by Al Maxey
Issue #787 -------
November 15, 2019
Virtue is bold, and goodness never fearful.
William Shakespeare [1564-1616]
Measure for Measure
"God will not have His work made manifest by cowards." So wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) in his Journal under the date of 13 January 1833. Indeed, the Lord has made it abundantly clear throughout Scripture that He has little use for those who evidence a cringing, cowardly spirit in the face of the enemy (whoever or whatever that enemy may be). "The cowardly ... shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death" (Revelation 21:8). "The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion" (Proverbs 28:1). Along the same lines, though not as severe as outright cowardice, is a spirit of timidity. This is a lack of confidence and self-assurance that can cripple a person when bold, assertive actions need to be taken. One might hold back, or hesitate, when courage and constancy are required. Such is clearly not one of God's gifts to men: "For God has not given us a spirit of timidity" (2 Timothy 1:7). Some scholars feel Timothy, Paul's son in the faith, may have struggled with this, and that Paul was here seeking to encourage him. They also point to Paul's words of caution to the brethren in Corinth regarding Timothy, who might be coming their way: "If Timothy comes, see to it that he has nothing to fear while he is with you" (1 Corinthians 16:10).
In stark contrast was the visible boldness of the apostle Paul, a quality which he often asked the brethren to pray that he might ever possess and manifest. "Pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak" (Ephesians 6:19-20). When confronting the spiritual forces of darkness (about which Paul had just written in his epistle to the Ephesians), one must always be fearless, never timid or afraid; courageous, never cowardly. Even when such a noted figure as the apostle Peter stepped out of line with respect to the living out of the gospel before others, Paul "opposed him to his face" (Galatians 2:11), and gave him a firm rebuke "in the presence of all" (vs. 14). There was nothing timid about Paul. He was the epitome of boldness when it came to the Truth he was entrusted to proclaim unto others and to practice within his own life. His "earnest expectation and hope" was "that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death" (Philippians 1:20). This had always been his nature, and Barnabas even attested to the fact that after the conversion of Saul of Tarsus, this man had, in the city of Damascus, "spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus" (Acts 9:27). In Jerusalem, after the endorsement of Barnabas, Paul "was speaking out boldly in the name of the Lord" (vs. 28). He was so bold and courageous, in fact, that the Jews sought to kill him, and he had to be hustled out of town by his fellow Christians (vs. 29-30). In spite of such mistreatment, however, Paul told the disciples in the city of Thessalonica, "we had boldness in our God to speak to you the gospel of God amid much opposition" (1 Thessalonians 2:2). This courage of conviction even carried over into his writings, as he pointed out to the brethren in Rome: "I have written very boldly to you on some points" (Romans 15:15). And yes, such personal boldness and courage is contagious, as Paul well knew. His demeanor while imprisoned in Rome, for example, was widely known and talked about, and as a result, "most of the brethren ... have far more courage to speak the Word of God without fear" (Philippians 1:14).
Therefore, in light of the above, just imagine how personally perturbed Paul must have been when he learned what some of his critics in Corinth were saying of him (which is recorded for us in 2 Corinthians 10:1). They were saying his boldness was a sham: that he was only bold when away from them, but timid when in their presence. He was a tough guy when they weren't around, but a pansy when they were. "I'm shy when I'm with you, but I'm bossy when I'm away from you" [Common English Bible]. "Do you think I am a coward when I am with you and only brave when I am far away?" [Contemporary English Version]. "Some say that I am bold when I am writing you from a distance, but not when I am there with you" [Easy-to-Read Version]. "Some people say that I am easy on you when I am with you and strict when I am away" [International Children's Bible]. "Some of you are saying, 'Paul's letters are bold enough when he is far away, but when he gets here, he will be afraid to raise his voice'" [The Living Bible]. "Some people say that I am gentle and quiet when I am with you, but that I have no fear and that my language is strong when I am away from you" [New Life Version]. I really like the way that The Message has captured this statement: "I hear that I'm being painted as cringing and wishy-washy when I'm with you, but harsh and demanding when at a safe distance writing letters." I must admit this sounds very much like many of the "online warriors" who are fearless when attacking others from their keyboards, but who will cringe beneath their desks in fear when their victims appear in person! It was, in essence, this that the apostle Paul was being accused of by his critics in Corinth. "Some say, 'His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing'" (2 Corinthians 10:10, New International Version).
Several decades ago, a very well-known evangelist within our wing of the Stone-Campbell Movement, who had come to our congregation in Santa Fe, NM to hold a gospel meeting, told me in one of our private talks in my office that he had discovered in almost every congregation he had met with over the years there were at least 10% of the members who felt "the wrong man" had been hired as their minister. He said he always advises young preachers with whom he meets that they need to be aware of this painful reality, for ignorance of it and a failure to address it could prove to be the undoing of their ministry. I don't know about this person's accuracy as to the percentage of a preacher's detractors, but I can assure you from over four decades of personal experience as a church leader that it is a rare congregation indeed where there are no active and often angry critics of local church leaders, and of the preacher in particular. Believe me, they are there, and they are just waiting for the right moment to pounce. This was certainly true for the apostle Paul as well. Wherever he went he found some who loved him and some who absolutely hated him, so it comes as no real surprise that it was reported to Paul that there were some men in Corinth speaking out against him in an effort to undermine his message and diminish his influence with the brethren. "Titus brought distressing intelligence as to the depreciation of the apostle's authority by certain active Judaizers at Corinth. The case was so serious that it required immediate attention" [Dr. W. Robertson Nicoll, The Expositor's Greek Testament, vol. 3, p. 94]. "The report of Titus was less than favorable in so far as it represented the Judaizing teachers, the opponents of Paul, for they were still dangerously active" [Dr. Paul E. Kretzmann, Popular Commentary of the Bible: The NT, vol. 2, p. 209]. In other words, the 10% were making their move; they were going after Paul, and things were getting ugly in Corinth. "Let not any of the ministers of Christ think it strange if they meet with perils, not only from enemies, but also from false brethren; for blessed Paul himself did so" [Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible, e-Sword].
In light of the worsening situation in Corinth during his absence, Paul realizes the immediate need to address the situation. Thus, "he attends to these attacks in the last part of his epistle, ... formulating an answer to the personal attacks of the Judaizers who recently invaded Corinth and were causing the disturbances in the congregation" [R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Paul's Epistles to the Corinthians, p. 1192]. It should also be pointed out that none of these attacks were based on any theological concerns. Instead, "these attacks deal with secondary issues: assaults on Paul himself ... and his apostolic standing" [ibid]. As is almost always the case, legalists and rigid religionists prefer to go after the man rather than the message; to silence the teacher, rather than refute his teaching. We can well understand that "the stinging words which Titus had reported to Paul vex his soul, and he speaks in the tone of the suppressed indignation which shows itself in a keen incisive irony" [Dr. Charles Ellicott, Commentary on the Whole Bible, vol. 7, p. 397]. Those of us who have experienced such personal assaults by such caustic critics know only too well the hurt and frustration Paul was feeling. Thus, we can also fully appreciate how Paul's tone undergoes a complete change in this latter part of his second preserved epistle. "No commentator denies that there is an abrupt change of tone at this point in the letter" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 10, p. 379]. David Lipscomb (1831-1917), one of the early leaders in our faith-heritage, rightly observed: "In these concluding chapters there is a severity which is in striking contrast with the gentleness manifested in the preceding chapters. In this section Paul defends his apostolic authority against his detractors and slanderers who sought by all means, whether fair or foul, to undermine his authority and destroy his influence, and thus the more certainly capture the churches he had been instrumental in founding, and impose upon them the Judaistic and legalistic principles and practices they advocated. He now deals with them. This explains his change in tone. His authority and apostleship have been challenged, and so with boldness he puts his personality into the forefront of the discussion" [David Lipscomb, A Commentary on NT Epistles, vol. 3, p. 127].
Some scholars over the years have suggested that perhaps Paul let his emotions get the better of him here. They suggest that he should have simply ignored these critics, rather than responding to their false charges in such a bold manner. It is suggested by some that these Judaizers were "baiting" Paul, trying to anger him; perhaps goading him into a verbal brawl, which would further diminish him, they hoped, in the sight of the disciples in Corinth. I too, over the years, have been advised on a number of occasions to simply "ignore" those who have attacked me, my family, and my ministry. Generally, I would agree that such engagements with critics can rarely produce anything positive. "After all, a person who takes every criticism personally and lets responding to the critic become the main agenda of his or her life will soon be controlled by his or her critics" [Kenneth L. Chafin, The Communicator's Commentary: 1st & 2nd Corinthians, p. 273]. Yet, on the other hand, there are times and circumstances where one must respond, for one's integrity, influence, good name, and even one's ministry for the Lord is coming under "heavy, deadly enemy fire from all sides." One dare not remain silent and subdued at such times! This is what prompted Paul to respond as he did. "Paul was feeling that the very future of the church at Corinth hung in the balance. To leave the attack upon himself and his authority unanswered would allow the troublesome but persistent minority to undo all the good that had been done in the church" [ibid, p. 274].
Paul fully understands, and he so states to the brethren in Corinth, that our great Example (Jesus) was characterized by meekness and gentleness (2 Corinthians 10:1) when undergoing vicious personal assaults. "While being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats" (1 Peter 2:23). Yes, Jesus was meek, but He also knew how to use a whip to good effect. "Meek" does not mean one is a doormat; it does not mean one allows others to trample them or their ministry or their Lord and His message of grace into the dust of the ground. Cowardly crouching while caustic critics eviscerate us is not how the Lord would have us respond to such godless aggression. There are indeed times when, for the greater good, one must boldly face and fearlessly fight the enemy. "In harmony with the supreme example of Him who is the Church's Lord, plain-spoken severity in the face of spiritual imposture is becoming of everyone whose concern is for the Truth of God and the salvation of souls" [Dr. Philip Hughes, Paul's Second Epistle to the Corinthians, p. 346]. "Paul vigorously defends himself against the accusations of the stubborn minority of Judaizers in Corinth. Great ministers of Christ through the ages have had to pass through fiery trials like these. Paul has shown the way for us all" [Dr. A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, e-Sword]. Yes, there are times when we must turn our backs on such critics, but there are other times when to do so could very easily cause great harm to the cause of our Lord. In those cases, we must be bold and fearless and aggressive. Paul didn't confront Peter as boldly as he did because he was by nature a brawler, but because some eternal truths and principles were at stake. Paul says he took the battle directly to Peter, Barnabas and certain other brethren "when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel" (Galatians 2:14). How can one NOT enter the fray to defend "the truth of the gospel" when it comes under attack?!
In 1 Corinthians 10:1, Paul is repeating the slanderous accusation against him. He is not declaring, as a few have suggested, that this is indeed his true nature; he is instead, "as Chrysostom points out, ironically echoing the slander which his enemies in Corinth had maliciously invented against him: they had been saying that when present he was mild and timid, but when absent he was full of boldness, like a craven dog that barks loudly at a safe distance" [Dr. Philip Hughes, Paul's Second Epistle to the Corinthians, p. 346]. Paul wrote, "And now a personal but most urgent matter: I write in the gentle but firm spirit of Christ. I hear that I'm being painted as 'cringing and wishy-washy when I'm with you, but harsh and demanding when at a safe distance writing letters.' Please don't force me to take a hard line when I'm present with you. Don't think that I'll hesitate a single minute to stand up to those who say I'm an 'unprincipled opportunist.' Then they'll have to eat their words" (2 Corinthians 10:1-2, The Message). A few verses later Paul writes, "And what's all this talk about me bullying you with my letters? 'His letters are brawny and potent, but in person he's a weakling and mumbles when he talks.' Such talk won't survive scrutiny. What we write when away, we do when present. We're the exact same people, absent or present, in letter or in person" (vs. 9-11, The Message). Yes, the apostle Paul sought to be kind and gentle when he was with his fellow believers, as per the example of Jesus. Paul wasn't a brawler; he didn't roam about looking for and/or creating trouble. Trouble often found him, and when it did, he had no problem with dealing with it as forcefully as the circumstance required. Some say that such kindness and severity cannot exist together in our hearts and minds, to which Paul would say, "Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God's kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off" (Romans 11:22). Paul was simply following and applying the very pattern of behavior he saw in God and in His Son. Paul could be either kind or severe, depending on the situation, and he pleads with the brethren in Corinth to get these legalistic Judaizers under control, or when he returned to their city he would do so, and it would not be the pleasant return he, or they, would have liked it to be. This is somewhat reminiscent of the apostle John's plea in 3 John 10, where he said if he came to their location and Diotrephes hadn't yet been dealt with, then he would do so.
Paul "had no pleasure in severity, and he did not desire to exhibit it" [Albert Barnes, Notes on the Bible, e-Sword]. He would much prefer that all God's people related to one another in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, etc. In other words: to live according to the fruit of the Spirit that the indwelling of said Spirit motivates us to daily manifest in our attitudes and actions. But, should such a blessed peace not be found in Corinth upon his return, Paul says that his critics, and those listening to them, will discover very quickly just how wrong their evaluation of his character was, for he will be extremely bold in exposing and opposing these legalists who were troubling the church in his absence! "What do you desire? Shall I come to you with a rod or with love and a spirit of gentleness?" (1 Corinthians 4:21). Unless things changed, unless certain people changed, "the sneer of Paul's opponents that he was unassuming in their presence, but bold when absent," was about to be forever wiped from their faces at his appearing [Dr. Marvin R. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament, vol. 3, p. 337]. "Paul's answer to these insinuations is brief, but emphatic" [Dr. Paul E. Kretzmann, Popular Commentary of the Bible: the NT, vol. 2, p. 209]. The message of Paul and John to the church then, and the message of Jesus to the church today, is remarkably the same: "Deal with those who are promoting legalisms that stand in opposition to God's Truth and Grace, and deal with those rigid religionists and legalistic patternists promoting such godless dogma, and do so now, for I Am Coming." Brethren, let's not wait passively for the Parousia. Such assaults against the Good News occur all around us (and even within our own midst). So, let's boldly face it, fight it, and fling it forever from our presence. When the Bridegroom comes for us, and we pray it will be soon, may He find us fresh from the battlefield, having fought the good fight.
From a D.Min. in Oklahoma:
Thank you, Al, for all your work with Reflections and my education over the years! I can't tell you what a difference you and your writings have made in my ministries and teachings! You have been a blessing to thousands, and more to come, with your fearless and forthright teaching of God's Word. Brother, I need some help. There were some documents written years ago by our departed brother Don Petty, documents which you mentioned and reviewed in your article "Churches of Christ in Crisis: Reflecting on a Movement's Decline" (Reflections #259). Two were specifically mentioned and one had not yet, at that time, been published. You offered to send the first two to anyone who wrote and requested copies. I have recently tried to find them on the Internet, but with no success. Would you happen to know where I can find these articles by Don? Again, thank you for your work and dedication to our Lord and His kingdom!
Special Request: The late Don Petty and I had discussed at some length his three articles, and he authorized me to offer them at no cost to any of my Reflections readers who requested them. I made that offer in the above-mentioned issue of Reflections (dated August 3, 2006), and I know quite a few readers requested and were sent those documents by me. The titles of the three are: "Reasons for the Decline" ... "Solutions to the Decline" ... "Implementing the Solutions." These articles were produced with the full backing of the seven elders at Web Chapel Church of Christ in Dallas, Texas (where Don was serving as the minister). I have looked through all my files, but I can't find these documents (I fear they have been lost somewhere along the line as I upgraded to new computers and operating systems). I suppose one could contact the Web Chapel congregation and see if they have copies on file. I would imagine they do. Also, if any of you reading this are among those who requested and received copies of these documents from me (they would have been MS Word files: .doc), would you be willing to email me copies? I would appreciate it, and I would then pass them along to the above reader in Oklahoma. Thank you, and God bless!! -- Al Maxey
From a Reader in Texas:
Al, I hope blessings are flowing abundantly on you because they surely are falling my way with the preaching I'm receiving each week! We are hearing more lessons on God's GRACE than in my entire lifetime, and yet I still catch myself thinking, "But, you are not really saved, because you have not yet ____!" After last week's lesson, I have decided (just as you have been teaching) that there is no way to "obey the Gospel." We either accept/believe the message, or we simply deny who God says He is and what He says He has done! Love ya, brother!
I have often, over the years, asked people how one can "obey" good news. Yes, one can respond to good news, and we are indeed urged to respond to the gospel message proclaimed. That response is FAITH. Our faith will then show itself in a number of ways throughout our faith-journey with/in Him. The whole notion underlying the phrase "obey the Gospel" seems to me to be a not so subtle bowing to the deadly dogma of "salvation by command keeping" and the performance of those "good works" specified and sanctified by one's sect. Such nullifies Grace! I would urge those who have been swayed by sects that teach such a false doctrine to carefully consider my following study: "Can We OBEY the Gospel? Reflecting Anew on Three NT Texts" (Reflections #501). -- Al Maxey
From a Reader in Alaska:
Brother, you helped me free myself from bondage to legalism, and you have helped me to grow in faith. I continue to look forward to being blessed every time I receive one of your Reflections. I noticed in the readers' response section of Reflections #776 that a minister in Medellin, Colombia contacted you. I am presently in Medellin, Colombia and would greatly enjoy having fellowship with this brother. Thank you so much.
From a Reader in Texas:
Brother Al, I was just thanking God this morning for people like you who have the ability to dig deeply into the Scriptures and then offer your knowledge to those of us who don't have that ability! I have often wondered about the young man in Mark 14:51-52 who fled naked into the night ("Case of the Gethsemane Streaker" -- Reflections #786). Your explanation makes a lot of sense. I don't believe any part of Scripture is there by accident. God has a purpose for every detail. I praise God for authors like you, Max Lucado, Ann Voskamp, Mark Batterson, and a host of others who have the ability to discern deep lessons to share with others like me!
From a Reader in South Carolina:
Al, I really appreciate all the Reflections that you have emailed out in the past. I have nothing but respect for the work you do! I am up to my eyeballs right now, however, in work and school, and just don't have time for much else. If you could, please remove me from your subscription list for the time being. Thanks! See you in heaven, brother!
Over the years there have been a number of people who have found themselves at a particular point in their lives where their plate is filled to overflowing! That can be a stressful time, and we all can relate. Some have told me that they really hate giving up my Reflections, but they felt they had no choice but to unsubscribe due to life's pressures. What I tell these people, and what many of them were unaware of, is that there are several other ways to keep up with my Reflections than through an email subscription. Most people actually access my studies through my web site, and every one of my articles (all 17 years of them) are located on the Reflections Archives site. This way people can go to this site when they have some free time, if they so choose, and read them at their leisure. I also place each new issue of my Reflections on my Facebook page, as well as on several church Facebook sites. A lot of people read them through Facebook. Anyway, I just wanted to let people know that there are several options other than through my mailing list. -- Al Maxey
From a Reader in Florida:
I just read your article titled "Case of the Gethsemane Streaker: An In-Depth Examination of Mark 14:51-52" (Reflections #786). Very interesting post! I have always thought of this incident in Mark 14 in the following way: Judas first led the mob to the place of the "Last Supper," which was most likely at the home of John Mark's mother. By the time Judas and the mob arrived, Jesus had already gone on to Gethsemane. John Mark tried to get to the Garden ahead of the mob to warn Jesus. But, unfortunately for him, he was too late to give Jesus the warning, and so he fell into the hands of the Lord's captors. He eluded them by leaving his linen garment behind in their hands and he fled naked.
From a Reader in Georgia:
Your study of the "Gethsemane streaker" is fascinating!! It seems that the redemption story is present everywhere we look in the Scriptures. Blessings to you, brother.
From a Reader in Barbados:
Al, I had not given serious thought before to this narrative of the naked young man at Gethsemane, so I want to thank you for the eye-opener. I did not previously even consider it important enough to contemplate as I studied the bigger picture. I must confess, however, that I am now captivated by the view that this naked young man was John Mark. It makes a lot of sense regarding the author: placing him as an eyewitness to these events. It is an ingenious way of putting oneself in the drama of such an historic event: i.e., Mark being present at both the arrest as well as the resurrection of Jesus Christ. All other theories pale in the light of this one!
From a Reader in Tennessee:
Hi Bro. Al, I would like to purchase a copy of your Reflections CD that has all of your articles on it. I have mailed the funds to your PayPal account to cover the cost of these materials. They have been a great resource as I study for the class I teach. I also understand that your up-to-date Topical Index and Textual Index are included on that CD, which I have found to be very helpful tools. Thank you again for all you do!
From a Reader in Ohio:
Al, I have just sent my payment to your PayPal account for your Published Books CD which contains all four of your books in two different digital formats (.doc and .pdf). Thank you.
Special Note: On Wednesday, November 6th I posted online (on my web site and on my Facebook page) and mailed out to those who subscribe via email to my Reflections articles, a repeat of my article detailing my experience as the state appointed chaplain at the only execution in New Mexico for almost a century. Eighteen years before, to the day (November 6, 2001 at 7 p.m.), I stood right next to, inside the execution chamber, just inches away from a convicted child rapist and murderer, looking into his eyes as he was put to death. It was one of the most difficult things I've ever been called upon to do. I reposted my thoughts, struggles with, and insights on that event which I had previously shared in Reflections #554 ("Chaplain at an Execution: Reflecting on a Difficult Choice"). Following are some of the responses I received as a result of reposting that article last week. -- Al Maxey
From a Reader in Alaska:
Lots of folks toss around the term "Christian," but the moving testimonial you have offered, Al, describes a Christ-like forgiving relationship based upon heart-felt, unambiguous brokenness. Not sure many of us will ever approach what you exemplified. Far too many of us confuse our secular outlook with God's perspective as evidenced by His Son's explicit focus on the Greatest Commandments. Guess that's why I'll always believe (borrowing an old phrase from Mid McKnight circa the early '70's) that in our spiritual development we believers are on "a journey to eternity" with a finish like none other!
From a Minister in Georgia:
Al, that was a very touching story. Thanks for sharing. I served our local police department as chaplain for some 20 years, and I was able to have contacts with prisoners even in other counties: encounters which included both Bible studies and baptisms. One time, while preaching a gospel meeting in Tennessee, I read in the paper about the unusual story of a young woman who was in prison there. I went to see her, and I was amazed that I was allowed to take her out of jail and to church that Sunday evening!
From a Reader in Oklahoma:
Al, that must have been a real struggle for you, but no one could have done it better! Only us poor humans put a classification on SIN. God says SIN results in death (separation from Him). Nowhere can I find it said that some particular sin is worse than all others, or that some sins will result in lesser punishment than others. His promise of salvation is just as valid for the vilest of sins as it is for the least of them. True repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus save ALL who believe and respond, even those we might regard as "unworthy."
From a Reader in Colorado:
Dear Brother Al, I just read your article "Chaplain at an Execution." If we had stood at the foot of the cross, would we have wept or cheered? Yes, we would have wept, but we also would have cheered if we had known then what we know now: cheered in gratitude for being able to escape eternal death by His sacrifice. Al, you demonstrated your faith in a way that many could not do, and I greatly respect you for that. Yes, the LOVE of our God surpasses our comprehension! We're all criminals in one form or another, but it is obvious that this man's deeds were, in respect to this life, excessively evil. I felt your pain as I read your thoughts. God bless you for being willing to stand in the gap armed with His grace for a sinner condemned to die.
From a Reader in South Carolina:
Thank you, Al, for the great love you showed this individual at the lowest point of his life. Thank you for all you do!
From a Reader in Maine:
Al, I remember reading this Reflections article back in 2012 (when you first wrote it and posted it). I now look forward to reading it again! May the Lord of Blessing be with you this day, comforting as only He can.
From a Reader in Tennessee:
Wow!! What a story! Thank you so much for sharing this again, brother!
From a Reader in California:
I remember reading this when you first published it. A wonderful reminder of God's grace and the ministry of that grace to which we are called at times. I never had to go through what you experienced, but as a police chaplain for a small department in Florida for several years, I did often visit the local prison, and I must admit that I found it very uncomfortable to be there. Thank you for sharing this again! Blessings, my friend.
From a Reader in Missouri:
This article brought back so many memories! I remember the letter that Terry Clarke wrote to my son, back when my son was going through some personal struggles. I have to admit, it freaked me out a bit that he had written to my son! I caught myself wondering if it was some kind of manipulation. Yet, because we were close to you, who knew the situation, I understood Terry was just wanting to help, and also that he could never get physically near my son. Yes, I think this whole thing caused many Christians to struggle with their feelings, especially those of us who were close to the situation (I think my husband even went out there with you once to visit Terry). But it was all in God's hands, and therefore not for us to judge. You did what was right: you obeyed God's calling!
From a Reader in Ottawa, Canada:
My dearly Loved Brother, I found this challenging to read, yet I felt deeply hopeful at the same time. How often in my daily walk do I allow my perverse human judgments to stand in the way of God's power? How frequently do I allow my prejudices to deter me from reaching out to others? Al, I am very grateful that you shared this experience again with us. It is a sad reality in our modern world that people allow ideology to overcome the grace of God, which grace is available to anyone who repents. And Terry Clarke most obviously did repent, for in the end he put the building of the kingdom and the pursuit of righteousness above his personal desires or wishes. Thank you for your service to the kingdom, and for your testimony of the awesome power of our God! Be blessed as a servant of the risen King!
From a Reader in Canada:
What a witness to the love we are to have toward our neighbors, regardless of what they have done! Thank you, Al, for this witness and testimony!
From an Author in Arizona:
Al, my brother, I just now read this report of your ministry to Terry Clarke. I thought of the apostle Paul who, while Stephen was being stoned to death, gave his approval. Yet, God used this man who approved of a righteous man's death to make history. We often have too much of a tendency to restrict our God's movements in history. To put it another way: we try to play God too often. I appreciate you, brother!
From an Author in Florida:
Dear Brother Al, I had never heard of or read about this before tonight. Thank you for sharing! Thank you for the example you set as God's man ministering to Terry, and the many others who have now read and embraced your story. I love you, brother! I was a chaplain in the county jail in Martinez, California for a few years back in the 80's and 90's. Robert Alton Harris robbed, raped and murdered two widowed sisters who were next door neighbors to one of the elderly sisters in our church. She asked if I would go with her to give this man a Bible. We did. I praised her for wanting to minister the amazing grace of Jesus to this wicked man. He was put to death in the gas chamber at San Quentin on April 22, 1992. This was nothing like your experience with Terry, but God gave me opportunities to teach Bible studies in the jail and to bring some to faith in Jesus.
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