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by Al Maxey

Issue #859 -- January 9, 2023
Beyond the bright searchlights of science,
Out of sight of the windows of sense,
Old riddles still bid us defiance,
Old questions of Why and of Whence.

William Cecil Dampier-Whetham [1867-1953]
The Recent Development of Physical Science [1904]

Respecting Our Differences
"I Agree with You, Except for This"

Dr. George Edward Moore (1873-1958) was a noted English philosopher, a highly respected professor at the University of Cambridge, and one of the primary founders of "analytic philosophy." Those who knew him well stated he possessed an "exceptional personality and moral character." In the Preface to his work published in 1903 titled "Principia Ethica," he wrote, "It appears to me that in Ethics, as in all other philosophical studies, the difficulties and disagreements, of which history is full, are mainly due to a very simple cause: namely to the attempt to answer questions without first discovering precisely what question it is which you desire to answer." We humans are a species prone to questioning all that we see, hear, and experience. We want answers, often before we even have sufficient info and insight to formulate the right questions. We also too often assume that these sought-after answers can best be found at the feet of those this world deems educated and enlightened, and that any thoughts arising from the "common rabble" of humanity are ipso facto unworthy of any serious consideration (we find a hint of this thinking in Acts 4:13). Robert Ingersoll (1833-1899), even though he was often characterized as "the great agnostic," challenged this perception well in an address he gave at a child's grave: "Every cradle asks us, 'Whence?' and every coffin, 'Whither?' The poor barbarian, weeping above his dead, can answer these questions as intelligently as the robed priest of the most authentic creed" (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:26f).

None of us, regardless of our social, intellectual, or educational status, has achieved perfect perception of ultimate Truth, nor are any of us in complete possession of that Truth to the exclusion of others. I am a work in progress, and my understanding is continually undergoing a process of review, evaluation, reflection, change, and growth. We should all be evolving in our appreciation of these greater spiritual realities, an appreciation that, if genuine, will also often demand changes in how we apply and manifest these deeper understandings. Our lives should be characterized as a "journey of discovery," a daily adventure of faith. As we walk by the side of our Savior, in sweet fellowship with Him, we grow with each step we take; we don't walk backward, we don't walk in circles, we walk boldly forward into a state of Spirit-led transformation. In his book titled "Unlearning God: How Unbelieving Helped Me Believe," the Quaker pastor and author Philip Gulley observes, "Nowhere is stale thought celebrated more than in religion. In no other field is intransigence elevated as a virtue. If our doctor didn’t read another word after graduating from medical school, we would find another doctor. If an astronomer didn’t let her understanding of the cosmos change after the images from the Hubble space telescope were published, we’d rightly conclude she was no longer a credible authority on space. But let a Christian hold fast to his old-time religion, and we will applaud his lethargy and seek his opinion on matters of faith. When he dies, we will laud his refusal to change and urge others to emulate him. Though he has not exercised a single brain cell to advance our understanding of God and has happily let the moss of tired thought cover his intellect, we will admire his simple faith." Gulley makes an excellent observation, and we would all do well to give it some serious thought.

As we walk in sweet fellowship with our Lord (1 Corinthians 1:9; 1 John 1:3b; 1:7a), a walk that is truly enlightening and transforming in nature, we are called to walk in sweet fellowship with one another as well (1 John 1:3a). David spoke fondly of a beloved friend "with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship as we walked with the throng at the house of God" (Psalm 55:14); he also knew the hurt that came when that fellowship was broken. God's ideal is expressed beautifully in Psalm 133 - "How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! ... for there the Lord bestows His blessing, even life forevermore!" (vs. 1, 3b). Our growth within this "abundant life," and our journey toward the ultimate realization of that "eternal life" in the new heavens and earth, is tied intimately to how we walk in fellowship not only with Him, but also with one another. It is a lifelong growing and learning process in which we must seek to help rather than hinder each other. When doubts and questions arise, we face them together with loving respect for our brother or sister and their views, even though we may differ. Since none of us possess ALL knowledge of ALL things, we thereby must gently and patiently assist one another as we each grow and mature in our understanding and faith. We don't flee from questions; we don't stop up our ears or assault the one who questions or challenges us (Acts 7:57); rather, we "reason together" lovingly and respectfully so that we both may be improved in our walk together with Him. "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another" (Proverbs 27:17). "Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect" (1 Peter 3:15, ESV).

The apostle Peter ends his second epistle with this charge to the disciples of Christ: "Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 3:18). We "walk worthy of the calling with which we were called" (Ephesians 4:1) when we recognize the importance of and the Divine intent for the diversity of the Family, and when we appreciate the unity that can and should be experienced within that diversity! We are each Divinely placed and equipped within the One Body to aid one another in our journey, "till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God" (Ephesians 4:13). When each part does his/her part, this "causes growth of the Body for the edifying (building up) of itself in love" (vs. 16). For this to happen, the "parts" must interact in love!! When this does NOT happen, the One Body becomes divided and dysfunctional. When the church wars with itself, the only victor is Satan! Brethren, we can do better! We must learn to listen, not lecture; dialogue, not debate! To face questions and challenges to our convictions, not flee from them (or attack our brethren who raise them).

In the course of my almost 74 years (I'll reach that age in March), I have tried to view my journey through life as one of discovery. Over the years I have challenged and questioned everything; nothing was "off the table." In a great many cases, my searching and research has led to a strengthening of my understandings, convictions, and beliefs. In some cases, however, my beliefs (and my expressions of those beliefs) changed. I realized that I was wrong about some things (and will likely be wrong again). Other things I found not to be so much "wrong" as just misguided or unnecessary; there was a better way, and so I took it. In sharing my growing understandings, I have helped some people in their journey as well. On the other hand, in sharing my growing understandings, I have also lost some friends and made some enemies. There is another group I've encountered in my journey, and it is this group ... and one individual in particular ... that will be the focus of the remainder of this article. It is that group of my fellow believers, my dear friends, who walk with me in sweet fellowship, but who do not always agree with me ... and who at times will question and challenge me! I appreciate such people more than I have words to express!! They are willing to THINK, and to GROW, but they are not willing to swallow anything and/or everything I believe or teach. And they shouldn't!! When they differ with me, however, they do NOT attack me, or slander me, or shun me. Instead, they question and challenge my particular teaching or practice with which they differ, and they do so with love and respect, both for me and my views.

On the evening of Thursday, December 29th, I received an email from J. Elbert Peters, a dear friend and brother-in-Christ who lives in Alabama. He has been an active supporter of my Reflections ministry from the very beginning and was one of the people who actively recruited subscribers. This was not anything I asked him to do; he simply sought to bring as many as he could to the source of the teachings that he himself had come to appreciate. He even took some of my writings and converted them to published tracts (one of which is pictured here). When I received his email, it really touched me, for I hadn't heard anything from him in several years. In part he wrote, "I will be 90 years old if I live to March 2, 2023. I now use a walker, but still live at home (with a lot of help from my children and others). My precious wife has been gone for 11 years, after more than 55 years of marriage. Al, I love you and appreciate what you are doing very much." Elbert and I share the same birthday (March 2nd), although he's a bit ahead of me in years! My heart also goes out to him over the loss of his wife, yet I am inspired by the fact they were together over 55 years! What an example!! Shelly and I hit the 50 years mark this coming July. Elbert and I emailed back and forth a bit and did some reminiscing. Then, on Monday morning, January 2nd, he sent an email to me in which he said, "Al, there are two things about which I would like your response." After making those two requests, he then reaffirmed his love and respect for me! Elbert, I love you, brother!! I wrote and told him that I would like to address his two statements in my first Reflections of 2023, and I asked him if that was okay and if he minded if I identified him by name. He wrote, "Al, I don't mind you using my name. I am very honored." So, what follows in this article are his two statements and/or queries/challenges and my response to each.

Christ said, "This is My body" and "This is My
blood." I don't say, "represents." Neither do I think
the bread and wine are the literal body and blood of
Jesus. They're His body and blood in a spiritual sense.

This really is not so much a question or a challenge, but rather a request for my response to his perception of the nature of the bread and wine in the Lord's Supper. It should be noted that the way Jesus characterized the bread and wine on that evening when He was gathered for the last time with His close companions prior to His arrest has been the source of much confusion, controversy, and even conflict for centuries. It mainly centers around what "is" means! Or, more specifically, what Jesus intended to convey by that term to those who were listening to Him that evening and sharing that meal with Him. At the so-called "Last Supper," Jesus took some of the bread that was on the table, "and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, 'Take, eat; this is My body.' And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, 'Drink from it, all of you, for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins'" (Matthew 26:26-28; cf. Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:19-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-25).

Most scholars and Jesus-followers clearly accept as fact, based upon the biblical text, that Jesus said what He said. He clearly stated, "This IS My body" and "This IS My blood." Both Jesus and Paul, who later quotes Him, use the Greek term that signifies throughout the NT text "he/she/it is." With regard to the body/bread matter, this use is in each of the above four passages. With regard to the second phrase, however, there is a bit more ambiguity. Luke, for example, leaves out the Greek term for "is," thus making the phrase read more like a headline. He literally says, "This Cup the New Covenant in My Blood" (Luke 22:20). This renders the statement far more emphatic. It also leads some to conclude that it is the cup itself that Jesus may have had in mind more than the content of that cup, for the Jews of His day placed great religious significance upon each of the four cups used in the Passover. Paul leaves the same impression in the minds of some readers, for in 1 Corinthians 11:26 he quotes Jesus as saying, "This cup is the New Covenant in My blood." Again, one might ask: is it the cup, or the content (the wine), or a combination of both that IS the blood of Jesus? When one seeks to understand the words of Jesus literally, one will encounter some enormous interpretive difficulties.

The Jews from the synagogue in Capernaum had a similar problem when Jesus said that they must "eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood" (John 6:53-56). They quarreled over how one could literally eat the flesh of Jesus, and as a result of this "hard statement," many refused to follow Jesus any longer (vs. 66). This viewpoint of the Jews in Capernaum, believing Jesus to be referring to a literal consuming of flesh and blood, has actually been given a name in theological circles. It is characterized as the Capernaitic Mode, which belief still persists among those disciples who believe that the literal flesh and blood of Jesus can be, and should be, consumed by His followers in some manner if they are to receive eternal life. I dealt with the true intent of our Lord's statement that day in my following study: "Consuming Christ: Eating His Flesh, Drinking His Blood" (Reflections #222). As we all know from our study of church history, this confusion begotten of literalism led to the doctrine known as Transubstantiation, a perspective and practice that plagued Christendom for centuries. You can read the details of this in my study titled "The Lord's Supper: A Brief Historical Overview" (Reflections #114). I have also written more about it in my book "One Bread, One Body: An Examination of Eucharistic Expectation, Evolution, and Extremism," which is now in its second printing.

So, J. Elbert Peters and I are very much on the same page with regard to literalism. For us to take the word "is" in this phrase and interpret it to mean that the bread and wine ARE the flesh and blood of Jesus Himself goes way beyond anything our Lord intended, in my view. Many scholars in the past, who could not bring themselves to agree with transubstantiation, yet who were puzzled by the term "is," adopted the view that the bread and wine were not literally His body and blood, but that His presence was actually present in those elements in some mysterious way (visible to the eyes of faith, but not to the eyes of flesh). This was known as the "Dyophysite View" (aka, the "Two Nature View" or the "Spiritual View"). The elements are said to have two natures: A physical nature in which they outwardly remain visible as bread and wine, and a spiritual nature in which they inwardly become the actual body and blood of Christ; this inward nature being visible only to the eyes of faith. Since this was the view strongly held by St. Augustine, the Western Church adopted this view for quite some time. By the year 1520, Martin Luther had rejected the doctrine of transubstantiation, but he continued to believe that the actual body and blood of Christ were present in the elements. He developed the teaching (which later came to be called "Consubstantiation") which maintained that the real flesh and blood of Jesus joined with or mingled with the elements of the Lord's Supper. Thus, Luther believed that the presence of Jesus in the elements was real, but he did not believe it was the result of any "priestly miracle of consecration." If this is what Elbert means when he writes that the bread and wine "are His body and blood in a spiritual sense," then I would disagree with that understanding. I see nothing in Scripture that would lead me to believe that our Lord indwells in some manner the literal bread and wine used in the Lord's Supper, although I DO believe our Lord "is in the midst of" and spiritually "indwells" (through His Spirit) those believers who are gathered together in His name to remember Him in this memorial meal.

My own personal view is known as the "Symbolic View." This view states that the elements are nothing more than what they appear to be: mere bread and wine. However, they are representative of the body and blood of Christ. They are symbols of the reality, not the reality itself. Elbert says he takes exception to the word "represents," and that he won't use it. I can understand somewhat. I think it comes down to what one means by the word "represents," for this word has a number of meanings according to Webster's New World Dictionary and Thesaurus. One meaning, for example, is: "to act in place of, especially by conferred authority; to serve as an equivalent of; exercise the power of." Nope!! I can't go there! This investing of divine power in physical elements leads to sacramentalism, which I believe to be utterly false. On the other hand, "represent" can also mean: "to symbolize; to present a likeness to the mind; to describe." Jesus wanted these emblems to remind us of His sacrifice: His brutalized flesh and His poured out blood. They are certainly not the reality itself, but they can serve to represent it in the sense of bringing that greater reality to our minds. The only command our Lord Jesus gave with respect to our partaking of these elements was this: As often as you do it, remember Me!! The bread and wine help us do just that!

One last consideration that needs to be made here: we often create exegetical problems for ourselves when we fail to recognize the difference between literal and figurative language. The Bible is filled with figurative language and symbolism. The ancient peoples of that part of the world loved it. When Jesus said, "This is My body" and "This is My blood," He was, in the view of most scholars (myself included), using what is known as a metaphor, something found time and again in His teaching. The metaphor is very similar to a simile, but is far more forceful. A simile states something is like (or similar to) something else ("that man is like a bear"), whereas a metaphor states that something is that other object ("that man is a bear"). The metaphor appears far more frequently within the Bible than does the simile. "Judah is a lion's whelp" [Genesis 49:9]. When Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper, He said of the bread and wine, "Take, eat; this is My body ... this is My blood." The failure to properly identify and interpret this figure of speech has led, in part, to the confusion evidenced throughout history with regard to the nature of the elements of the Lord's Supper. Other examples of metaphors are: "You are the salt of the earth ... you are the light of the world" [Matthew 5:13-14]. "I am the bread of life" [John 6:48]. One of the widely accepted hermeneutical rules governing how we interpret these sacred writings is this: "A word or sentence should be regarded as figurative when the literal meaning would involve an impossibility." Psalm 18:2 speaks of God being a rock, a horn, and a tower. Matthew 8:22 speaks of the dead burying the dead. In Matthew 26:26-29 Jesus speaks of the bread and wine being His body and blood. Revelation 6:13 speaks of stars falling to earth. Clearly, these thoughts are figurative, and they are not intended to be taken literally. For further study on this, may I recommend my following studies: "Figures of Speech and Thought: Creative Communicative Building Blocks" (Reflections #356) and "Challenge of Figurative Language: The Rules and Guidelines for Interpreting Figurative Language in the Scriptures" (Reflections #360).

There are several places where baptism precedes
salvation. There are fewer places where faith only
appears to be required. This is probably the only
area where I have difficulty agreeing with you.

Again, there is really no question here, but there is somewhat of a challenge. If I understand this statement correctly, Elbert seems to be suggesting that I teach we are saved by "faith only," and that nothing else is required of us by God. First, let me say that I can see how one might come to that conclusion, for I do indeed proclaim with the apostle Paul that "by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works" (Ephesians 2:8-9). I also agree with Peter when he explained to the brethren at the Jerusalem Council what it was that brought salvation to Cornelius and his household: "By my mouth the Gentiles heard the word of the gospel and believed. And God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us" (Acts 15:7-8). The Spirit was poured out on them before they were baptized, by the way. Peter then declares, "We believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they" (vs. 11). I'm convinced Paul knew what he was saying when he declared that "by works of law no flesh will be justified in His sight" (Romans 3:20), but that God declares us righteous based entirely upon the faith of Jesus Christ, and that this gift of grace is "for all those who believe" (Romans 3:22). Thus, we are "justified as a gift by His grace" (Romans 3:24). "Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand" (Romans 5:1-2). "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23).

Paul even goes so far as to make the point that something as important as circumcision under the old covenant didn't precede faith in the whole justification/salvation process - rather, faith was always primary!! Romans chapter 4 is a powerful Pauline teaching that NO works, no matter how good they may be in themselves (even works that may be commanded by God - such as circumcision), are what ultimately save us and justify us in His sight. Rather, it is FAITH. Abraham was declared righteous BEFORE he was circumcised, not AFTER. Paul stresses this point, for he knows only too well that future generations would do exactly what some were doing then: trusting in some act or deed to "seal the deal" for them before God, rather than having faith in HIS act on their behalf. I would urge Elbert, and those reading this current article, to please take some time and read my analysis of this chapter in my recent article titled "The Romans 4 Gospel: An Awesome Apostolic Application of an Abrahamic Awareness" (Reflections #852). Some of you are going to be stunned when you discover what the NT writings actually teach about this, for it is not what has been traditionally taught by the more fundamentalist religious denominations (my own included).

Having said all that, let me hasten to say that our Lord most certainly expects us to SHOW the reality of our faith every day of our journey through life. We manifest our faith and the reality of our salvation in a multitude of ways. One of the key manifestations of faith, and it is extremely important, is repentance! If we truly believe, then we need to alter the course of our lives! We need to turn from a life devoted to godlessness and turn to a life devoted to godliness. Those who genuinely believe (have faith) will begin doing this, and will do so increasingly, in their lives. Another response of faith, much like circumcision under the old covenant, is baptism in water. The Lord has asked us to testify to the reality of our salvation and redemption in this visible act. Those who genuinely believe (have faith) will do so. Like circumcision, it may seem like a strange thing to do, but by its very strangeness it gets the attention of those around us, and it causes them to ask questions. Neither circumcision nor baptism are in themselves acts that justify or save, but they are acts performed BY those who ARE justified and saved and redeemed. "Let the redeemed of the Lord say so" (Psalm 107:2). This is the point James seeks to make in James 2. If you have faith, show it. If you believe, declare it ... say it ... shout it. Make it known, don't hide it. Let your light shine. You don't do these various things TO BE saved or redeemed or justified; you do these things because YOU ARE saved, redeemed, and justified.

By emphasizing the primacy of faith (which the Scriptures, both OT and NT, clearly do), am I thereby declaring baptism in water to be unimportant or unnecessary? Of course not. I would never do that. The Lord commands this act. He also commands us to remember Him in the partaking of the bread and wine of the Lord's Supper. He also commands us to engage in acts of benevolence and kindness and love. Do ANY of these commanded acts save us or justify us in His sight? NO, they do not, for that was never their purpose. Baptism has a vital place and purpose in God's plan for His people, but I am convinced that too many of God's beloved children have, over the centuries, forgotten what that place and purpose is. As a result, they have elevated this act of faith to a place and purpose it was never intended to have. I have dealt with this in quite some depth in my book "Immersed By One Spirit: Rethinking the Purpose and Place of Baptism in NT Theology and Practice," which is now in its second printing.

Baptism is not a sacrament of the church. Neither is the Lord's Supper. Yet, many have taken both of these acts of faith and given them the power and authority to SAVE. Paul tells us (using circumcision as the example) that when we take an act that is good in itself and invest it with saving power, we negate the free gift of God's grace through Christ Jesus. "Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law. You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love" (Galatians 5:2-6, NKJV). Good works are not wrong; in fact, Ephesians 2:10 tells us that God has prepared a number of good works for us who are saved by grace through faith to engage in during our life-journey. Circumcision is not wrong; baptism is not wrong; the Lord's Supper is not wrong. They ONLY become wrong when we regard them as a means of acquiring salvation or justification, rather than simply being acts by which His children acknowledge their salvation and justification.

Yes, Elbert, I do believe that we are saved as a free gift of God's grace through the redemption offered in the sacrifice of His Son, and that this free gift is acquired BY FAITH. If that faith is nothing more than a hollow profession, or if it is a weak, fearful belief that refuses to manifest itself, then I believe we have a problem on our hands. As James declares, such a faith is "dead" = it is devoid of any efficacy. Our faith must be evidenced; we need to show it, not only for our benefit, but for the benefit of others, as a testimony to them. "Many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God" (John 12:42-43). This reminds me of what Paul said about his fellow countrymen, "If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, 'Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed'" (Romans 10:9-11). Although the primacy of faith is clearly taught, it is also clearly taught that a faith we refuse to evidence is a powerless faith. No act that shows faith is salvific in itself; if such acts were, then faith would be unnecessary. If we trust in some outward act, then we are fallen from grace and severed from Christ. We are saved by grace (a reality He has shown in many ways) through faith (a reality we are called to show in many ways). It is this, Elbert, that I preach and teach. I hope and pray that this response has helped clear up any confusion about my convictions on the matter. I love you, brother!! May God richly bless you as you have so richly blessed me over the years!


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Readers' Reflections
NOTE: Differing views and understandings are always welcome here,
yet they do not necessarily reflect my own views and understandings.
They're opportunities for readers to voice what is on their hearts, with
a view toward greater dialogue among disciples with a Berean spirit.

From a Minister in Tennessee:

I am one of the many thousands out there who are grateful that you took up your pen (or keyboard) all those years ago and began your writing ministry. You broke the ice that made my own sailing much easier. May God bless you as you have blessed us.

From a Reader in Texas:

Al, Thank you for twenty years of Reflections!! You are, without doubt, the Restoration Movement's mightiest pen!

From a Reader in Kentucky:

As you know, I have been a reader of your Reflections for many years. Your perceptive writings have meant much to me as I moved from restrictive ritualistic religion to the wonderful freedom that we are entitled to as the children of God. Thank you so much for what you have done and continue to do. May God be with you, my brother!

From a Minister in New Mexico:

Al, thank you for your service in the Kingdom of God. You have been a genuine blessing to me!

From a Reader in Texas:

Al, I want to thank you for your deep studies and for having an attitude of reconciliation with those who attack you. You teach in such a way that you make us think, and thus make us study much more deeply. I believe there is a movement of learning that you have helped to promote, and we are all better off because of it. I pray for you, and also for all who seek to grow closer to the Way of our Lord, rather than closer to the traditions of men (even good faithful men). Blessings to you, brother.

From a Reader in Texas:

Al, thank you once again for all you do in helping us to learn to live the will of God in our lives, instead of going around attacking others who are serving the same Master, but just in a different tradition.

From a Reader in Mississippi:

Hi Al, I would like to purchase your following three studies which you are offering on special thumb drives: (#1) - "The Epistle to the Romans: Thoughts on the Life of the Apostle Paul and His Gospel Perspective" ... (#2) - "Bizarre Bible Stories of the OT Scriptures" ... and (#3) - "Great Prayers of the Bible: A Devotional Study of Devout Disciples as they Poured out their Hearts in Prayer." I would also like to order the newly printed second edition of your book "One Bread, One Body: An Examination of Eucharistic Expectation, Evolution, and Extremism," which is the only one of your four books I don't yet own a copy of. I'm sending my payment for these materials via PayPal. Thanks for all that you do!!

From a Reader in Arizona:

I just read your article "A Two Decade Retrospective: Let Me Get Personal for a Moment" (Reflections #858). Thank you, Al Maxey, for helping me to get to that same fork in the road that you faced, and thank You heavenly Father for granting me the courage to also take, as Al Maxey did, that less traveled path. God bless you!

From a Minister in Florida:

Congratulations, Al, on 20 years of Reflections!! Words cannot begin to express how thankful I am for this ministry. While we may try to chart our own paths in life, God knows better. This passage comes to mind: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight" (Proverbs 3:5-6, NIV). I can't tell you how many times I have studied or read something in the Scriptures and then asked myself, "What does Al Maxey have to say on this topic or text?" Likewise, I can't tell you how many times I have shared your studies with pastors, those in my classes, or those in various men's groups. May God continue to bless you and keep you, my friend. Here's to another 20 years!!

From a Reader in Georgia:

You? ... An "introvert"? With that world-class smile? (LOL) Who'd of thunk it?! Brother, you are such a blessing in my life! I hope that one day in the distant future, as you cross over the Jordan, you will leave behind a mantle for me! Just a piece of your robe would be sufficient! God bless you, my friend, and have a fantastic 2023.

From a Reader in California:

Al, congratulations on your twenty year anniversary of the Reflections ministry! Allow me to "reflect" on my experience from this side of the computer screen. I was introduced to your ministry a number of years ago when my father left his email open on his computer when he had asked me to do some work on it. At first, my response was, "Oh, no! Not another preacher trying to promote their dogma." However, in recovery they say that "contempt before investigation" is not a good way to live one's life, so I decided to read the article I found on my father's computer. I clearly remember that it was the one about the Communion coin used in "Closed Communion" congregations ("Tale of the Tossed Token: Campbell's Cast Communion Coin" - Reflections #148). I was hooked. I realized that this was the most aptly named (Reflections) email series EVER! I was especially impressed by how you let the facts speak for themselves, and then how you would use the expository approach to draw conclusions. As President John Adams said, "Facts are stubborn things." You just kept bringing up those stubborn facts! I've heard other folks comment over the years that if someone asks Al Maxey what time it is, he will tell them how to make a watch. My response is: Isn't that a wonderful thing to do for someone!! ... especially if Al Maxey isn't around to tell them what time it is. After reading your Reflections all these years, I've gotten pretty darn good at making watches ... so now I know myself what time it is!! Personally, I see the "Maxey Method" as laying out all the applicable parts, organizing them into an understandable fashion, seeing what other wise folks have said about it, and then drawing a conclusion based on personal experience and observation. It doesn't totally eliminate bias, but it keeps it to a bare minimum. Now THAT, my brother, is a TEACHER!! May the Lord bless you with another twenty years! Keep showing us how to make watches!! Bottom line, you help me THINK in an orderly fashion, and for this I am eternally grateful. Some folks don't like to think, so I can understand how they don't "get" your reflective studies. Al, my prayer is to meet you this side of Heaven one day!! Blessings to you in 2023.

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