Dr. Maxwell taught me two pivotal methods...

Dr. Maxwell has many people who loved him from afar and were just so grateful to hear his message of healing.  I penned some lines last night that involve my own personal story but also includes sentiments of many people who are not as vocal as I hence my use of the pronoun, us.

He drew many souls out of darkness and gave them hope of a God who really is our best friend and longs to heal - not punish.

One of those people who appreciated Dr. Maxwell was my brother in Christ who just passed away - Michael Car. He loved listening to the tapes and would give them away to anyone who wanted them.  If Michael were alive today - he'd want me to tell Dr. Maxwell the difference he made in his life.

-------------------------------------------------------------------

On Sunday, November 28, 2010, the world lost a great spiritual leader - A. Graham Maxwell.

Few people have made a powerful impact on the Loma Linda, CA community and beyond as this man. What makes it powerful even now, was his personal testimony of a relationship with Jesus Christ. The message he shared from pulpit to lectern to intimate fellowship of family and friends is one of hope and compassion and honest inquiry that all point to the beauty of God.  Many feel his passing and our hearts are heavy with the reality that he is no longer with us yet we take comfort in knowing that the fire he has lit - is within us.

It is not too often that a person of deep religious convictions does not seek to convert a neighbor. It's natural for some (Christians especially) ardent individuals to share their faith, which can be a wonderful and inspiring expression of love. I was used to growing up seeing Christian friends and family rally at high-powered seminars geared completely toward persuading the crowd to believe as they believed.

I myself even packed a tiny notebook in my bag with special points of my own faith to share with someone should the opportunity present itself.  It just hadn't dawned on me that I was not the pioneer of truth and while my motives were pure, I'm sad to say there were annoying elements involved. After a while, this emphasis no longer worked for me and I realized all too painfully it never really did.

I was burning out on trying to "save" the world.

About 8 years ago, I "met" a Christian man who was quite different than what I was used to. My spiritual journey had led me to a place that peeled back more questions and not so many answers. I was simply not satisfied with my Christian experience and I begin to wonder why I was doing what I was doing beginning with the practical angles of my life such as the food I ate to how I worshiped.

One afternoon, as I opened my heart to a friend concerning my frustrations, I had no idea from that moment on I would never be the same.  She listened patiently and when I was finished said, "I have some audio tapes I think you may really like..." The tapes were lectures presented by Dr. Graham Maxwell, a Christian gentleman and theologian who did not have all the right answers but rather, all the right questions! Initially I was frustrated but grew to enjoy the exercise in being challenged in my faith like never before.

Dr. Maxwell taught me two pivotal methods - one involved applying a historical-critical approach when studying scripture in conjunction with asking one simple, power-packed question, "What does this say about God's character?"  My bible studies took on an electrifying new contour as if a giant light bulb - bright as the sun - lit up my path.  What once seemed arbitrary and meaningless was now alive and vibrant. Theological concepts that were once dull and flat blossomed into a living and breathing "pop-up" book of color of fresh new dimension.  The story of Jesus in 3D!

Shortly after taking this new turn in my spiritual walk, I learned that Dr. Maxwell had authored the Romans portion of SDA commentaries. When my grandmother had passed away, she had willed me her entire set so naturally I was excited to read Dr. Maxwell's contribution.  Lying there within the pages was a church bulletin from a tiny Colorado church I attended as a child with my grandmother - the year was 1972.   I picked it up carefully admiring the old typeset and smiling as I recognized names of people who attended that church.

I turned the leaflet over and there on the back cover was not a list of church doctrines or rules or even a lovely quote or scripture verse but a statement written by Dr. Maxwell himself. I could hardly believe it. If only I could have called my grandmother up and asked her about the bulletin! My heart raced as I thought of all the years that little bulletin lay between the pages of the commentary waiting to be discovered by a woman who so desperately needed answers that turned out could only come by asking all the right questions.

I would never have been brave enough to follow through with my questions had it not been for this wise and dear professor, in fact, little did he know that from afar, he was my own personal "cheering section.  In my eyes, he was not just a Christian pioneer but one tough brother!  He would proclaim things in his lectures that I thought were too taboo to mention - things that Jesus himself proclaimed.  Imagine that.

On the days I wanted to give up on religion completely, there he'd be with his firm and gentle British lilt speaking from my tiny cassette player each morning - urging me to not give up.  And on the days the scripture became more depressing and confusing, I would hear Dr. Maxwell say, "I promise you, it will get worse! But keep reading!"  He was right - with further study, it did get better and I learned once and for all that love always did have the last word - and always will.

Even though we never met face-to-face, his courage for standing up against criticism and speaking well of God motivated me to draw deeper into my Lord's compassionate embrace.  Besides my father, there has never been anyone who has impacted me so powerfully in regards to appreciating my God-given power to reason, question, analyze and study - especially matters of religion.

For me, along with countless others thank you Dr. Maxwell for modeling an authentic Christian life that brimmed with nothing short of love and admiration for our Creator.  It wasn't how you finessed the finer points of theology so a 10 yr old could understand. It wasn't your way of meeting critics with such a generous heart or even how you set the pace for so many passionate young men and women who sought to break free from legalism - while those things were priceless, above it all, it was your gracious spirit that we saw with our own eyes, will continue to remember and share with others who - like us - had more questions than answers.

You affirmed the hope that burned within us that would eventually bring us back home to our God and for that, we will always be grateful.  Rest in Peace dear brother, mentor and friend.

Stacie Belmonte
California