by Al Maxey

Issue #437 ------- April 2, 2010
To talk in public, to think in solitude, to read
and to hear, to inquire and answer inquiries, is
the business of a scholar. He wanders about the
world without pomp or terror, and is neither
known nor valued but by men like himself.

Samuel Johnson {1709-1784}

Foretaste of Heaven in Tulsa
Reflecting on the 2010 Tulsa Workshop

The term "foretaste," according to the definition provided in Webster's New World Dictionary, is: "a taste or sample of what can be expected." It is a preview of things to come, a tangible hint of delights that await. I sometimes will find myself thinking back to the earliest days of my childhood, smelling again in my mind all the savory odors that wafted from the kitchen as my mother and/or grandmother were cooking. There were times that I would be so overwhelmed by anticipation that I would enter the kitchen and plead for a small taste of what it was they were preparing for the family. That taste would give me some appreciation of the delights that would soon be mine as the family surrounded the table together.

With respect to the eternal realm of our King, we have also been given a taste of the treasures laid up in store for us. The redeemed of God "have tasted the heavenly gift, have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age" [Heb. 6:4-5]. This foretaste fuels our longing for that which our Lord has reserved for us when we join Him around that Great Table in the Father's house. Indeed, in this life, which can often be quite difficult and frustrating for His saints, He has provided us with many foretastes of what is to come; samplings which serve to sustain us in our sojourn. One such tangible taste of "Glory Divine" is the annual gathering of disciples of Christ at The Tulsa Workshop, formerly known as the International Soul Winning Workshop, held in the city of Tulsa, Oklahoma.

This fabulous event was begun in 1976, the year I received my Master's Degree and entered full-time ministry for the Lord. Thus, the workshop that just ended this past week was the 35th in a long series of spiritually uplifting and energizing gatherings. Saints from all 50 states, and from countries around the world, assemble each March to be fed from the Word, to enjoy sweet fellowship, and to encourage one another in their journey toward home. Attendees number in the thousands, which makes the singing within the Pavilion truly heavenly in nature! If such times of worship don't leave you with goose bumps, then I don't really know what will. Keith Lancaster helped lead the times of worship for this year's event, and the best word that I can think of to describe this great experience is "awesome."

In a brief description of this workshop, found on their own web site, the benefits are clearly and convincingly depicted: "Over the years, the workshop has come to be thought of as a giant family reunion! We come from different places, representing congregations with different worship styles and ministry strategies. Yet for three days at the end of March, we come together as one. When it's all said and done, we go back to our home congregations with a stronger faith, a deeper commitment to the way of Christ, and a greater appreciation of what God is doing in and through His people throughout the world." A unity of the Spirit, rather than an imposed uniformity, reigns over the gathering. Yes, we're all different in many ways, but we share a common bond -- we're the children of the Father through our faith in the Son. Our styles of worship may differ some, our ministry strategies may not be the same, but we are family ... we are all ONE in Him. What a foretaste of heaven to witness this in action here on earth.

The theme for this year's workshop was: "Our Journey: Pressing on to the Goal." Back in the summer of last year I was contacted by the directors of the 2010 Workshop and asked to be one of the speakers. Naturally, I immediately agreed to take part. Not only was I thrilled to be a part of such a prestigious event, but I was especially excited about the theme. I had long been reflecting upon our journey/sojourn through this life in our quest to reach our eternal home. Thus, I wrote to both the directors and informed them that I would take my inspiration for my three presentations from the remark of Moses to Hobab in Numbers 10:29 -- "We are journeying unto the place of which the Lord said, I will give it to you: come thou with us, and we will do thee good." Quite often our focus is on the goal itself -- the destination -- and this is good. We need to know where we are going; yes, we each need to be looking ahead and anticipating that glorious future to which we are called. However, too frequently we are so fixated upon what lies ahead of us that we lose sight of what lies around us. Our Father has indeed prepared a home for us, but He's also called us to a journey, one during which we are to "do good" unto those whom we call to journey with us. It was this aspect of our journey that I wanted to focus upon during my three 40 minute talks in the Pavilion at the Expo Center.

As I began to reflect upon the good we need to be doing unto one another as we all journey home, my mind began to gravitate toward my own personal journey of discovery. Over the years many others have done good unto me: specifically in the area of helping me to evolve spiritually from a rather narrow sectarian perspective to a mindset much more in tune with the love, grace and acceptance of our Father. So, I chose to examine our journey from slavery to freedom, our journey from law to grace, and our journey from faction to family. Those would be my three talks at Tulsa. I wanted to help my brethren perceive the joys of a journey undertaken as a family who is free by the grace of our Father. Too many of my spiritual siblings are trudging through the wilderness in separate warring camps; angry, stressed and distrustful of those about them. This is hardly the way to journey through life toward our heavenly goal, and it is most certainly not a good testimony to those about us to "come with us that we may do thee good." If anything, the lost of this world just might flee in the opposite direction for fear they will be drawn into our sectarian squabbles over mindless minutiae. And one can hardly blame them. Thus, as we're marching to Zion we must do so with a mindset transformed by the influence of the indwelling Spirit of God. It is only when others (whether lost or saved) can perceive JESUS in our attitudes and actions that we truly "do them good" in their own journey through life.

It is my fervent hope and prayer that my three presentations may be used by our God to touch the lives of those who were present at the workshop, and those who may hear these lessons in the future via the recordings that were made, which are now available to the public through the good people at Workshop Multimedia. I know that I personally was very much encouraged and uplifted by the talks I heard during the workshop, as well as by the one-on-one visits with various speakers and attendees. The three messages by Patrick Mead, for example, touched me deeply, and his kind comments to me about my own talks were very appreciated. I always enjoy listening to Rick Atchley speak, but even more than his talks in Tulsa (which were great) was the chance to spend an hour with him one-on-one over breakfast Friday morning at our hotel. What a dear brother-in-Christ, and what an inspiration to so many! My visits with Terry Rush infused me with a confidence and courage that truly saw me through the event (which can be quite stressful for those speaking). Thank you, brother!

One of the truly great blessings of events like The Tulsa Workshop is the opportunity to renew old acquaintances and to establish new ones. Shelly and I ran into people we had not seen in years. What a joy to embrace them once again and share with them a few moments of genuine familial love. Won't it be wonderful when our Lord returns?!! What we have only "tasted" in the way of fellowship here will be ours forevermore in that fair land! No more parting, no more brief encounters now and again, but rather a blessed gathering of the saints that will truly be eternal in nature (in every sense of that term). Brethren, if you want a foretaste of heaven, make your plans now to attend the 2011 Tulsa Workshop. I don't know yet who the speakers will be, nor even what the theme will be, but I can tell you what the result will be: greater joy, greater acceptance, greater unity among the people of God as we journey home!! See you there!!

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

A 200 page book by Al Maxey
Publisher: (301) 695-1707

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Readers' Reflections

From a New Reader in Mississippi:

Dear Brother Al, I really enjoyed your article in the latest issue of New Wineskins magazine. Please add me to your mailing list for your weekly Reflections. Thank you very much!

From a New Reader in New Jersey:

Dear Brother Maxey, I just discovered your web site today, and I have spent a couple of hours perusing. I'm adding your web site to my "favorites." Please add me to your subscription list for Reflections. It sounds like we might be kindred spirits! May the Lord bless you.

From a New Reader in Sweden:

Brother Al, Would you please add me to your mailing list to receive your Reflections articles. Thank you! I find them very much helpful and inspiring.

From a Reader in Texas:

Dear Mr. Maxey, I have been reading and pondering the transcript of your debate with Mr. Ron Thomas on the matter of divorce and remarriage for quite a while now -- The Maxey-Thomas Debate. It is my view that you definitely held the "high ground" in that exchange, and that you also had a bit of an edge in the debate. However, there were some "side issues" alluded to within the debate that seemed bewildering to me. I'm a Christian, but am not a participant in institutional religious systems such as Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist, Church of Christ, etc. Instrumental music was mentioned in the debate. My closest friend on this earth is a member of the Churches of Christ, so I am very familiar with the "no instrument" view. However, for the life of me, I completely fail to grasp any valid reasoning that would exclude instruments. The only arguments I have ever heard have been completely fallacious. I'm a theoretical mathematician by training, with a number of advanced degrees, and am quite comfortable with the principles of logical reasoning. That's why, considering how logical, reasonable and rational you are in your arguments, it puzzles me as to why you would be a leader in a group that promotes such an illogical, irrational dogma.

From a Reader in Louisiana:

Brother Al, It was my pleasure to hear you speak all three times at The Tulsa Workshop, and each of them was challenging and uplifting. I thank God for you and your blessed ministry!

From a Reader in Texas:

Brother Maxey, Thank you so much for your three powerful lessons in Tulsa, OK. My wife and I really enjoyed hearing you speak. We're so thankful that we were able to attend the workshop this year, and to meet you and Shelly in person (and also to listen to several other very good gospel ministers). I pray that you will have a safe trip home! Thanks again for teaching God's Word.

From a Minister in Michigan:

Brother Al, You did a great job at The Tulsa Workshop. It was the first time I had heard you, but I certainly hope it won't be the last!! Be blessed.

From a Reader in Ohio:

Dear Brother Al, We are sitting in the Nashville airport awaiting our flight to Columbus (I'm sending this from my iPhone), and our thoughts are still centered on The Tulsa Workshop, and all the great speakers, inspiring messages, and all of our friends, new and old, with whom we had the privilege to spend some time. I want to thank you for the gift of your wonderful tome Down, But Not Out that I received from you at the workshop. I have done nothing to deserve all your kindness and warm friendship, but do I ever feel blessed to have it!! Thank you also for traveling to Tulsa and sharing your wonderful faith and insights into our Father's Word. In your three addresses in the Pavilion you nailed it!! Please tell Shelly that my wife and I were so glad to meet her, and we hope to see her again. She is a very warm person, and you, my sir, are a lucky man!!

From a Reader in Australia:

Brother Al, It was really great to meet you and Shelly at The Tulsa Workshop. Thank you for your three presentations. They were a great blessing to me, and I'm sure to all who attended!! I pray that you too were blessed by this workshop. Al, it was so great to be able to spend some quality time with you and Shelly, as well as meet some of the members of your congregation, and also your son, daughter-in-law and grandson. It was a special treat for me that you, Shelly and I were able to actually share a meal together, as well as just "hang out" together during the workshop. I thank you also for the gift of all your CD's and your book. May you and Shelly continue to be blessed, and may you be blessed as you celebrate Easter.

From a Reader in Oklahoma:

Brother Al, Regretfully, I did not attend The Tulsa Workshop, so I missed the opportunity to hear you speak!! I've been a fan of your work for years, and I have used many of your writings in classes at our congregation. I frequent your web site looking for new studies. I want to encourage you in the work that you do for our Lord. Take care, brother, and soldier on!

From a Reader in California:

Brother Al, Someone very dear to me has been part of the Churches of Christ for 40+ years. Sadly, though, he is so caught up in sectarianism that I finally had to pull myself away from him because the force of the oppression of his legalism was beginning to weigh me down. I've tried to share some of Dr. Dallas Burdette's writings with him, but it angered him so much that his words and attitude against me were way out of line. It is such a helpless feeling watching all this happen to him, but I find myself being encouraged by many of your readers' comments in your Reflections. So, I continue to pray and pray!! I attended his congregation for a time, but that group is unbelievably rigid (for example, they actually teach that God forbids the use of instruments on Sunday, and that to use them is a SIN against God). Well, I finally had enough and walked out one Sunday morning when the preacher ranted and railed on and on about this. I thought to myself, "If that is the God you worship, then I don't want any part of Him." His daughter, who has left the Churches of Christ, recently wrote to me and said she loves the a cappella singing and Communion each Sunday, but she is "free in Christ;" thus, all the man-made rules and regulations just made her sick. I am now attending a Church of Christ where there is joy and sweetness on the faces of those who worship there!! What an amazing contrast!! Thank you so much for your work, Brother Al. May God bless you and keep you strong in Him as you continue to speak and teach His Truth.

From a Reader in Texas:

Brother Maxey, A few weeks ago we had a minister from one of "our" churches come and speak to us. I knew that this man was from one of our more traditional congregations, but I wasn't quite prepared for his sermon on "the pattern we must follow, step by step, not leaving anything out." I mentioned to one of the elders that, after listening to this preacher, I felt like I was back in the 1950's or something. I plan to send this man your article in New Wineskins magazine on patternism, although I am pretty sure he won't change. However, we can hope and pray that he sees the light before he does too much more damage. Thanks for being you, Al. You cannot imagine how much I would love to hear you and the others at Tulsa. However, I'm much too old to strike out on my own, and my husband's health isn't good. May God bless you.

From a Reader in Tennessee:

Brother Al, I am always impressed by your comprehensive covering of whatever subject you tackle. I also appreciate your use of different writing styles, particularly your use of alliteration. I love it. Keep it up. I am hoping to see you at The Tulsa Workshop and to be able to say hello to you in person!

From a Reader in Michigan:

Dear Brother Maxey, I am writing to thank you for your exposition of Isaiah 66:24 on "The Undying Worm" which I just read on the Internet -- Reflections #68. I have read some quite disturbing alleged visions of hell by people who believe that immortal worms torment the condemned souls there. Your exposition gives a solid reason NOT to take such reports literally -- namely, that the worms refer to maggots that feed upon carcasses, and therefore are only metaphorical when applied to the dead. Again, thank you for your rational, biblical explanation!

From a Reader in Colorado:

Dear Bro. Al, I wanted to tell you that I am so sorry that the Contending for the Faith bunch in Spring, Texas attacked you the way they did. But, just remember: Jesus experienced much the same from a similar crew of people. Shame, shame on them! They are blind guides, and if the blind lead the blind they will both fall into the ditch. Brother Al, I really wish that I could be at The Tulsa Workshop to meet you, but will not be able to attend. However, God bless you as you share your thoughts there!

From a Reader in California:

Bro. Al, I'm sure looking forward to receiving all of your CD's, which I ordered from you this week. I would just like for you to know that I've learned a great deal from your teachings, and I've also had my mind opened up to different ways of seeing things -- i.e., perceiving them in a better light than I had before. The Lord has greatly blessed me through you, and I just wanted you to know that. May the good Lord continue to bless you, your household and your ministry. Keep looking up in faith.

From a Reader in Florida:

Bro. Al, Thanks for your Reflections article ("Train Up A Child") on Prov. 22:6. This verse has often troubled me, but your study is the most lucid, comprehensive explanation of this passage I have seen. Thank you! I really appreciate your writings -- even those I do not agree with -- because they make me think.

From a Reader in New Mexico:

Dear Bro. Al, Great article and a solid approach to a troubling/comforting passage. I submit that we should keep in mind that it is, after all, just a proverb. A quick dictionary lookup gives this definition: "A short pithy saying in frequent and widespread use that expresses a basic truth or practical precept." Proverbs 22:6 is most certainly all of that. Although one might argue that it is a "divinely inspired" proverb, it is nevertheless still a proverb. I doubt God expected us to rest on one simple proverb the single secret to raising children who would never waver from the true path! Personally, I believe the instruction of this proverb is this: "Give your child the best you have, and he/she will never forget it." This is what I did for my own children. Through God's grace I have two wonderful daughters, who are now giving their children the best they have.

From an Elder in Texas:

Bro. Al, As you know, the type of literature a passage is must always be considered when seeking to understand it. That is especially true in the book of Proverbs. When teaching from this book, I always tell people that the proverbs are principles, not promises. They are usually (but not always) true. The best example of this is Prov. 26:4-5, which are totally contradictory proverbs! Yes, sometimes verse 4 is true, and sometimes verse 5 is true. Proverbs can be most useful, but it takes wisdom to know whether and/or when a particular passage is applicable.

From a Minister/Author in Tennessee:

Bro. Al, I certainly agree with your conclusions here on Prov. 22:6. Most people do not understand that a proverb is just that, even these inspired ones. A proverb is generally true, but it is not absolute. If we try and make the parent responsible for the child's actions after adulthood, this goes against Ezekiel 18:20. Al, I know for sure that we are both "older" preachers, because we both use some of the older reference materials like the Pulpit Commentary, Matthew Henry, Albert Barnes, Keil and Delitzch, etc. I have been criticized for that, and my response was, "Just because they are old does not mean they are not good." In my debate with Olan Hicks, for example, he basically dismissed my references from Adam Clarke, Albert Barnes and the Pulpit Commentary, saying that there are much newer and far better references. Eddie Closer said the same thing about my commentary on Matthew that is supposed to come out this year. I don't care what others think. I am "old school." I have a good library that I have built up over almost 50 years, and I USE my books. While I was writing the Matthew commentary over the past four years, my desk stayed covered with the reference books that I was using. Computers are good, but there is nothing like the feel of a good book. Hope your trip to The Tulsa Workshop goes well, and that you have a safe one.

From a Reader in California:

Dear Brother Al, This particular passage (Prov. 22:6) has perplexed us for years, since, as younger parents, we tend to take it as some type of "iron clad guarantee" that if we bring up our children correctly, then they will never, ever turn from it. So when a child of godly parents comes along and shipwrecks his/her faith, then our obvious conclusion is that the parent did NOT, in fact, bring the child up correctly. That, of course, is stupid and illogical, but nevertheless I've heard this for years. Blessings to you at The Tulsa Workshop. I wish I could be there to meet you, as well as a number of my blog friends, and also to see Terry Rush again. He has stayed in our house a couple of times and we love him dearly.

From a Reader in Georgia:

Bro. Al, I just wanted to share a couple of thoughts about Proverbs 22:6. First, a proverb is a maxim or wise saying. Proverbs never are unequivocally true or false. As a wise saying, a proverb should be viewed as a principle that is true most of the time, but certainly not all of the time (even though it may appear in the pages of the Bible). Hence, Prov. 22:6 has plenty of "wiggle room" for those kids who go astray. I can speak to that point first hand: one son has gone astray, but he has two brothers who have not gone astray. Second, the Bible uses the term "proverb" several times precisely as the first point defines a proverb. Consider Ezekiel 16:44 -- "Like mother, like daughter." If biblical proverbs are always true, then EVERY mother and daughter would have to be alike! Obviously, and empirically, that is not true. There are several other biblical examples also. Therefore, the hypothesis that biblical proverbs are always true is simply false.

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