the school. The greatest thing that I have learned at this school is how to study the Bible (2 Tim. 2:15). I have so many resources at my fingertips that I didn’t even know existed three years ago. The school has helped me continue my journey to a better understanding of God and what His will is for His people (Prov. 15:22).

I have also been able to continue to sharpen my ability to preach. I used to think that I was a pretty good preacher. Having been exposed to some of the best preaching around over the last few years, I now realize that I was a small fish in a big pond. Nonetheless, I think that my preaching has improved greatly with the help of Christian men like Chad Ragsdale, Doug Welch, Mark Scott, Matt Proctor, Damien Spikereit, and many others. I have been exposed to many different styles of sermons that will greatly compliment my ability to relate to people. I have learned how to better reveal God’s Word to others in a way that is relevant to them.

I believe that these lessons will serve me well in the near future. My true passion is to see people come to a better understanding of who Jesus is. Whether that be long time religious people or those who have never heard the Gospel, I feel a sense of urgency for their souls. I’ve also learned that conversion is not my job (1 Cor. 3:6). Getting the message across is (Rom. 10:14). Sure, there will always be those who will reject the evidence of the truth of God’s Word, but I must continue to preach in order to reach those who are willing to listen (2 Tim. 4:3-5). I’m not so worried anymore about “how church is done.” I’m much more concerned with how the name of Jesus is lifted up across this world. Speaking of the world, another tremendous lesson that I have learned at OCC is to think much more globally about the mission of God’s people. I had learned before, on my own, to think outside of my own fellowship, but OCC has taught me to think outside of my own country.

My goal for my future is to preach. Whether it be in the pulpit, through media, or on the streets is fine with me. My primary desire is to be able to further the message of the Gospel (1 Cor. 9:16). Another thing that God has recently laid on my heart is writing. I hope to be able to reach people through the pen so that my testimony can live on beyond my own years on earth (Is. 30:8). OCC has helped me develop this ability to write about our Lord. Eventually, I think I would enjoy teaching young men how to be communicators of God’s Word. Training others to do the work of the Lord can be one of the most effective ways to change the world. Maybe that’s why God designed the ministry in that very way (Eph. 4:11-12).

My current plan is to stay with the fellowship I grew up in. There are some very good things happening in our fellowship, and I don’t want to leave at a time when I might be most useful. At the same time, a person can only spin his wheels for so long. Only time will tell.

I’m not sure how God will choose to use me in the years to come, but I am confident that He will use me. I have a wonderful wife who is supportive of my efforts, and I am very thankful to the Lord for her. We are both excited about our future in the ministry. I have so many people to thank for where I am today. My mother has always been a key part of my connection to God. My teachers have been central in my education of the Scriptures. My friends have helped me learn about life. My wife has been a constant support to me in the decisions I make. Most importantly, my Lord has been my Rock, my Redeemer, and my Friend through it all. I must do everything for Him and for His glory.

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

A 193 page book by Al Maxey

One Bread, One Body
An Examination of Eucharistic
Expectation, Evolution and Extremism

A 230 page book by Al Maxey

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Readers' Reflections

From a Reader in Connecticut:

Brother Al, You are right on the money with your article "Post-Resurrection Infusion." The significance of this event in John 20:22 is often lost upon us today. Why? Could it perhaps be that we have been programmed to believe that any spiritual gift from God would be impossible today?! The Spirit is as close to us today as He ever was!! He is as close to each and every Christian as they will allow Him to be! Truly, our God still works in strange and mysterious ways. I would respectfully differ with the late David Lipscomb in his assertion that "this verse presents difficulties." The only "difficulty" Christians have today is submitting wholly to the Father's will and accepting any and all of His spiritual blessings with a thankful and humble heart.

From a Reader in California:

Brother Al, God bless you and Shelly for the awesome work you both do for the Master. I enjoy your weekly Reflections so very much! Please keep up the good work for the Lord. Won't it be wonderful when He comes again?!

From a New Reader in Ohio:

Brother Maxey, Please add me to your Reflections mailing list. I appreciate so much your straightforwardness and logical comments, and I look forward to hearing more of what you have to say on various issues within the Church of Christ fellowship.

From a Reader in Georgia:

Brother Al, I liked your last Reflections -- "Post-Resurrection Infusion" -- quite a bit. It was very well done! That was the first teaching I have EVER heard on that passage of Scripture, and I have been in the Churches of Christ for 50+ years! For what it is worth, my wife and I had studied that passage ourselves just recently. One thought we had was that Jesus gave the disciples the breath of life -- as in salvation. Also, when we were studying the passage, we spent some time attempting to figure out just who these disciples were that Jesus breathed on. Were they the Eleven? Were they the Eleven plus some other men? Were any women included? Finally, we had to conclude that there simply wasn't enough information in the passage to reach any conclusion. I could argue yes or no for all three positions. Your Reflections was quite good, Al. Keep on keeping on!

From a Reader in New Mexico:

Brother Al, I just finished reading your new Reflections. Lovely, just lovely! Somebody has finally explained that verse in a way that makes sense! I am glad it was you. I had read and read that verse, and wondered about it, and finally decided that I did not really know what it meant. Also, thank you for sending your materials to that preacher in Nigeria. That was a kind and generous thing to do!

From a Reader in California:

Brother Maxey, Thank you so very much for this study. This verse (John 20:22) was one of the verses that was the subject of a "Difficult Scriptures" study that was recently conducted. Your Reflections article on this passage brought great enlightenment to this verse! I had previously sent my preacher friend, who was speaking on this verse, many references from Bible scholars and commentators to assist him. However, as I was reading your essay I was thinking that I surely did wish that this essay had been available before my friend's talk so that I could have referred him to your thoughts and thereby saved him from having to dig through all of those references I sent him (plus the ones he himself found). I have forwarded this Reflections on to my friend, and I'm now awaiting his response to what you've written. Thank you again for taking on this verse, and for doing such a great job of explaining it to us. After reading your essay, this "difficult Scripture" is not all that difficult at all; in fact, you explained it so well that it seems almost obvious. Also, I wanted to tell you that your new article in the current issue of New Wineskins magazine is incredible!! If only this article of yours was read -- and heeded -- by our brethren!! May God continue to bless you and all your family.

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