by Al Maxey

Issue #528 ------- April 9, 2012
It is not attention that
the child is seeking but love.

Sigmund Freud {1856-1939}

The Right To Become God's Children
John 1:12-13 -- An In-Depth Reflective Study

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. ... And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us" (John 1:1, 14). The reception of this life-giving Word by humanity, however, was mixed. Some received the incarnate Word (Jesus), some rejected Him, as the aged apostle John points out to his readers in this same first chapter of his Gospel. Those who willfully rejected God's Son, and the gift of grace proffered through Him, were lost. But there is good news here as well -- "to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God" (vs. 12). John then elaborates upon, and clarifies, this truth by immediately stating these children "were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" (vs. 13). In other words, the children of God the Father are "born from above" (John 3:3), a truth Jesus conveyed to Nicodemus and, by extension, to us (see #212: Born of Water and Spirit and #353: Immersed by One Spirit).

Being born "of God," or being born "from above," indicates the Spirit of the Father is intimately involved. We can safely declare, therefore, that those who are His children have experienced a spiritual conception and birthing, one which has come from the eternal realm, and which is of Him rather than of men. It is my conviction that the Holy Spirit is clearly in view here as the source of this spiritual birth "of God" and "from above." This is without question a difficult teaching for some, especially those who have been indoctrinated to believe that some human effort is involved in becoming a child of God, or who embrace a sacramental view of water baptism. As a result, some are rather troubled by the apostle's teaching in John 1:12-13. "This verse, in connection with the next, taxes the wisdom of an interpreter severely" [Dr. Alvah Hovey, An American Commentary on the NT: John, p. 64]. Nevertheless, the passage contains vital truth. It deserves, therefore, serious reflection.

"Just as there is a sharp antithesis in vs. 4-5 between darkness and light, so here is an equally direct contrast between rejection and reception. In spite of the many who rejected the Word, there were some who received Him" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 9, p. 32]. God gave His Son as a gift to the world, but not all were pleased with that gift. Indeed, the vast majority preferred the darkness to the light, thus continuing under the curse of death rather than the blessing of life. The good news was/is that "in Him was life" (John 1:4). The bad news is that most men rejected Him, thus rejecting life. "And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life" (1 John 5:11-13). The apostle John stresses in both his gospel and epistle the fact that life is a gift from God. The apostle Paul emphasizes the same truth. "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 6:23). "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast" (Eph. 2:8-9). We, who were dead in our sins, have been given the gift of new life; we, who were slaves to sin, have now, in Christ Jesus, been given the gift of freedom and sonship.

A true gift, however, is never imposed upon someone against their will. It is freely offered, but must also be freely received. Thus, John informs us that although some chose to receive this gift, the majority of men chose to reject it. In so doing, they rejected life, for eternal life is in the Son. So, how does one receive this gift? The answer is: simply by faith. In John 1:12 this is brought out beautifully. "But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God." One receives Christ by believing (having faith) in Him, and those receiving by believing are thereby born of Him. "Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God" (1 John 5:1). This is our "right" (a privilege bestowed from above) resulting from our faith/trust in Him. Only the Father has the authority to bestow the gift of sonship, and He grants that privilege/right to, and bestows that gift upon, those willing to receive it by faith. Some, however, still can't get past the "human effort" aspect of being born into the Family of God, and thus they will insist that faith in Him is insufficient to receive the gift. David Lipscomb, for example, wrote that receiving Jesus Christ by faith "only brought them into such a relationship to Him that it was now their right or privilege to become children of God if they chose to exercise it" [A Commentary on the Gospel by John, p. 21]. And what act must these believers perform in order to "become" children of God? You guessed it -- they have to be baptized in water. Lipscomb states that although their faith brings them into relationship with Jesus, they can't be "children of God" until they get to the baptistery! "The birth or transfer to new relationship of the whole man becomes complete in baptism" [ibid, p. 22]. I can certainly appreciate David Lipscomb's zeal for his ancestral traditions and tenets (Paul used to be in the same boat -- Gal. 1:14), but the reality is that he is saying far more here than John ever did.

"See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are" (1 John 3:1). "To be a child of God is a privilege. ... God gave them this privilege. It is not by their own works or deserts; it is because God chose to impart this blessing to them. This favor is given only to those who believe on Him. ... To 'receive' Him, here, means to 'believe' on Him" [Albert Barnes, Notes on the Bible, e-Sword]. "The receiving was effected by believing, and the last clause explains the first" [Dr. Alvah Hovey, An American Commentary on the NT: John, p. 64]. "Believing in Christ's name is receiving Him as a gift from God" [Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible, e-sword]. Again, this scholar agrees that "the latter explains the former" [ibid] -- i.e., "believing" explains the how of "receiving," the result of which is the bestowed blessing and privilege of being the children of God. The Greek scholar Dr. W. Robertson Nicoll, in his classic work "The Expositor's Greek Testament," states, "to believe and to be begotten of God are two inseparable aspects of the same event or process" [vol. 1, p. 688]. "Receiving Christ means receiving Him by faith. ... The moment one comes to faith he becomes a child of God" [R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. John's Gospel, p. 62]. "Every time when life, pardon, or salvation are involved, the verb 'give' brings out strongly the note of unmerited grace. The implied note of contrast is not that of synergism, as though any man might become a child of God by effort of his own or by on his part adding something toward this end. ... The instant of accepting Christ is the instant of receiving the gift of childhood. To receive Christ is to receive life, light, and salvation" [ibid, p. 60-61]. "God offers, faith accepts" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 17, p. 67].

There are several things in these two verses that should be mentioned, as they have been points of confusion for some disciples. First, a few translations (such as the Wycliffe Bible, the King James Version, and the Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition) read "sons of God" rather than "children of God" in John 1:12. The textual evidence for "sons" in this passage is almost nonexistent, and very few scholars accept that reading. Dr. Marvin Vincent, in his renowned Greek "Word Studies," points out the fact that "except in Rev. 21:7, which is a quotation, John never uses huios ('son') to describe the relation of Christians to God, since he regards their position not as a result of adoption, but of a new life." The term teknos ('child') is also far more recognized as a term of endearment, rather than a legal standing. John 1:12-13 isn't about an individual's legal standing with respect to a Holy Sovereign, but rather a statement of divine acceptance into the Father's Family based on His grace and our faith. It isn't about what we can do for Him; it is about what He has already done for us. It is a gift. Thus, the passage speaks of love, not law; mercy, not merit.

Second, with respect to the John 1:13 passage -- "who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" (NASB, which, in a footnote, gives the alternate reading of "begotten") -- there is also some degree of debate among biblical scholars. Some believe, for example, that the verse should be linked with the following verse (John 1:14), and that the one born of God, rather than by the will of a man (Joseph), was Jesus. In other words, the incarnation was not the result of any man's decision, nor was it the "will of the flesh," but rather the will of God and the work of the Spirit. Some commentators, and some early Church Fathers, spend quite some time seeking to validate this understanding of the text. Most, however, tend to take the passage as being connected to the prior verse (John 1:12), and that true believers are "born of God" -- i.e., it's not man's will that determines if one becomes a child of the Father, but God's will. Flesh and blood cannot force itself into the Family of God -- we are born/begotten "from above," not by the actions of those dwelling here below.

The Greek word about which there is some translation issue (should it be "born" or "begotten"?) is gennao, which appears almost a hundred times within the pages of the New Covenant writings. How one translates this word depends largely on how it is used in the passage, and whether the context is speaking of the father or the mother. Typically, one is said to be "born" of a woman, but "begotten" by a man. It is the same word in both cases, however. Jesus, for example, was "born in Bethlehem" (Matt. 2:1), but that which was "begotten in her is of the Holy Spirit" (Matt. 1:20). It's the same word in both places! Men don't give birth, and women don't impregnate, but both play a vital part in the process. At what precise split-second is this new life one's son or daughter? At the moment of conception? At the moment of birth? I performed a funeral a good many years ago for a child that died within the mother's womb about a month or so before its due date. The parents held and caressed their little son after his body was delivered, named him, had a funeral for him, and bought a stone for his grave. He was their child, even though he had never taken a breath. He may not have experienced a live birth from his mother's womb, but he was begotten by the father. I had a person tell me later that it was a waste of time to treat that "fetus" like a child, for it had not been "born alive." They should have just tossed it out. Some people, frankly, just seem to invite a good thrashing! I wonder if our heavenly Father will toss out any children He has begotten by the Spirit if they should die before their bodies emerge from the watery womb (as David Lipscomb suggested)?! I think you can probably guess my response!

Food for Thought -- James, the brother of our Lord, wrote, "When lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin" (James 1:15). This leads to an interesting question: at what precise point does one commit sin in this process? Is it the mere presence in our psyche of some earnest desire (the actual meaning of the Greek term, which in and of itself is neither good nor bad; it's a neutral term)? Is it when that earnest desire begins to take root in our hearts in some negative sense? Is it at the point we act upon that desire? Certainly, one's emotions, in and of themselves, are not sinful, although they can devolve to such rather quickly. Few would argue against the view that when one acts upon such negative desires, one sins. Yet, the Lord makes it clear that the "conceiving" of such negative desires is just as much sin as the "giving birth" to them (acting upon them). "Whoever looks on a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart" (Matt. 5:28). Thus, sin is already alive prior to "birth" -- being alive at "conception" in the heart. What about faith? Is it possible God recognizes and accepts our faith even before that faith "gives birth" to action? This certainly doesn't suggest that said action is unnecessary; after all, saving faith ACTS. But, at what split-second in time does God recognize that faith as being the quality of faith which He seeks? At what point did God justify Abraham and count him as righteous? --- before or after or at the precise split-second of his circumcision? Paul says that it was before (Romans 4). At what point did the Father recognize the faith of Abraham when He called upon him to offer up his son as a burnt offering? --- before or after or at the split-second he plunged the knife into Isaac? Scripture says it was before! In fact, Abraham never actually did what God called him to do, although Abraham clearly had his heart set upon doing so. God saw the heart! God saw the faith! God saw the commitment! Yes, unless providentially hindered, men need to act upon their faith, but is it the act itself that saves one, or is it the faith motivating the act? Frankly, I think too many of us have placed the cart before the horse, so to speak, and in so doing have completely missed the true focus of our Lord, which failure, I truly believe, has seriously tainted our theology. "God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart" (1 Sam. 16:7). I can't help but think that bestowing the Holy Spirit upon Cornelius prior to his baptism (Acts 10-11) might very well be a reflection of this reality of what God considers sufficient unto acceptance, with the subsequent evidentiary acts being far more for our benefit than for His.

Third, some have sought to make the word "become" in John 1:12 a central aspect of their works-based theology. This, again, fits in with what David Lipscomb sought to teach: our faith brings us into a relationship of sorts with Jesus, giving us the "right" to "become" children of God, but such does not actually happen until the believer gets to a baptistery. Thus, one is not truly saved by grace through faith -- this only paves the way to the water! One becomes a child of God at baptism (the "watery birth"). Although this is a popular position among the fundamentalist sects of Christendom, it is inconsistent, in my view, with the teaching of Scripture. Some versions and translations have sought to get around this problem by changing "become" to "be" -- "So He gave them the right to be the children of God" (CEV, Darby, HCSB, just to name a few). But such manipulations aren't really necessary. A look at the Greek grammar will prove far more helpful.

John tells us that God "gave" (aorist indicative) to "the ones believing" (present participle) in His name, who by that belief/faith had thus "received" (aorist indicative) Him, the right to "become" (aorist infinitive -- literally: "to exist by creation" -- The Analytical Greek Lexicon, p. 78) children of God, "having been born" (aorist passive indicative) of God, rather than by any act of man. The reason that the phrase "the ones believing" is expressed as a present (continuous action), in the midst of aorists (punctiliar action), is that the faith of those who are born from above is not just a "flash in the pan" type of faith, but one that endures and remains in the face of both good times and bad times. It is a faith that characterizes the very nature of that believer day by day. Unto such ones, who have such faith (and God knows the heart), God proffered the gracious gift of existing by divine creation as His children, which gift they received by virtue of that faith. The passage does not look to a future realization of that gift through some specific human act or work (such as baptism), but rather regards the gift as already bestowed and received by virtue of faith. One's subsequent acts/deeds merely reflect the reality of the fact that they are children of God. Perhaps Lenski sums it up best: "The infinitive genesthai (be/become/exist by creation) is an aorist and thus punctiliar, and hence cannot mean that at some later time these persons would develop into God's children. This aorist infinitive expresses action that is simultaneous with that of the two preceding finite aorists elabon (received) and edoken (gave) -- in other words, the moment of accepting Christ, which is the moment of receiving His gift, that, too, is the moment of becoming God's children, i.e., the moment of regeneration" [R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. John's Gospel, p. 61].

Does the Father have expectations of those whom He has begotten (who have been born from above by His Spirit)? Of course He does. We are expected (and also enabled by the indwelling of His Spirit) to be "conformed to the likeness of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers" (Rom. 8:29). Thus, we grow in our understanding and appreciation of who He is and what He has accomplished for us, and we increasingly follow the leading of the Spirit and bear spiritual fruit for the Father. "For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God" (Rom. 8:14). We daily seek to be reflectors of His nature to those around us. "As He is, so also are we in this world" (1 John 4:17). For example, "we love, because He first loved us" (1 John 4:19). By His grace He has "birthed us from above," a gift we receive by faith. Now, as His beloved children we seek, by the help of His indwelling Spirit, to be pure and holy as He is pure and holy. In so doing, we not only evidence the validity of our faith, but the glory of our Father. "For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith. And who can win this battle against the world? Only those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God. ... And this is what God has testified: He has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God's Son does not have life. I have written this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know you have eternal life" (1 John 5:4-5, 11-13, New Living Translation). Yes, if we believe in His name, we thereby receive Him as our Savior, at which point God "births us from above" by His Spirit, causing us thereby to exist by divine creation as His beloved children, who from that moment forward increasingly live to reflect the nature of their Father. Thank God for His love, mercy and grace!

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

(A 193 page book by Al Maxey)
Also Available on KINDLE

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

(A 230 page book by Al Maxey)
Also Available on KINDLE

Immersed By One Spirit
Rethinking the Purpose and Place of
Baptism in NT Theology and Practice

(A 304 page book by Al Maxey)
Also Available on KINDLE and NOOK

Readers' Reflections

SPECIAL OFFER --- A great many of you were absolutely horrified by the views of Peter Prest (who lives in Nigeria, Africa) with regard to the apostle Paul. Since the mailing out of my last two Reflections, this individual has sent me a couple of articles he has written expressing his feelings about Paul in much greater depth. I have already shared these two articles with some of you (and a few of the responses below reflect this). However, I want to offer them to the rest of you as well. They are both in Word format and are not very long (the first is 4 pages -- 35 kb; the second is 10 pages -- 50 kb). You will be very, very shocked at the depth of his hatred for Paul, and at the "rationale" for that hatred. These rants are worth considering, however, as they reflect a perspective that has long been around and is gaining acceptance in some parts of Christendom. Thus, it behooves us to be familiar with this thinking so that we may be better prepared to refute it. If you would like to receive these two articles by Peter Prest, just email me and I will immediately get them out to you.

From a Reader in Ohio:

I had to chuckle when I read the opening paragraph of your most recent Reflections. Recently I listened to a sermon on the radio where the preacher was saying that Paul's teaching applies only to us, since we are Gentiles. He believes that Jesus and the other apostles were sent only to Israel, and that Paul was sent only to the Gentiles. So here we have one preacher saying we should throw out all of Paul's teaching, and the other is saying we (Gentiles) should accept only Paul's teaching. This would all be hilarious if it weren't so dangerous! After reading the two articles you sent me by this man, I think I now understand the basis for his hatred of Paul. This is a dire example of bitterness taking root and becoming a driving force. I am praying right now for that spirit of deception to be lifted from this man, and I'm praying for any who may sit under his teaching.

From an Elder in New Mexico:

It is very difficult to understand how someone who strives to follow the teachings of Christ can be so entrenched in hatred for one of God's greatest servants. This guy is almost like Satan: he knows the Word, but he doesn't let the truth of the Word speak to him. Instead, he twists and manipulates it to try and inhibit the beauty of the apostle Paul, a bondservant to the Lord Jesus, whom Paul admitted having persecuted, yet who was shown much grace by God.

From a Reader in Tennessee:

After reading the articles you sent by Peter Prest, I am sitting here at my computer screen just staring! I really don't know what to say to a man who obviously is so grossly misguided. His rationalizations are so far-fetched that even a cursory examination reveals a sordid disregard for and lack of understanding of the Word of God, resulting in a rabid disdain for Paul. This guy is bitter, disillusioned, and far away from biblical truth. As for Joe Gladwell, you're in pretty good company if he lists you with Jeff Walling and Max Lucado. Al, please DO debate him on "radar detectors" -- just think of the speeding tickets we could get reversed if you win that debate! (LOL) Stay well, my brother. The Kingdom of God needs you!

From a Reader in Illinois:

Was that email from the guy who wanted to debate you about radar detectors for real?! I think you should debate a more pressing theological issue: How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll pop?!

From a Reader in [Unknown]:

You mentioned that Peter Prest made the point that Paul was not a "physical witness" of Jesus. Correct me if I'm wrong, but neither were Mark and Luke, who wrote two of the Gospels.

From a Reader in California:

Well, I thought that I had heard just about every weird and strange angle from our ultra-conservative, legalistic folk, but this one by Peter Prest in Nigeria deserves some type of an award!

From a Reader in North Carolina:

Peter Prest is stone cold crazy! I have to wonder how many poor deluded souls are in his congregation? Legalistic lunacy is running rampant not only in our country, but also across the world!

From a Reader in California:

Flashback!! That's what I had when I read Peter Prest's concepts of salvation -- it sent me straight back to the 1950's!! Cold sweat ... shakiness ... racing heart ... impending DOOM!!

From an Elder in New Mexico:

If we can achieve perfection as Christ is perfect (completely sinless: as in never having sinned), why do we need Him to come so that we can then be like Him? If we're already like Him (perfect), then how much more like Him can we become? How perfect was the thief on the cross to whom Christ extended the assurance that he would be with Him in Paradise? What had that man done before being nailed to the cross that would ingratiate him to Jesus or to God the Father? He himself said that he deserved to be on that cross for what he had done (sounds like less than perfect to me). And what was he going to do after being nailed to the cross that would cause him to be "perfect like Christ"? If we all need to be perfect before being acceptable to Jesus, then the apostle John was really off the mark. Remember that he used the phrase "we know" and "we are assured" about 36 times. Not once did he say that we could work our way there. I am righteous because I am covered by the blood of Christ and clothed in Christ. We don't need redemption if we are perfect. Sorry, but Peter Prest seems to have pushed a button or two of mine! Love ya, brother.

From a Reader in Colorado:

It was good to meet you at the recent Tulsa Workshop. Sorry that I didn't have more time to visit, but I had to get back to my booth. It was really fun and interesting getting to present my book there. You had some good things to say in your talks, and I learned from you. God bless you in your work.

From a Reader in Texas:

It was a real pleasure to hear you talk at the 2012 Tulsa Workshop. As always: a real blessing! Thanks also for the copy of the pamphlet you gave me after your first series. What a great read for the weary. May God continue to bless you in your ministry to others.

From a Reader in Georgia:

I heard that the 2012 Tulsa Workshop was a big hit, and that it is growing in popularity, which is good. I think I'm going to pray for our Nigerian brother. He has no idea of the peace that passes all understanding, and thus must be living in emotional turmoil as he reaches out for that elusive state of human perfection. And Lord knows the pain he must be inflicting on the precious souls within his sphere of influence. It sounds almost as bad as Freed-Hardeman in the 1960's!! (LOL) Rom. 3:23-24 -- "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ." I just don't see anything here that gives me credit for anything. Blessings, my friend -- you illegalist you!! You know, I'm thinking that somebody could make some money printing some T-shirts with that on it! (LOL)

From a Reader in Australia:

I never cease to be amazed at your faithfulness in not only praying for us, but also in responding to my emails so promptly. Thank you, my brother. Thank you also for your prayers for me during my radiation treatments. During my treatments I had time to focus on those I daily pray for -- you and Shelly, your children and grandchildren, my own family, the Tulsa Workshop, etc. I do pray for you all daily, and will continue to do so. Thanks for telling me about Tulsa. It is a great opportunity to be recharged for another year. I have always come away with a spiritual awakening that has carried me along, and still does. It is amazing how often, when I'm teaching in our Bible study group, that I mention what "so-and-so said at the Workshop" on "such-and-such a matter." For example, your analogy a couple of years ago with the tables in the Pavilion still sticks with me so clearly. How I long for the day when a Tulsa-type gathering becomes available here in Australia (with you as one of the main speakers!). Whilst one makes many acquaintances in this life, one makes few true brothers. You are truly my very special brother that I love very dearly. I long for the next time we meet face-to-face! Love You!!

From a Christian Church Lead Pastor in Virginia:

Please send me a copy of your new book on baptism: Immersed By One Spirit. My check is enclosed. Thank you, brother, for your time, effort and study. They have been very helpful to me. Blessings to you.

From a Reader in [Unknown]:

I wanted to write and let you know that I have found a lot of comfort in your Reflections over the past year or so. I stumbled upon them quite by accident, and I was elated to see someone else use the word "reformation" in relation to the Churches of Christ. God has truly given you a gift of great articulation.

From a Reader in Oregon:

I have been receiving your Reflections for a number of years (they have been automatically forwarded to my computer from my husband's). I guess it's time I got on your mailing list for myself. Your wisdom and encouragement have buoyed us during our transition from a fearful, legalistic background to a better understanding of grace and freedom in Christ. There have been many times your messages were outstanding in their own right, but then one of your readers (in the readers' response section) would say something that really seemed to speak from my own heart. Thank you for persevering for the Lord. I know you live in a gorgeous area, but this part of Oregon is a great place for some R&R when you need it (God's handiwork dazzles us every single day). My husband's an exec with a resort, and I know a friend of ours extended an invitation for you to visit here ... and I second that invitation!

From a Pastor in Australia:

I am a retired pastor and live in Western Australia. I have been familiar with your blog for a number of years, and I commend you for your approach to Scripture. I thank the Lord that you are using your gifts to aid Christians in their understanding of the Bible. Your Reflections have covered a wide variety of questions regarding Scripture, and personally I have been helped a great deal by a number of them. Thank you.

From a New Reader in Singapore:

Please add me to your mailing list for your weekly Reflections. I just finished reading your article: "Behold the Pattern" -- Has Goebel Music Met My Challenge to Provide the Particulars of The Pattern? (Reflections #209). Thank you!

From a New Reader in Texas:

I am a leader in the Awana program of our small Christian Church. I came across your study on John 21:15-17 (Reflections #189 -- Breakfast on the Beach: Dramatic Dialogue at a Fish Fry) while looking for a neat counsel time study for our themed beach night. I was amazed by the in-depth perspectives you gave to these three verses, and how powerful God's work can be when used for introspection and reflection on one's own personal life. The Lord has given you a unique gift, and you are definitely sharing it with fellow believers and unbelievers alike. After coming across your study, I actually searched for and found your web site, and am now very interested in reading more of your work. Please add me to your mailing list. Thank you, and God bless you.

From a New Reader in Utah:

I stumbled upon your Reflections articles, and I cannot even begin to tell you what a joy and a blessing they have been to me! I was raised in a very strict, conservative Church of Christ, and while I appreciate my upbringing, my faith suffered as a result of the congregation's rigid teachings. Years later, after I got married, I found the nerve to attend and join a more "liberal" Church of Christ. Words cannot describe what worshipping with that congregation did for my faith! The members there are open, sincere, grace-centered, and unpretentious. They completely opened my eyes to who Jesus really is and what He truly taught. Your articles have done the same for me. They challenge me to think beyond the traditions that were pounded into me, and to seek out instead what God truly teaches. I would love to be added to your mailing list. Thank you!

From a Reader in Texas:

Please send me the two MP3 audio CD's of your study of 1st & 2nd Peter -- Encouragement for the End Times. My check is enclosed. God bless you, brother, for aiding us in our study of God's Word.

From a Reader in Texas:

I believe in encouraging my brothers and sisters, so I would like to say that I pray for you and your family, and the believers that you lead, on a daily basis. You, more than anyone else of my own generation, have spoken the TRUTH. You have given me answers and have helped me deepen my own relationship with God. I believe with all my heart that when I asked God to help me with my unbelief and with questions on how to really get to know Him, He sent me answers through your writings! It may interest you to know that I have been in "the church" for over 25 years, and the things that I have felt in my heart, but didn't know how to put into words, you have managed to "speak" for me through your writings. I thank you, and I thank God for you!

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