Is the Bible True or False?

RMlogo Is the Bible True or False_

After I read the “plan of salvation” in the back of one of those eschatology books, my soul experienced mounting tension. Honestly, it boiled down to only one question that I had to answer. And I intuitively knew that my response to that query would set the course for the rest of my life. So, what would it be? How would I answer? Here is the question.

Is the Bible true or false?

That was it. Pretty simple, aye? The question is a watershed question for anyone: how you answer it will send you in a clearly defined direction. And I knew that my response could be a global paradigm shift for my future.

The reason this question came into view was after I had read that troubling verse in Revelation 20:15. That one sentence tucked in the back of the Bible took things to a whole, new level, and I could not dismiss it.

And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

What’s It Going to Be?

The Bible stated that I would go to Hell if I could not find my name in the book of life. Umm…so what is this book of life, I asked. Answer: “I don’t know.” But Hell? Oh, yeah, I know all about that. My daddy and brothers often requested that I go there.

But this time, it was not about my family’s hyperbolic anger. God was asking me the ultimate question, which I had pared down to, “Is the Bible true or false?” I intuitively knew that it was less about Hell and more about the integrity of the Bible.

To say, the Bible is false meant that I could go on my merry way and enjoy life. Who cares?

And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry” (Luke 12:19).

But if I say that the Bible is true, everything in my life would have to change. So, I went into my muse chamber and began to reason things out. I had to know the truth.

You’re Not Okay, Neither Am I

My culture tells me how great I am. The PMA (Positive Mental Attitude) spinners implore me to have healthy self-esteem because I am somebody. Their positive affirmations about my goodness bombard me every day. All I need to do is think happy thoughts. Even the Christians clichéd me with, “God don’t make no junk.”

But, then, I started reading my Bible, and it had another story. It said that I’m a dirt-bag, a sick sinner, going to Hell, have no hope and the end of my life could not be bleaker. Shoot, even the good stuff that I do is filthy (Isaiah 64:6).

The happy people in our world, a lot of whom are on medication, were selling a message that could not be more contrary to the words of the Bible. (Cf. Romans 3:10-12, 23, 6:23) What was I going to do?

The End of the Matter

I concluded that humans didn’t write the Bible. Someone else had to write it. Up to that point, I had spent my teenage years and early twenties reading PMA books, and all of them told me that I’m a fantastic person. Truthfully, I stunk, and I knew it. They were trying to put lipstick on this pig.

There is no question that a person’s view of themselves is elevated. We are in love with ourselves. We are self-exalting. There is no way a human would write a book that says we’re not like what every intelligent, self-esteem groping human in the world believes.

Someone else had to write the Bible. Its view of humanity is deplorable. And it went on to say that we can’t save ourselves no matter how highly we think of ourselves (Romans 10:9, 13). My conclusion led to more questions. One specifically: Who, then, did write the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16-17)?

It was at that point when I made my decision. God wrote the Bible, and I was going to Hell because my name was not in the book of life.

My path was now set.

The year was 1984.

Threatening Hell to Get Me to Heaven

RMlogo Threatening Hell to Get Me to Heaven

After my lunch break, where I told my friends that I did not believe Bible, I went to my machine to finish my day. I was standing at the end of my lathe when my boss, Ricky Price, approached and asked if I believed what I said at the lunch table. I told him that I did, to which he said, “You’re going to hell.”

He was not over the top about it, or angry or pushy. He had a matter of fact communication style, which I appreciated because he was clear and there was nothing to read “between the lines.” Interestingly, I did not audibly respond to him about his “evangelistic approach,” but I do remember thinking to myself,

No, I’m not going to hell, and I’m going to prove you wrong.

Disagreeing with Ricky did not imply that I had any authoritative information to defend my position. I was defenseless because I was ignorant about God’s Word. But what he said did motivate me to prove him wrong. Of course, there was a problem; I did not enjoy the Bible because it made no sense to me. I had a Sunday school Bible from my previous First Baptist Church experience, and I tried reading it. It was a futile attempt.

Can you say, “boring?”

Remembering that there was a Christian bookstore in my town, I went there to get some books about the Bible. I purchased, Satan Is Alive and Well On Planet Earth, The Rapture, Approaching Hoofbeats, and The Late Great Planet Earth. I did not buy these books because of their theological integrity. They all had cool covers, i.e., fire, satan, hell.

Sometimes being cool is better than being theological. – Rick Thomas

All these books dealt with Eschatology, though I would not recommend or agree with their theology today. I did not know about “end time theology” back then because I’d never heard of Eschatology. Later, I appreciated the Lord’s irony, as He led me to read books on heaven, hell, and end times, the very thing I was going to disprove.

In the back of all those books was a plan for salvation. They stated in their own way that I needed to believe in God, trust Christ, and follow Him…something like that. They were saying what Ricky said in his blunt style:

If you are not a Christian, you are going to hell.

There was more detail than that, but the bottomline about my eternal destiny was all that mattered to me at the time. I remember laying on my double-bed in my double-wide mobile home on Helms Pond Road asking God in imprecise language to save me.

I acknowledged my sinfulness. I wanted Christ to make me new. I believed what those authors were saying about God, life, death, and eternity. I believed that Ricky was right. That was the day–sometime in October of 1984–that God regenerated me.

Do not marvel that I said to you, “You must be born again.” – Jesus (John 3:7)

Ricky and the Radio Station

Early on at the Blackberry Valley Road trailer, circa 1992, I called the phone company and asked them for a new phone number. I wanted an easy number to remember and asked them if they could give me one. I don’t remember the cost, but there was one. I think they said it would cost $25 to pick a number. I couldn’t afford that so I asked them to give me what they could. They gave me 246-0100. That was cool; I was stoked!

They told me that I had be there when they hooked the phone up. I told them I couldn’t do that because I had to be at work and couldn’t get off. I was disappointed. I had no friends, no visitors, no cards, no calls and this was the day before email and Facebook. I was a lonely man who had no one to talk to and for all I knew the world didn’t know I existed. (Read: self-pity)

Fortunately they came up with an alternative plan when they found out I had an answering machine and phone that was unused. They said I could set the answering machine up and turn it on and all they had to do was hook the service up and call the phone I hooked up. This worked and I was glad. They told me the day they would come. Done, cool.

A few days later they came out and hooked me up and when I got home I checked the answering machine and was stunned. I had 18 calls on it. No way! “This was impossible” was my first thought. Bu then I thought, “The world knows I exist!” I began playing the messages back and came to find out the number they gave me was the old number for WSSL Radio Station. I got their old number! What a hoot.

People were calling me from all over the Upstate asking me all kinds of things. They would call early in the morning, during the day, at night and well into the morning. I was having a blast! Okay, I was bored out of my head. This was my new fun. I started answering the phone saying WSL and not WSSL because that was the radio station’s call letters and I didn’t want to get in trouble. There was a little bit of integrity, just a little.

The people would ask me for requests of songs I never heard of, e.g. “Another Tear in Your Beer.” They would call and ask for the weather report or sometimes just to talk. One time a lady called and asked if the Bristol race was going to be a go for the weekend because it looked like rain. I said it was on. She went. Come to find out it rained the race out that weekend. Oops. I also began a contest line for folks to compete for prizes. I’d ask dumb questions like “what color is your refrigerator.” That was hilarious I thought.

Eventually WSSL called me and asked to stop doing this because they were getting complaints. I told them I wasn’t affiliated with them and I could do what I wanted. Okay, I had a bad attitude. They threatened me, but I continued for awhile until it got real old. One “tipsy” lady called around 2AM and I talked to her for two hours and “led her to Christ” whatever that means. It was a bit surreal.

This was an unusual time for me. After awhile it got quite annoying, but for a season it filled in some very large sadness in my life.

First Year in Greenville

The first year went rather smoothly considering all the changes. We moved across state lines. We lived in an apartment initially and then moved into a larger home. We enrolled the kids into school and/or day care. We both got new jobs. I began going to college at night full-time. We begin working with a guy named Richard Blanchett in a nursing home ministry. It was his last year. We took it over the next year. We met a lot of folks our age. These were our classmates.

Al Helms from Monroe, NC; Randy Smith from Farmville, NC; Eddie Robertson from Hattiesburg, MS; Ken Smith from Thomasville, GA (I think); Bill South; Shannon Harrell; Darrell Wilkins; Rex Wright; Terry Williams; Glenn Jones; Christopher Emory; Bobby VanGiller and many, many more. It was a good group. We had fun. We had a blast. We were young, dumb, zealous and full of love for the Savior. We were fulfilling the call that God had placed on our lives. (I would say it another way today, but that is the way we looked at things back then.) We were living the good times.

At Tabernacle Baptist Bible College there were about 65 of us who enrolled that first semester. There may have been 25 or so who graduated four years later. Some left with a three year degree. Others fell out and went back home or just hung around Greenville. We could never have imagined how our lives were going to change. Rex committed suicide some years later. Jess Rivas died around 40 of some disease. Eddie left the ministry bitter and has floundered in his own way ever since. He, too, was divorced. Terry never gained traction in much any way and is still single and living somewhere in G’ville today. We divorced after my fourth year, separated at the end of our second year. It was hard times. That first year, however, was the best for all of us. We had a blast.

Work went well. The “mom and pop” that hired me sold the business to Alcoa Corporation the first summer and I became an employee with Alcoa Recycling Company after about two months. I heard a rumor of this from the guy I replaced, a fourth year student. They came in and I got a raise and benefits, both of which he did not have. The workload was about the same, though it did increase over the years.

Penny got a job with Liberty Life Insurance Company and has stayed there for 20 years now. She is probably doing okay. She is on her third marriage and may have settled in from her young and restless days. The smoke has cleared and I’m really amazed at what God has done these 20 years. There is no way I could have predicted this. It is way too odd for my simple imagination.

Uprooted

We were off to Greenville to prepare for the ministry. I was excited, but there was more fear. I had prayed a month earlier about a fear of losing my family and not being able to provide for them, but the compelling to go was strong and it seemed like the thing to do and Penny was in favor of doing it. So off to Greenville, South Carolina we went. I moved down in May by myself and began my 5-year Alcoa Recycling Company career, lived in an apartment and Penny came down in July with the kids and we then moved into this very nice house and our life was set. I was in school, working at Alcoa, she found a job with Liberty Life and that was that.

The early days were fun and satisfying and very new to us. We were kids out of our element. Penny’s parents resented the fact that I took their daughter away. They resented it so much that when she left me two years later they came down to her help her move out of our house. They were part of the secret plan to move her out. Even to write these things today sends fear through my body. It was beyond any kind of pain that I had ever experienced. Nevertheless, they were resentful. They thought she was going to move back to NC. She didn’t and never did.

So there we were at #5 Lula Lane in Greenville, SC and my school year had begun. I was fulfilling a dream that I thought would never come to pass. I was going to college. This was an unbelievable experience. I remember sitting in my first year English class and the teacher Richard Hughes began to talk about verbs and asked us what they were. I had no clue. I don’t think I had ever heard of a verb. I was so lost. He said they were action words. This was so foreign to me. It was there when I realized I’d goobered up so many years ago by not taking school seriously. What is a verb? Oh my soul. I’ll never make it through this. I not only did not know what a verb was, but I don’t think I had ever heard the word Valedictorian. And it certainly never crossed my mind that I would be the class Valedictorian four years later. I was, but I’ll save that story for another time.

Our kids stayed at the Tabernacle Day Care and eventually went to Tabernacle school, at least Meredith did. Matthew was too young at that time. Meredith went to K-5 and First Grade before they left home. Matthew was a year away from entering into K-5. We had a fenced in back yard and I played with them often. We climbed trees and hid in the Magnolias. We put a kiddie pool out there and played in it. I pushed them on their tricycles and we threw the ball. It was all I hoped for. We were living the dream.

Ascending

Being the forever obsessive one who was very frustrated because he couldn’t find his niche I fell into many things that seemed at the time to be my ticket out of poverty, anger and frustration and to fulfill the “prophesy” that I was going to be “successful”. I was introduced to Amway, which may have been through an advertisement. I went to Gene Lewis’ houses to see what this business opportunity was all about. We sat in his kitchen as he gave me the plan. I had never heard of it before. I bought the inventory and set-up my own business. I don’t remember if I did that on the night I heard the plan or shortly thereafter. It sounded good. It sounded doable.

We attended weekly meetings and I bought and was given a lot of PMA (positive mental attitude) tapes. These tapes were so awesome. They inspired me as well as the meetings. (They were God-less.) I think he took his down line to Florida for a conference. I can’t remember exactly where it was. I do remember the bus trip however and a bit of the conference. It was a “pump you up kind of thing” and I was pumped. On the way back we had a testimony time in the bus. I got on the mic that was set-up and began to talk. Folks were laughing and really enjoying the little speech. Gene’s wife said she knew something good was going to happen to me and had an idea of what it was, but she would never tell me. I asked her few times, but she would not tell. I think it had something to do with my oration that day, I’m sure of it.

We began attending church at this Southern Baptist church in Monroe. It is where most of the Amway guys went from Gene’s group. Gene was a deacon I think. It seemed to be a good idea. Almost everyone in the Sunday school class were distributors. I remember one time when some visitors came in and we were seeing who would get them to show the plan. I’m sure these guys talked about God and maybe were even believers, but I was not. It was just another context to fulfill my dreams. This was not amazing to me.

We eventually stopped doing Amway. We made no money, bought a lot of product and ran ourselves into nothing real quick. Sometime later I heard of Forever Living Products. It was the same as Amway, but with Aloe Vera products, which had a health twist to what they did. I began drinking Aloe juice. It was horrible, but I reasoned that was a good thing. I was somewhat successful with this program. We moved to the top real quick, made some cash, but not much. I held my own meetings at a YMCA somewhere. I recruited a black lady named Katie Williams. She was fat and poor. See did well in her community and that was good for me. I think her husband grew some hair or something by using the product. She was very good. For some reason we gave up on that as well. We became managers, but seemed like we could do no better.

Beginning of the End

I didn’t know it but my Delaval years were coming to a close. I was doing well, making a lot of money for that time. I was at $10 per hour. It was good. Penny was working in the office and making the same. We were taking it in. We had more than we needed. The 3.42 acres was paid off. The single-wide was paid off. We bought a double-wide and had it nearly paid off. We owed two more years on it. I built a 24 x 24 concrete floor out-building on the back of the property. We both had new cars. I had a van at the time, a cargo van.

I bought two window air conditioning units for the double-wide and was about to go with a heat pump. I had a 116 John Deere riding lawn mower and a full-blooded Siberian Husky. We were on top of the world so to speak. A year before I quit Delaval I got saved and I found my new niche, but didn’t know it at the time. I had no clue that in 18 months I would be living in another town, another state, going to college, walking away from everything that I knew and all the people I knew. I would lose my property, vehicles, double-wide, out-building, tools and everything else that I knew including my family. Today I do not think I own one thing from those years. I’d have to look around the house and see, but I don’t think there is any vestige of anything left.

God transformed me. I was changing by the week. I had an insatiable appetite for the word of God. I read it constantly. I read everything I could get my hands on. I was changing so fast that I didn’t even recognize it. At times I would look up and take assessment and realize I had changed. But for the most part it was not noticeable because I was so busy to do inventory.

It was as though the thing I had been looking for since the 12-year old kid sitting on the bank of Lake Twitty was being fulfilled. It was amazing for me. I had found the secret, the key that unlocked the door. The mystery was unraveled and my course was set. I had no idea how much it would cost me to make these decisions. I’ve often said that if I knew what it would cost I would not have made those decisions. It was a dangerous journey that God placed me on. I was too excited and too simple minded to care about the danger. I was too stupid as well. God veiled some of it from me. Selfish ambition was also propelling me faster than I should have gone. Sin and purity were colliding together and I could not discern the difference. What I knew was I had found the prize and I was not going to be deterred. Fortunately God was keeping me this time because I’ve made enough mistakes to get flung of course too many times. I know I’ve found it now because about 22 years of walking with him only he could keep me. I couldn’t keep myself in anything.