Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A SUMMER IN PADUCAH,KENTUCKY


In the summer of 1957, I served as the interim minister of the Clements Street Church of Christ in Paducah, Kentucky while the church's regular minister, Frank Gould, conducted his summer meetings and perhaps took a little vacation.  For several years, the Clements Street church had had an arrangement of using a young preacher from Freed-Hardeman College in this capacity.  The summer I preached there I was nineteen years old, between my second and third years at Freed-Hardeman, with plans to be married at the end of the summer.  

What a tremendous experience that summer proved to be!  I preached every Sunday morning and evening, taught the Sunday morning and Wednesday evening auditorium adult Bible class, and conducted a Monday through Friday fifteen minute live radio program on WPAD.  Ray Mofield, a preacher of the gospel and later Professor of Radio and Television at the University of Southern Illinois, and still later at Murray State University in Kentucky, was the manager of the station and, as I recall, the announcer for the program.  The program was near the noon hour.  I would drive downtown, park my car at Clarence LaNeve's Gulf Service Station, and walk to the radio station and do the program. Clarence was the song leader at the Clements Street church.  I also produced a weekly church bulletin and visited the hospitals on a regular basis.  I wrote Jan every day and looked forward to receiving her daily letter. 

I made many friends that summer in Paducah.  Among these were Ed and Thelma Steger.  (Recently, I shared with my readers a story from Ed about "The Burnt Biscuit.")  Ed serves as an elder at the Central Church of Christ in Paducah His and Thelma's son, Randy (who was three or four years old the summer I preached in Paducah), later established "Healing Hands International," a humanitarian relief organization headquartered in Nashville.  Other friendships developed that summer included James Swinney, Solon Williams, Clifford Thomason, Farley Freeman, John Baker, Roy Jackson, Rudy Jackson,  their wives, and many others whose names have now faded from a memory affected by the passing of well over fifty years.  Most of these have now passed over to life's other side.   

My living arrangements inPaducah that summer were somewhat unusual in that I lived in the men's dressing room next to the baptistery in the church building.  The Stegers' oldest son—Rhodes—was about eight years old at the time, and he asked his mother and daddy if I took my baths in the baptistery!  Well, of course, I did not, but it was a curiosity to a kid as to where I did bathe.  The fact is that every afternoon I had a standing invitation with various ones of the four elders and other members to come by their home and use their bathroom to take a bath.  When you are young, trying to save some money for continuing your college work, and planning to be married, you find innovative ways to reduce expenses!  In fact, the living arrangement had been suggested by Robert Waller, Sr., one of the elders, with the hearty approval of the other elders and with the full knowledge and approval of the congregation.  

During that summer in Paducah I had the opportunity to hear some very fine preachers as they conducted gospel meetings in the numerous congregations scattered throughout Western Kentucky—such men as H. A. Dixon, H. A. Fincher, Paul James Waller, Jewell Norman, and Frank Gould.  All of these men became a great source of encouragement to me.  Brother Dixon was the president of Freed-Hardeman College, and I had already studied for two years under him in HendersonTennessee.  H. A. Fincher was the son-in-law of one of the Clements Street elders; Paul James Waller was the son of another elder. Fincher and I developed a friendship that extended for several years.  Paul James Waller was an outstanding preacher who left us all too soon, dying of a heart attack when he was less than forty years old.

As a result of that one's summer's work in Paducah, I became acquainted with a number of the churches in that part of the state and have maintained a relationship with many of them.  I have conducted numerous gospel meetings and spoken on various other occasions at several of the congregations.  As I wrote a few years ago in my autobiography, "The Lord Has Been Mindful Of Me."  His gracious hand of providence has been evident in so many of the things that have unfolded, and continue to unfold, in my life.  PaducahKentucky was a part of that providential plan and it will always have a place in my heart.

Hugh Fulford
March 27, 2012

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

THE BURNT BISCUIT


Long-time friend Ed Steger ofPaducahKentucky shared the following piece with me.  I think all of our readers will find it a touching and inspirational story. Ed does not claim it as an original but does not know its author.  Next week, D.V., I plan to write about a summer I spent many years ago preaching in Paducah and how I came to know Ed, his family, and so many other fine Christians.  For now, I hope you will "hear" the message in the story Ed shared with me.   

When I was a kid my mom liked to make breakfast food for dinner every now and then. And I remember one night in particular when she had made breakfast after a long, hard day at work. On that evening so long ago, my mom placed a plate of eggs, sausage and extremely burned biscuits in front of my dad. I remember waiting to see if anyone noticed. Yet all my dad did was reach for his biscuit, smile at my mom, and ask me how my day was at school. I don't remember what I told him that night, but I do remember watching him smear butter and jelly on that ugly burnt biscuit. He ate every bite of that thing...never made a face nor uttered a word about it!
When I got up from the table that evening, I remember hearing my mom apologize to my dad for burning the biscuits. And I'll never forget what he said: "Honey, I love burned biscuits every now and then." Later that night, I went to kiss Daddy good night and I asked him if he really liked his biscuits burned. He wrapped me in his arms and said, "Your momma put in a hard day at work today and she's real tired. And besides – a little burnt biscuit never hurt anyone!"

As I've grown older, I've thought about that many times. Life is full of imperfect things and imperfect people. I'm not the best at hardly anything and I forget birthdays and anniversaries just like everyone else. But what I've learned over the years is that learning to accept each other's faults and choosing to celebrate each other's differences is one of the most important keys to creating a healthy, growing, and lasting relationship.

And that's my prayer for you today...that you will learn to take the good, the bad, and the ugly parts of your life and lay them at the feet of God. Because in the end, He's the only One who will be able to give you a relationship where a burnt biscuit isn't a deal-breaker!

We could extend this to any relationship. In fact, understanding is the base of any relationship, be it a husband-wife or parent-child or friendship! Don't put the key to your happiness in someone else's pocket—keep it in your own.

So, please pass me a biscuit, and yes, the burnt one will do just fine. And please feel free to pass this along to someone who has enriched your life.  Be kinder than necessary because everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.

Hugh Fulford
March 20, 2012

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

SECOND COMING DATE-SETTER APOLOGIZES

 
According to an AP story by Garance Burke bearing a San Francisco dateline and appearing in the March 10, 2012 edition of The (Nashville) Tennessean, Harold Camping has conceded that he was wrong when he set the date for the second coming of Christ to take place last May 21 (and subsequently revised to occur five months later).

Hooray for Mr. Camping!  Less than a year ago Camping's followers were "absolutely sure that Camping's predictions [were] right." They were confidently claiming "It is a certainty" . . . "It's a matter of simple math."  But, of course, it turned out to be another rapture rupture and end-time date "bust."  After spending millions of dollars to publicize his message and to play on the gullibility of his na├»ve followers (many of whom quit their jobs or sold their businesses), Camping has acknowledged that his apocalyptic prophecy was wrong.  In a letter to his followers he now says he has "no evidence the world will end anytime soon, and he isn't interested in considering further dates."  "God has humbled us through the events of May 21," he wrote.  He went on to openly acknowledge that "we have no new evidence pointing to another date for the end of the world." 

He is but one of many self-proclaimed students of prophecy who have "figured it out," only to be proved time after time after time to not know what they are talking about.  To his credit, Mr. Camping has informed his followers that he has "stopped looking for new dates, and [will] concentrate on deepening his faith through rereading the Scriptures." Good for him!  Hopefully others of his ilk will follow suit.  There is so much in the Scriptures that we all need to read, study, and know (and can know): God's eternal purpose to save man through Christ; the wondrous and gradual unfolding of that  scheme of redemption through the ages of the Old Testament; the fruition of that great purpose in the birth, earthly life, ministry, atoning death, burial, and resurrection of Christ;  the thrilling story of the proclamation of the gospel and the obedient response one is to make to that gospel as set forth in the New Testament; the establishment of the church as the community of Christ's blood-redeemed disciples; and the life one is to live in the church in humble and dedicated service to God.  All of these (and more) need to capture our attention as we read, study and reflect on God's wonderful revelation to us in Scripture.

For one to become fixated on and consumed with looking for hidden "keys" that supposedly provide information on the exact time of Christ's second coming is to rob oneself of the abundant life that Christ came to give (John 10:10).  There are so many rich, wide vistas of knowledge, understanding, and appreciation to be derived from a full and thorough investigation of God's revelation to us through the Scriptures.  What a shame to deprive oneself of these by becoming totally obsessed with something that God has not revealed!  

In His Olivet discourse to His disciples (Matthew 24; Mark 13; Luke 21), Jesus plainly stated with reference to His second coming: "But of that day and hour no one knows, no, not even the angels in heaven, but my Father only" (Matthew 24:36).  To make it clear which day He was talking about, Jesus went on to say: "Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming" (verse 42).  Still a moment later, He admonished: "Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect Him" (verse 44).  Continuing into Matthew's next chapter, in the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins, Jesus exhorted: "Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming (25:13).  Question: If Christ had wanted to stress that the day and the hour of His second coming are not known by anyone other than the Father in heaven, what more could He have said than He did say in the above passages?

One's study of the Bible will be much more profitably spent on the things that have been revealed, rather than looking for "signs" and weaving speculative theories concerning the time of an event that God has chosen to retain within the counsels of His own mind.   

Hugh Fulford
March 13, 2012

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Vanishing of Heresy


(Note: Due to a speaking engagement in Knoxville, Tennessee this past Sunday, followed by a couple of days in the Great Smoky Mountains for a little "R & R," this edition of "News & Views" is coming to you a day later than usual.  It is an especially significant edition.) 

THE VANISHING OF HERESY

Several months ago I read Phil Sanders' book, A Faith Built on Sand: The Foolishness of Popular Religion in a Postmodern World.  This is a sequel to Phil's 2000 book, Adrift: Postmodernism in the Church.  Both are deserving of a serious read by all who would be aware of what is taking place in the contemporary world of Christendom.

Chapter 8 is titled "The Vanishing of Heresy."  Phil begins the chapter with a 1987 quote from J. I. Packer: "The  net result of all these impulses to pluralism is that...there are just about as many theologies as there are theologians to devise them; the concept of heresy has almost lost its meaning; and loyalty to the institutional church has for the most part taken the place of loyalty to the faith once for all delivered to the saints, for no one is quite sure any more what the essence of that faith really is" (p. 89).

Packer's (and Phil's) point is that—speaking facetiously—heresy is now a thing of the past.  It does not exist today!  The only "heresy" that exists in our postmodern world is the assertion that something is heresy!  Every cockeyed notion, theory, doctrine, practice, and belief is to be uncritically accepted.  No one is to be told that theyare wrong.  Interestingly, however, one postmodernist recently told me, "The Bible is wrong about many things!"

Later in the chapter Phil observes: "The preaching in churches of Christ has changed in the last generation.  Over time the church has become afraid to say much of anything with conviction.  Preachers preach much love but little truth, much grace but little repentance, much salvation but little obedience, and much on relationships but little on relating responsibly to God Himself.  Some speak much on believing and confuse their listeners by speaking little on what to believe" (p. 100).

The notion exists in many quarters that preachers ought not to emphasize doctrine "because doctrine only divides."  The idea is that we should "preach only Christ."  But to preach Christ is to preach "doctrine." It is "doctrine" to affirm that Christ alone is "the way, the truth, and the life," and that no one comes to the Father except through Him! (John 14:6).   But there are multiplied millions who do not believe that Christ is the only way to God. Therefore, Christ Himself is divisive.  He said, "Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth.  I came not to bring peace but a sword" (Matthew10:34).

What does it mean to preach Christ?  Can we preach Christ without preaching what He taught? Can we preach Christ without preaching the doctrine of Christ?  Philip the evangelist preached Christ to the Ethiopian eunuch and the eunuch asked to be baptized (Acts 8:35-39).  How did the eunuch know that he needed to be baptized unless in preaching Christ to him Philip had told him what Christ said one must do to be saved?  Jesus said: "He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned" (Mark 16:16).

The apostle Paul did not subscribe to the idea that doctrine is not important or that there was no such thing as heresy.  He named "heresies" as one of the works of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-22).  He further warned that "the time will come when they [the professed people of God, hf] will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn away their ears from the truth, and be turned aside to fables" (II Timothy 4:3-4).  In this respect, the ones of whom Paul spoke were like the wayward people of God in the Old Testament who said, "Do not prophesy to us right things; speak to us smooth things…" (Isaiah 30:10).  Translation: Don't tell us what we need to hear; tell us what we want to hear. Don't rebuke us for our sins; rather, show us how we can continue in our sins and still be good church members.  Show us how we can be religious without having to be righteous!  Make us feel good about ourselves!  Such are the times in which we live.    

Hugh Fulford
March 7, 2012