Hugh’s News & Views (Thoughts, Insights…)

THOUGHTS, INSIGHTS, AND A LITTLE “HUGH-MOR”

Mr. Robert Harper, a kind and courteous African-American gentleman, has picked up our household trash every week for over 20 years. When we moved to our present home my wife was here by herself for a few weeks unpacking dishes and other household items while I finished my work with the church in Selma, AL. She put many empty boxes in the garage and on our driveway, not knowing exactly how she would later dispose of them. Mr. Harper came by, introduced himself to her, told her of his services, broke down and hauled off all the moving boxes, and began his regular weekly pickup of our trash. He has a phenomenal work ethic. He never misses picking up our trash like clockwork every Monday. Martin Luther King Day, Presidents Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day—it makes no difference—Mr. Harper and his crew can be counted on! I think the only holidays he takes off are Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. The only time our trash is not picked up on Monday is when Christmas or New Year’s Day falls on that day of the week. Then he gets it the following day. Although he is a few years younger than I, I have never addressed him other than as “Mr. Harper.” In 20 years he has issued only one price increase for his services. A few years ago, when gas prices took a big jump, Mr. Harper increased his extremely reasonable monthly charge by 10%, which was only a nominal amount, Only a 10% price increase in 20 years! In a day when prices continue to go up and service and efficiency continue to go down, Mr. Robert Harper is a sterling example of faithfulness, consistency, being on time, efficiency, and fairness in the pricing of his services. Many other independent contractors and small business owners could learn much from his example. I try to reward Mr. Harper with a little bonus at Christmas, but I eschew tipping (and thereby enabling) inefficiency and nonsensical policies that some businesses seem to delight in adopting, all to the consternation and frustration of their customers. It is for that reason that I do not take my business back to them when I have other options, but I stay with people like Mr. Robert Harper.

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“Preaching has largely fallen upon hard times. Our identity as God’s people should be evident through our lessons, preaching, and teaching programs. How to be saved and the uniqueness of our plea and identity are often absent in a worship service. People go away thinking we are just like the Lutherans or Baptists down the street when they hear a lesson that could be easily preached in their pulpit or anywhere with no distinctiveness” (Steve Miller, faithful gospel preacher of Fort Mill, SC, from his “Trending Topics” column of September 8, 2020).

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A longtime friend recently said to me in an email: “It is disturbing what many elders and preachers seem to believe.” Indeed it is!

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Not long ago, my son, Brett, who serves as an elder of the church in Mentor, OH, sent me the following. It speaks eloquently of the everyday application of some aspects of Christianity. “As the world fights to figure everything out, I’ll be holding doors for strangers, letting people cut in front of me in traffic, saying good morning, keeping babies entertained in grocery lines, stopping to talk to someone who is lonely, being patient with sales clerks, smiling at a passerby. WHY? Because I will not stand idly by and live in a world where love is invisible. Join me in showing kindness, understanding, and judging less. Be kind to a stranger, give grace to friends who are having a bad day, Be forgiving of yourself – today and every day. BE the change. BE the light. Start today and never stop.”

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It is shocking to observe how people seem to want to justify their actions and not condemn either themselves or their loved ones who are living contrary to the word of God. They think nothing of “adjusting” the word of God to defend either their beliefs and/or their lifestyle: sprinkling instead of immersion, salvation from sin before and without baptism for the remission of sin, being a member of a denominational church or a community church instead of the Lord’s church, instrumental music in the worship of the church, homosexuality, marriage, divorce, and remarriage for just any reason, everlasting punishment in hell, as well as a host of other things. When the plain, straightforward word of God condemns something a person wants to believe or do or when it conflicts with their own “think-so’s,” it is becoming increasingly common to say, “We have wrongly interpreted that passage in the past and have misunderstood it. It does not mean what we thought it meant.” Others are adopting entirely new ways of reading and interpreting the Scriptures, buying into the false notion that the New Testament is a record of how they “did church” in the first century, but it is not a pattern of how we are to “do church” today.

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I sometimes hear it said of people who are not faithful members of the Lord’s church, “But he/she has a good heart.” A good heart is important and necessary, but so is obedience to the word of God—without addition, subtraction, modification, or substitution. Uzzah learned that vital lesson the hard way (II Samuel 6:1-8, cf. Exodus 25:12-14; I Chronicles 15:2-15). (See also Romans 15:4; Deuteronomy 4:2; Proverbs 30:6; Revelation 22:18-19; Matthew 7:21-23; Hebrews 5:8-9; II John 9). There are many today who could learn from Uzzah.

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When my best friend Wayne Emmons and I were in high school at Mars Hill Bible School in Florence, AL, we sometimes would drive around at night in either his dad’s car or my dad’s car. Wayne’s dad had a big Chrysler New Yorker that was a gas guzzler. One night we were running low on gas and drove into a service station and ordered .50 (yes, that is 50 cents!) worth of gasoline. Those were the days of cheap gasoline (.25-.30 a gallon) and of full-service stations. An attendant would pump the gas, check the oil and water levels in your engine and radiator, whisk out the front floor boards, etc. When we told the attendant we wanted .50 of gas, his response was: “Humph, you boys ain’t going fuh, is you?” He, Wayne, and I all had a good laugh, but he pumped in .50 worth of gas.

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Ken Samuel was a fellow student at Freed-Hardeman College. He and I, as well as Wayne Emmons (above) and Kent Hall, sang in the college quartet one year. Ken was a prince of a guy, a country boy from Rogersville, MO near Springfield. He told the story of a lady driving into a full-service gas station and asking the attendant if they had a restroom. The attendant misunderstood her and thought she asked if he had a whisk broom. He responded, “No, m’am, but if you will swing your legs outside the door I will blow it out with the air hose!” Ken said there were two intensely red faces when the question was clarified!

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Read your Bible, reflect on what it says, study it, handle it aright (II Timothy 2:15), and determine to do what it says without making excuses for or trying to justify the lifestyle and religious beliefs and practices of either yourself or your loved ones. And laugh a little! No, laugh a lot! “A merry heart does good, like medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones” (Proverbs 17:22).

Hugh Fulford, September 22, 2020

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