Tuesday, January 31, 2012


On January 13 of this year, the cruise ship Costa Condordia ran aground and wrecked off the coast of Italy near the island of Giglio. The details of what caused the wreck are still being sorted out, but strong evidence points to extreme carelessness on the part of the ship's captain, Francesco Schettino.  Over 3200 passengers and in excess of 1000 crew members were on board at the time of the disaster.  To date, fifteen persons have been confirmed dead and seventeen are still missing.  Captain Schittino is under house arrest, charged with manslaughter, abandoning ship, and causing a shipwreck.

Paul, the great missionary apostle, traveled extensively—including by sea—on behalf of the kingdom ofGod and in the proclamation of the gospel.  Paul suffered greatly for the Cause of Christ, and at times was led to recount some of his sufferings.  On one occasion he wrote: "three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have been in the deep . . . (II Corinthians 11:25).  In the following verse he mentioned experiencing "perils in the sea." One of the shipwrecks he experienced is recorded in Acts 27 where he and all the passengers and crew members survived the wreck and wound up stranded for three months on the Island of Malta in the Mediterranean  

The New Testament speaks of another kind of shipwreck—that of one's faith.  Paul urged the young preacher Timothy to hold to "faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have made shipwreck…." (I Timothy 1:19).  While a physical shipwreck can be disastrous where human life is concerned, such does not begin to compare with the tragedy of a shipwrecked faith.  But the pages of both biblical and post-biblical religious history are filled with countless instances of such spiritual shipwrecks.

A perceptive Christian scholar and professor has written: "Infidelity comes today under many cloaks—atheism, agnosticism, higher criticism, free speech, free thinking, evolution—but they are all infidelity.  Its advocates have been bold, but never more so than now.  Their onslaught has never been better organized nor more malignant and vicious.  Their manner of attack has never been more dangerous.  The infidel teachings are filling the pulpits, theological seminaries, magazines, newspapers, school books, school rooms, and college halls.  It is doing its deadly work in discrediting in the eyes of youth the statements of the word of God.  It is the more deceptive as it comes under the guise of education.  One noted evolutionist recently said: 'Give us the children, and we will change the thought of the world in one generation.' " 

What is amazing about the above is that it was written over eighty years ago by a devout man of God, Arvy Glenn Freed!  The only difference between Freed's day and our day is that the advocates of those matters that result in infidelity (the shipwreck of biblical faith and morals) are more vocal, more widespread, more sophisticated, and now infest almost every facet of society, including the omni-present entertainment and news media.

That great apostle who frequently suffered literal shipwrecks and who by the inspiration of God's Holy Spirit wrote almost half of the New Testament warned Christians with the following words: "Beware lest anyone take you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the traditions of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ" (Colossians 2:8).

The shipwreck of the Costa Condordia is a tragedy.  But it pales in comparison to the shipwreck of one's Christian faith and biblical convictions.

Hugh Fulford
January 31, 2012

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


It happened again just recently. My wife and I were inter-facing with a woman regarding a business matter.  Early in our conversation the lady asked what kind of work I did.  I suppose I should have felt flattered since I would think that most folks would assume that I am retired.  I responded, "I am a semi-retired minister." She immediately asked, "What denomination?" Given the setting we were in at the moment the best answer I could give was: "I am a member of the church of Christ."

It always bothers me to know that such an answer is extremely inadequate.  While she heard my words she really did not understand what I said.    When I said, "I am a member of the church of Christ," I had in mind the spiritual body of Christ.  But she heard me saying that I am a member of a denomination called the Church of Christ.   She said, "My grandfather was a member of the Church of Christ." (Here I wrote "church" as she intended it, with an upper case "C," as the proper name of a denomination;  not as I intended it, with a lower case "c," simply a descriptive of the spiritual body of Christ.  To the person who has studied the matter thoughtfully, there is a huge difference.)

I deeply regret that—given our religious climate today—it is virtually impossible to communicate to people a religious position that is undenominational. Not only do people not comprehend one's words, most of them will not sit still long enough to hear—really hear—a simple, biblical explanation for one's position as an undenominational Christian.  It is assumed by nearly everyone that if a person is a Christian, he/she must also be a member of some denomination.  It is virtually impossible to get people to think in terms of undenominational Christianity.

The New Testament reveals that "the disciples were first called Christians at Antioch" (Acts11:26).  What kind of Christians? No kind!  Just Christians!  Can one be just a Christian today?  If not, why not?  In Romans 16:16, the apostle Paul said, "The churches of Christ greet you."  Were those churches of Christ a denomination?  It is admitted by all that they were not.  Can we have undenominational churches of Christ today?  If not, why not?

Jesus said, "The seed is the word of God" (Luke 8:11).  In New Testament times, the word of God produced undenominational Christians and undenominational churches.  Seed always reproduce after their kind.   A peach tree always produces peaches—never pears, plums, or pomegranates.  If the word of God—unmixed with the religious doctrines and traditions that have arisen  this side of the New Testament—is "planted" today in the hearts of people, it will produce today exactly what it produced at the beginning of Christianity—undenominational Christians and undenominational churches of Christ.

It is to being simply a Christian and a member of the New Testament church that I am committed.  After all, if I am going to be religious, why should I not be just a Christian as were people in New Testament times?  If I am going to be a member of a church, why should I not be just a member of the undenominational church of which I can read in the New Testament?

When I tell you that I am a member of the church of Christ, please try to hear what I am saying—and what I am not saying.  After all, some effort is required of a hearer and/or reader to understand what a speaker and/or writer is saying. (Incidentally, what kind of preacher am I?  Just a preacher of the simple, beautiful, and life-changing gospel of Christ.) 

Hugh Fulford
January 24, 2012

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Can We Know Anything for Sure?

In 1962, Karl Barth (1886-1968), Swiss Reformed theologian, made his one and only visit to the United States.  During the course of his visit, some young American theologians asked him that of all the millions of words he had written and published how would he best summarize it all.  Reflecting for a moment, Barth replied simply: "Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so." Barth professed that he knew something, and that he knew it because the Bible said so!

Using Barth's basis for knowing that Jesus loved him ("because the Bible tells me so"), let me suggest that because the Bible tells me so, I knowthat . . .

* In the beginning there was God (Genesis 1:1; John 1:1-3).

* God has spoken, giving further evidence to the fact of His existence, since a non-entity does not speak (Hebrews 1:1-2).

* Without faith that God is and that He rewards those who diligently seek Him I cannot please Him (Hebrews 11:6). 

* Jesus Christ is the Son of God (Matthew 3:17; 17:5).

* God, because of His great love for mankind, gave Christ to the world as the atoning sacrifice for my sins and the sins of the world (John3:16; Romans 3:21-26; 5:8; I John 2:2).

* Christ is the only way to God and the sole source of salvation (John 14:6; Acts 4:11-12).

* Without faith in Christ I will die in my sins (John 8:24).

* Without repentance I will perish eternally in hell (Luke 13:3; Romans 2:5-10).

* Baptism is for (eis=unto) the remission of sins (Acts 2:3822:16).

* Baptism is immersion in water (Acts 8:38-39; Romans 6:3-4).

* Christ established His church, purchasing it with His blood (Matthew 16:18; Acts 20:28).

* The church is singular and consists of every saved, blood-washed soul (Ephesians 4:4; 1:22-23; 2:14-22; Acts 2:47).

* I must possess the mind of Christ, have the Spirit of Christ, evince the fruit of the Spirit, and make my calling and election sure (Philippians 2:5; Romans 8:9; Galatians 5:22-26; II Peter 1:5-11).

* There is a final day of reckoning for all humanity (Acts 17:30-31; II Corinthians 5:10; Hebrews 9:27).

* Heaven is real and eternal and the final abode of all the redeemed (John 14:1-3; II Corinthians 5:1-8).

* Hell also is real and eternal and the ultimate destiny of all who know not God and obey not the gospel of Christ (II Thessalonians 1:6-10).

There is much about God that I do not know (Romans 11:33), and there is much about His revelation to mankind in scripture that I continue to grapple with, study, and grow in my understanding, appreciation, and practice of.  But the above are some things that I do know and know that I know because the Bible tells me so!

Hugh Fulford
January 17, 2012

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Boys of Bama

Alabama – 21; LSU – 0!  With that the University of Alabama wins the national championship of college football for the second time in the last three years.  Auburn University won the title last year, meaning that the State of Alabama has produced the national champions of college football for the last three years in a row.  Additionally, the Heisman Trophy winner for two of the last three years has come from Alabamaand Auburn.  All in all, not too bad, not too bad at all!

I love college football!  I think it is the most exciting spectator sport in the world.  Over the years, I have attended a number of games in person.  I have now reached the age where I prefer to watch them from the comfort of my Lazy-Boy recliner, only a few steps from nice, clean, un-crowded restroom facilities, and "free" concessions! Last night's game was a great one – if you are an Alabama fan, as I am. I was not optimistic going into the game that "we" could win.  Both teams are strong on defense, and during the regular season LSU had prevailed 9–6 in a defensive struggle in which not a single touchdown was scored by either team.  I anticipated a similar contest last night.  And, as those who watched the game know, no touchdowns were scored in the first half.  But Alabama wound up dominating the game offensively and defensively, kicking five field goals and scoring one touchdown to produce the final score.

Football was not known in Bible times, but athletic events were held. The Olympics are of ancient origin. The apostle Paul often alluded to such.  "Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize?  Run in such a way that you may obtain it.  And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things [that is, they undergo rigorous training and exercise great self-discipline, hf]. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we [Christians] an imperishable [crown of everlasting life, hf]" (I Corinthians 9:24-25). The writer of the book of Hebrews urged Christians to "lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us" (Hebrews 12:1).  As Paul neared the end of his life he confidently affirmed, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith" (II Timothy 4:7). Given his penchant for athletic metaphors, I have no doubt that if the apostle Paul lived today he would be a fan of college football and likely would root for an SECteam—probably either Alabama orTennessee!  J

But football is not life (though, obviously, for the professional players it is their livelihood).  It is a past-time.  It is a game.  I know people who seemingly do not understand this.  They live and breathe football (or sports in general).  As diversion, sports are fine.  As an all-consuming passion, they are a terrible misplacement of priorities.  Jesus said, "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness" (Matthew 6:33). There are those who spend large sums of money following their favorite college and professional teams and have little interest in or concern for things of a spiritual nature.  How sad!

The Christian life is not a sprint; it is not to be lived in "fits and spurts." The Christian "race" is a marathon.  It begins with conversion to Christ, consummated by being buried with Christ in baptism and raised to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4).  From the time of one's baptism until the time of one's death commitment to Christ is required.  "Be faithful unto death," said Christ, "and I will give you the crown of life" (Revelation 2:10).

To be national college football champions is a marvelous achievement.  All Alabama fans can (and should!) relish the moment. But it all fades, and next year a brand new season will start all over again.  However, nothing compares with "the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him" (James 1:12), and who demonstrate that love by living for Him (John 14:15).

Hugh Fulford
January 10, 2012

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


My friend and fellow preacher of the gospel, Lance Cordle, who has served the Lord's church in Calvert City, Kentucky for more than twenty years, recently set forth the following salient and succinct thoughts in an article titled "As You Begin Again, Remember . . . " With appreciation for his words of wisdom, I commend them to us all for thoughtful contemplation as we begin 2012.  

* God is faithful.

* The longest or the shortest journey begins with one step—the first one.

* It is important to learn the secret of contentment.

* Simplicity in life and lifestyle is desirable and attainable.

* Life is an adventure.

* Friends can help bear the burdens and share the joy.

* A need for change did not take place overnight.

* Long-lasting change will not be achieved overnight.

* Relapses are not uncommon.

* Tomorrow is another day.

* Many small battles won can bring about victory.

* Lost battles can teach important lessons.

* Discipline is not a four-letter word.
* The joy that comes with achievement is sweet indeed.

* Time spent in reflection and goal-setting is time well spent.

* You will not regret any good deed.

* Continued learning will promote healthy self-esteem.

* Reading good books will enrich your soul.

* Endurance can only be cultivated in the long run.

* A life well lived may contain regrets, but eventually they won't matter.

* Helping others is actually a way to help yourself.

* Regular Bible study can build you up and encourage you.

* Prayer is your communication-line with God.

* The blood of Christ still cleanses a Christian.

* Failure is not fatal . . . until it is final.

* God is good.

Hugh Fulford
January 3, 2012