Issue #555 -------
November 9, 2012
If My people, who are called by My name, will humble
themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from
their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and
will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
2 Chronicles 7:14
November 6, 2012 has come and gone. Election Day is now over. Close to a billion dollars later (by some estimates) in campaign costs, and untold hours of wearying media blitzing from both sides, the final result is that we essentially have the same people and parties in place as before the election. Thus, unless there is a large scale change of heart among those who govern, the next four years promise to be much like the last four (which some may find comforting, and which others will find concerning). There are still wars and rumors of wars, storms and other natural disasters, as well as good people simply seeking to live their daily lives in peace and harmony with their neighbors. In other words, the sun came up Wednesday morning and we discovered that not much had changed, that God was still on the Throne, and we still live in one of the greatest nations on earth. Yes, I will freely admit, I was very much disappointed in the outcome of the election. There is much I could say about this, but I will refrain from doing so. What's done is done, and my venting won't change a thing. Thus, I will say no more about it (which will probably come as a great relief to many people). There has been enough pastoral politicking these past few months, and I plead guilty to my share of it. It's now time to move forward.
I am pretty much through talking about politics, parties and politicians (at least in a public forum). We have some good people in government, who truly care about the people, and then we have some bad people in government, who care only about themselves. Such has always been the case, and most likely always will be. Yes, we should (indeed, must) speak out against the abuses and seek to implement change where change is needed. A people who remain silent in the face of tyranny are not truly free. I pray that all spiritual leaders in our nation will continue to speak up and speak out and speak against societal ills that threaten our way of life. This isn't about politics, it is about principles. Additionally, I believe we (the spiritual leaders) must also address the moral issues that face our nation, calling the people (as well as the leaders) back to God and His Word. In so doing we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our forefathers in faith -- the Black Robe Regiment (Reflections #547) -- who led in the fight to secure the very freedoms we now hold dear. May we ever have the courage of conviction to do so.
Yes, the election is over. Much time and energy will be spent by many in this nation pondering why and how one party won over the other, and how to reverse that in the future. Such post-election political analysis is inevitable. I would like to shift focus, if I may. That's not to say I don't have an interest in the aforementioned analysis. I do. However, I have greater concerns. As I look at our nation I see primarily a people who are increasingly turning away from God and His will for their lives. Yes, this rejection of God is quite often reflected in how a people vote: in those we choose as our leaders, as well as in those laws we pass to govern us. But, the problem is much deeper than the persons and policies we place over us -- it involves the heart and soul of those who desire such leaders and legislation. Speaking out against a particular party or politician may be necessary at times, but of far greater concern to God's leaders ought to be the heart of a people who long for such politicians, parties and policies. Changing politicians will not heal a nation if we haven't changed the heart of the people. Perhaps we have spent too much time and energy on the former, and too little effort on the latter. There is a problem within the heart of the people, and the politicians only reflect that reality, they aren't the reason for it. The problem is: we, the people, are slowly, but surely, turning away from our God. He is being increasingly pushed from our society, evidence of which is perceived almost daily. Just as disciples will accumulate for themselves teachers who proclaim what they want to hear (2 Tim. 4:3), so will a people accumulate for themselves leaders who will lead them where they have determined to go. By condemning the leaders we do not truly address the problem, we only address the symptoms.
The prophet Micah condemned the people for turning increasingly away from God and increasingly toward the "god of their bellies." On one occasion he declared, "If a liar and deceiver comes and says, 'I will prophesy for you plenty of wine and beer,' he would be just the prophet for this people" (Micah 2:11). The ancient Israelites clamored for a king so they could be like all the nations around them. Samuel repeatedly sought to impress upon them that they already had a King -- God Almighty. This would not appease them, however. God was not the king they sought. Finally, God gave them over to their heart's desire, telling Samuel, "It is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected Me as their king" (1 Sam. 8:7). God has promised to meet our every need; too often, however, we want a king who will meet our every want. Thus, we reject the former in favor of the latter ... and the consequences of that choice have been obvious throughout history! We currently live in a society that is increasingly "ME" oriented. The most successful politicians seem to be the ones who promise and deliver the most "goodies" to the people. No longer, in the spirit of President Kennedy's challenge to the nation, do we ask what we can do for the country, we now demand to know what the country can do for us. "You owe me" so "hand it over" (even if you have to take it from others to do so) is a misguided mindset that will quickly lead to greater and greater dependency upon government, a scenario no society can long survive. When a people kneel before their government with their hands out, that is a society of slaves who have forfeited their freedom for the trinkets tossed their way by their overlords.
My fellow disciples of Christ, may I suggest that further ranting and raving against politicians (of which I have done my share) is futile. It is a diversion of the enemy; a chasing after rabbits while the barn burns. It is time to address the real problem facing our nation -- US. We, the people, need to be called to repentance!! When that happens, a change in leaders and direction will follow naturally. Our God must be returned as the Sovereign of this great nation. When this happens, our land will be healed and our Father will cause us to prosper. "If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land" (2 Chron. 7:14). If, however, a people reject their God, and seek the favor of lesser leaders, God has promised to "uproot from their land" such a people, "make them a byword and an object of ridicule among all peoples," and bring disaster upon them (2 Chron. 7:19-22). We, the people, are treading a pathway that history (both biblical and secular) has shown to lead to destruction.
In every period of history, our Sovereign has called certain people to be watchmen, sounding the alarm when danger threatened His people. "I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from Me" (Ezekiel 3:17). The Black Robe Regiment, in the early days of our nation's history, took this call seriously, and it resulted in the birth of a nation. It is time for the godly to take this calling seriously once again, and, with God's help, we may yet witness the rebirth of "one nation under God." Again, it is time to call our nation to repentance. We have traveled the path away from God too long; it is time to turn back. If God's people won't issue this call to the nation, who will?! We must begin this call one person at a time -- with our families, our friends, our neighbors, our co-workers; with anyone in our sphere of relationships with whom we have any influence. It must begin with me (with you). Don't wait for others to step up -- take the initiative!
I have to applaud the spirit of our middle son, David Maxey, who posted the following on his Facebook page the morning after the election: "We told our kids who 'won' the election. All four of them were upset. We then began the push, which we will continue to do over the next several years, to have our kids grow up strong, smart and focused on God, and be a part of changing what our generation has messed up so badly. I hope and pray we have not messed up beyond what they can repair. I do know, however, that there will be at least 4 people in this country who will do their part and allow God to rule!" I am so proud of David and Erin for their resolve to instill godly principles in their four children (our grandchildren). I wrote them and told them that "my head is held higher today because of you."
I must also commend a dear friend and brother-in-Christ in Ohio (who used to be, a number of years ago, one of the deacons here at our congregation). He wrote me the following letter after the election: "Al, after almost a day of reflection, I now realize something very important about the election results. I have heard blame cast, over Romney's loss, upon just about everything -- from Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey to hurricane Sandy, but are those really the cause? I don't think so. Could the blame for the result lie with me, and with my fellow Christians? Could it be that I have just been too lazy in spreading the gospel to every creature? Could it be that I have been satisfied with attending services and neglecting my responsibility to teach Christ and Him crucified to my lost countrymen? Could there be a direct correlation with this personal failing and the decline we are seeing in our churches and our country? Last night should be a painful reminder to Christians that over half of our nation cast their lot with a candidate and a party that openly supports abortion and homosexual marriage. This reflects that there are millions who desperately need to hear God's Word on these matters. The results of this election should send the message 'loud and clear' that we are not doing a good job of 'seeking and saving the lost.' Four additional years have been given by the people to a party that jeered and booed at the very mention of returning the name of 'God' to their party platform. So many in our country are without God in their lives. It's time for us to dust off that Bible and start actually reading it and applying it and sharing its heart-changing, soul-saving message with the lost all around us. Only then will our nation turn around!"
Amen! Now, let us each go forth from this day forward and reclaim our nation for God ... one heart and soul at a time, and may our Father give us strength for the task ahead! Let us focus on the people, rather than on the politicians, for in reality the latter merely reflect the heart of the former. If we desire to change our nation, we must change the heart of its people. We have a lot of work ahead of us. Will we be successful in reversing course? Frankly, I don't know ... but we must try. If, in fact, we have traveled too far away from God, and the time has come for this nation to suffer the consequences for its choices, and we may well be at that point, then may God be merciful to those who still love Him and bring them safely through the storm. On November 6 the people spoke ... now it is time to hear from God.
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
SPECIAL REPORT -- This past Sunday morning (Nov. 4) I preached a special sermon titled "A Pre-Election Message for the Elect." I had been sharing with people on Facebook, as well as other mediums, that I would be doing this sermon, and had encouraged them to listen to it on our church web site. A number of people wrote to me and stated that they were informing their congregations to be sure and listen to this message before they voted. Our church webmaster (Tom Beeson, who is one of our Deacons) placed the audio of that sermon, which was also integrated with the PowerPoint slides, onto the web site a few hours after I had completed the sermon (Click Here to hear/view that message). Tuesday morning he sent me this email: "Al, I ran a report on our web site statistics and here is what has happened over the past two days. The number of hits for November 4th and 5th are off the charts! There were over 6000+ viewings of your Sunday sermon since I put it online. I just thought you would like to know." Unfortunately, it didn't change the outcome of the election on Tuesday, but perhaps it changed a few hearts. My thanks to all who accessed our web site and considered the message. May God give us all the courage of conviction to face what lies ahead.
From a Reader in Washington:
My friend sent me the recording of your sermon "A Pre-Election Message to the Elect." That was, in my humble opinion, a very powerful and insightful message, my brother. In turn, I sent a copy to our pastor. I had earlier shared with him your article on the "Johnson Amendment" (Reflections #546 -- Pastors Politicking From Pulpits), so felt this would be very good on top of that. Our pastor is very careful what he says from the pulpit, and I cannot tell you to this day what his political party preference is, but his dad is a retired Air Force colonel, so I think I can guess. Thanks so much for your words of wisdom in that message, Al. Love ya, brother!
From a Reader in Mississippi:
Thanks to all of you who were/are not afraid to stand up for Truth when it comes to politics. It astounds me how many church-goers, even here in the South, took up for a president who promotes and forces us to pay for abortions, who promotes homosexual marriage, who is, I believe, promoting an Islamic agenda, and certainly a godless, Socialist agenda. Yet, these same "Christians" will condemn to the pits of hell all those who have a piano in the church building!! Wow! How many ways we have been blinded! Thank you for your courage in standing for Truth, Al.
From a Doctor in Arkansas:
Please send me your two-CD set The Nature of Man, dealing with his eternal destiny, and also the two-CD set Encouragement for the End Times (your study of 1st and 2nd Peter). My check is enclosed. Thank you. I appreciate your work!
From a Minister in Kentucky:
Brother Al, I wish to personally thank you for the articles you write. They have really made me think about what God intends for me as a disciple. I was raised in a home with a split religious heritage. My father's side of the family was Church of Christ (hardliner Campbellites) and my mother's side was Baptist, with pastors on both sides. My dad became a Baptist when I was ten, and at that time we stopped alternating between the two groups (attending only at a very conservative Baptist congregation). I married the love of my life my senior year in college, who was raised Church of Christ. I studied a lot, learned all the "doctrines," and became very active. I began to preach in 1998, and while working as a "hired man" my journey began. I began to quietly question some of the doctrines in my mind. After much prayer, I began to voice these biblical teachings. You guessed it -- I was labeled a "Change Agent." A man I had studied with, who was reading your writings (and for which he was "shown the door"), began forwarding your articles to me. Your Reflections brought me peace and comfort, and also a renewed zeal. I am now working with a congregation here in -------, KY. This group of believers has "Church of Christ" on the sign, but they are truly striving to BE the church. Our focus is on being saved by God's love and our faith, while everything else is just tradition. Thanks again, and keep fighting the good fight.
From a Reader in Virginia:
"Chaplain at an Execution" was one of your most moving articles that I have read. I felt many emotions as I read the story, and I came to realize what it truly means to share our burdens. Brother Al, I don't know if I could have made the same decision that you did. However, I'm glad that you shared this with us. Your story demonstrates the choice that Jonah had to face in terms that we can relate to today. Christianity is more than words, and more than our neat and tidy religious concepts. Every one of us needs God's grace, just as Terry Clark did. People shouldn't be fooled by the magnitude of Terry's sins -- all sin leads to death. As always, thanks for sharing!
From a Reader in Bristol, United Kingdom:
Thank you, my dear Brother Al, for your Reflections article "Chaplain at an Execution." I was very moved by this personal testimony. The Lord's immense, overwhelming grace is so evident in how He worked in Terry's life.
From a Reader in New Mexico:
Concerning your Reflections article "Chaplain at an Execution," I was living in Clovis, NM during the years of Terry Clark's crime, capture, imprisonment and eventual death. I felt, as most people did, that he was a monster that deserved his punishment. However, I thank you for answering God's call to be a conduit for His grace to Terry. I wish I had been aware of what you were doing at the time. Again, thank you!
From a Minister in Tennessee:
Whew! What an emotional roller coaster ride that must have been! I look back at Saul of Tarsus, and can imagine the emotions of many Christian families as they dealt with him after he became the apostle Paul. I can imagine, to some degree, the emotional gamut of Paul when he faced those families (whose loved ones he may have persecuted). To say the least, brother, I am still wiping tears from my eyes after reading your story about being the chaplain at the execution of Terry Clark -- tears for the family and friends of the little girl, for Terry, and for you as you went through all of this.
From a Reader in Alabama:
Thank you for this thoughtful story from your past. I took the liberty of forwarding it to a half dozen friends. In many ways, we are all chaplains at executions delivering a message of grace, as all men have fallen short of God's will and are deserving of death. I pray that we can each fulfill this role with sobriety, grace and a deep faith. God bless you.
From a University Professor in Texas:
Thank you for your last Reflections in which you described how you served our brother Terry Clark before and during his execution. Also, thanks to your wife, who played such a great supportive role in this. I am glad you mentioned her. I know you were a great comfort to Bro. Terry Clark, and I am very glad you were there. I know the Lord was so pleased to have someone like you to represent Him at this dreadful time in the lives of everyone concerned. May God always richly bless you and your dear wife Shelly.
From a Reader in New Mexico:
Al, all I can say is "Wow!" What a tough decision that had to be. Very much like the minister in the Jeffrey Dahmer story. I appreciate you and what you did, brother. The Lord bless you for it. The thing you left out in your article, however, was what Terry told you "possessed" him to do what he did (omitted on purpose?).
Yes, I intentionally chose not to go into all the lurid details as to what motivated Terry to do what he did. He and I talked about it many times over the years, and each time he would reveal more and more. By the time of his execution he had revealed in quite some detail the full scope of his personal "demons" which plagued him and ultimately led him to his crimes. He told me that after his death I was free to reveal all of this if I thought it would help anyone avoid the mistakes he had made -- and I have done so to a few people over the years -- but I decided that it probably wasn't really all that necessary to the focus of my last Reflections. -- Al Maxey
From a Reader on Prince Edward Island, Canada:
Wow!! What a story. And how sad that you were criticized by "brethren" for simply preaching the gospel to one who really needed to hear it. I love you, brother! You are an anchor in the storms of life; a true and valuable peace to my soul. Thank you for sharing that account of your ministry to Terry Clark, and thank you also for making such a great effort to carry out God's purpose for your life, even when it was not easy to do so. He will bless you even more in eternity for it.
From a Reader in Georgia:
Thanks for sharing this personal testimony, Al. I could only think of our heavenly Father as He looked on as His Son was being murdered, and then granted us all mercy and grace. You did indeed do the right thing in choosing to minister to Terry Clark. My own sins, though not as heinous as his, are nonetheless worthy of spiritual death, and for that I need that same amazing grace. I am deeply grateful.
From a Reader in Tennessee:
Wow!! Al, that is an amazing account of events -- so many emotions! Thank you for all your service for our Lord.
From a Reader in Tennessee:
My friend, this is one of the most poignant real-life stories I have ever read. Thanks, Al, for showing Jesus in your life!
From a Reader in Florida:
Walking into that prison to meet Mr. Clark, and then later into the execution chamber, has to be the hardest two things you have ever done. I am speechless, as I could feel the pain in your words.
From a Reader in Florida:
Your account of being the "Chaplain at an Execution" is the best example of the love, mercy and forgiveness of God, and it shows how a soul can be saved when we are willing to get out of our comfort zones, obey God, and do what He asks, even when we absolutely don't want to. What you did was an inspiration for me!
From a Reader in Texas:
"Chaplain at an Execution" was your BEST article ... ever. Thanks for sharing this experience with us, Al.
From a Minister in Mississippi:
Regarding your article "Chaplain at an Execution," you made the right choice. God bless you, brother.
From a Reader in New Mexico:
I just finished reading your Reflections article "Chaplain at an Execution." Oh, my!! How many memories it brought to mind. Those were very sad days, and for most Christians here it was a personal struggle in being able to forgive. God bless you, Al. I love you. You proved yourself to be one of God's giants.
From a Minister in Texas:
I was deeply moved as I read your stirring account of your amazing ministry to a man who, if not "the least of these," most would agree was "the worst of these." Of course, as you know, we were living in New Mexico at the time of the crime, so it was all so familiar as I read it again. I just want to say that I know the Lord is pleased with your obedience to His call, even though it was not without some resistance. In a strange way, your account confirmed my own salvation. Like Paul, who called himself "the chief of sinners," and like all who have sordid chapters in their past lives (even after "obeying the gospel" -- "baptism" in Church of Christ speak), I find it amazing that God could still love me, that Christ would die for me, and that those sordid chapters have been expunged. Reading about Terry Clark, his amazing transformation from depraved killer to redeemed saint and trophy of grace, just refreshes my spirit. Humbly, gratefully, I can continue with my face lifted to the Son, secure in redemption, and confident that, according to His promise, all things are indeed new ... every morning.
From a Reader in Texas:
This was a very touching story! I thank God that there are men like you who can see that we all have done terrible things against our Lord. Although very few of us have committed such terrible crimes as Terry Clark, yet we all still need God's grace to be right with Him. Thank you for showing Terry such kindness that he accepted the Lord Jesus as Savior. I look forward to being with David, the apostle Peter, Terry Clark, and many others one day as we joyfully bow our knees to the Master.
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