Theology Thursday is Coming Soon
My Testimony and Background for Why Theology Thursday
For the nine months in 1984 and 1985, the Lord ministered to me through several saved young men. I was a First Class Petty Officer in rank, and a Navy diver as my primary job; and then, I was stationed on the U.S.S. McKee (AS-41), homported at the submarine base in Point Loma, California. Two of the Christians witnessing to me were Navy divers (which seemed odd to me at the time) and two others aspired to be Navy divers (we called them “wannabes” — I know, not very kind). These Christian young men invited me to their Bible study held onboard ship in the early evenings before “taps” (lights out).
In the Bible studies, I heard the gospel, but it just didn’t make sense to me. I knew what they were saying. They weren’t speaking gibberish. Yet, my unsaved, natural mind could not make sense of it. For one thing, I had no real sense of sin— never had it for my entire life up to that point. Being called a sinner was not offensive to me. It’s not that I didn’t believe there was a God. I did. I grew up in a non-religious home, so I had no real perspective of a holy God; unholiness was not a concept in my thought processes.
It’s somewhat laughable now, but in the early days of their witness to me, one of the young sailors said to me: “You know, we didn’t come from monkeys.” My reply was along this line: “I know. I’ve been to the San Diego Zoo and monkeys don’t do the stupid stuff I do.”
Neither did I understand the gospel of Jesus Christ crucified which offered salvation by God’s grace through faith. I didn’t understand the cross or substitutionary atonement. The cross, Christ’s shed blood, His suffering the wrath of God: I heard it, but it was as far from my comprehension as the east was from the west.
By the end of May, I still didn’t get it, but I knew I wanted to be saved. I knew I needed to be saved, but I didn’t know how. I was so frustrated in this struggle of trying to understand, yet salvation was far beyond my furthest grasp. Attempts at “being good” only amplified the truth of sin, which for the spring months of 1985, it was becoming very real and overwhelming to me. I was so confused about the gospel that I didn’t even know what kind of questions I could ask.
Finally, since it seemed the Bible studies were becoming increasingly less helpful and my troubled soul was becoming increasingly more miserable, I decided that I wasn’t going to attend anymore… one of the Christians invited me to attend another Bible study they were going to have on a Friday evening at 1900 hours (7 p.m.) in the berthing compartment. I said “yes” to the invitation even though I determined not to go; and I went.
At the Bible study, I attempted to listen intently. “Perhaps this was the night I might find an answer,” I thought. My attention was consumed by my desperate desire for relief and I could make heads or tails of any of their Scriptural posits. There was one verse recited that evening that got into my head, which I couldn’t get out of my head—
but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear. Isaiah 59:2
You have to understand, I didn’t memorize this verse. I didn’t know Isaiah from Jonah or John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt. It was the essence of this verse that stuck with me; and it wasn’t until a few years later that I realized that this is the verse the Lord used through these young men to get my attention.
Now, this verse of Scripture didn’t make things better. No way, Jose! They made things much, MUCH worse. I was wretched. Looking back, I know it was only by God’s grace I even made it through the weekend. I must have been like a zombie walking around the darkened passageways of the ship after taps. I was at the end of my rope, at the end of myself, and wished it were all over. I even attempted to pray: “Lord, if I can’t be saved, You may as well strike me down right now and send me to hell…” and the gist of that verse from Isaiah came rushing to me in an instant; I knew my sins against God had caused Him to hide His face from me, and I cried aloud, “and You’re not even hearing me!”
I found one of the young Christians from the Bible study when the weekend was over, on Monday morning, June 3rd, 1985, 82 days before my 25th birthday. I asked him to pray for me because I was so low, hopeless, and helpless. He asked me if I knew how to pray, and of course, I did not and told him so. He said he would lead me in a prayer, and I could just repeat what he said. I didn’t realize at the time that this is what some Christians refer to as the “sinner’s prayer” (and even afterward I didn’t know what it was, as I will relate in a moment, a practice that I do not apply or promote in ministry, though I’m not against it per se).
Vince led me in this prayer, and I suppose I was repeating what he said because he didn’t stop me and tell me to repeat after him. You see, we knelt together to pray, and as soon as I closed my eyes, I didn’t hear a word he said. I was consumed in my own thoughts of Christ’s cross. I knew what it was. He bleed and died for me. Jesus took my place and suffered for the sins I committed against a holy God. I believed it with every fiber of my being. I knew that trusting in Him I could turn from my sins and godless way of life and turn to Christ as my God, Lord, and Savior. I knew I belonged to Christ now, that He loved me, and that He gave Himself for me. It was as if I was engulfed in God’s love.
The only other word I heard Vince say was: “Amen.”
As I mentioned, I don’t use the “sinner’s prayer” when I share the gospel or witness to others. I don’t have “altar calls” when I preach. It was not the prayer that saved me. It was Christ alone, by God’s grace alone, through faith in Him alone that saved me. And as I mentioned before, I’m not against the sinner’s prayer per se. The Lord used it in Vince’s life, and certainly in mine, to be the catalyst by which I could literally kneel in prayer, and spiritually kneel before the cross, to surrender to Christ.
So transformed was I that day, Christ had changed my manner of speech. Before that June morning, every other word out of my mouth was a four-letter expletive, making me a “poster child” of sorts for having the mouth of a sailor. That was taken away from me instantly. It had to be pointed out by someone else because that kind of talk was so much a part of me that I didn’t know I spoke like that. So when it was gone, I didn’t realize it departed. Hallelujah! What a Savior!
I was in kind of a honeymoon with my Lord Jesus for a week. I kept on bugging these Christians about when they would have another Bible study.
Vince realized I didn’t have a Bible so he gave me a little New Testament, which also contained the Psalms and the Proverbs. This was exactly one week after the Lord had saved me.
I had duty that night and there were no dive jobs, so I sat up in the dive locker and read through the Gospel of Matthew, and then part way through the Gospel of Mark. You must understand, I learned to speed read when I was in high school, and once I learned, I hardly read anything slow at all… until the Lord saved me, that is. By the time I finished Matthew I was in tears. Not only could I understand several things I could never understand before, the truth of Christ’s righteous life, His crucifixion, and His resurrection were more real to me than anything I had ever experienced in my life. I wept even more reading through part of Mark.
After three weeks, I read through the entire New Testament, as well as the Psalms and Proverbs. Certainly, there were things I didn’t understand at all, but of those truths the Holy Spirit had opened to me, it was if I were a completely different person, just as God’s Word declared:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:17
I had to get the whole Bible, one with both the Old and New Testaments. One of the Christian divers went with me to downtown San Diego to help me get my first Bible (as much as I traveled around the world by that time, I find it delightfully providential that I was born in San Diego in 1960 and I was born-again in San Diego in 1985).
With my first Bible in hand, my prayer to the Lord was something like this: “Lord, I know I’m not going to understand everything in Your Word, but if You’re willing, help me to understand as much as I’m able, by Your grace.” Of course He was willing! I read completely through the Bible in the next nine months.
My precious Lord was faithful to that promise 37 years ago, and continues to be faithful to that promise today.
By 1987, I discovered Robert Murray M’Cheyne’s “Daily Bread” Bible Reading Plan, which allowed me to systematically read through the entire Old Testament once in the year, as well as the New Testament and the Psalms twice in that same year.
Fast-forwarding a few years, with my young Christianity growing, grinding, even groveling for repentance because of my failures and unfaithfulness, a passionate love for God’s Word and His blessed gospel yet remained.
By late 1989, I was a Chief Petty Officer stationed in the Diving and Salvage Division of the Ships Repair Facility in Subic Bay, Republic of the Philippines. My routine was: wake up at 0300 to pray and read my Bible; work out at the naval station gym at 0500 when it opened; eat a quick breakfast at the dive locker at 0600. Muster for divers’ PT (physical training) at 0630. After my shower following the exercises and 5-mile run, muster for quarters and dive job assignments at 0800. Knock off work anywhere from 1500 to 1600 hours after dive jobs were complete and maintenance was done for the equipment, dive boats, and recompression chamber.
I took a Bible College correspondence course. I just wanted to draw nearer to Christ through a better grasp of God’s Word, never imagining I would one day be called to be a pastor in Christ’s church. Since it was correspondence, it only took me nine months to complete.
The Lord called me into pastoral ministry in 2000. Since, I’ve applied and have been accepted to attend seminary; however, in God’s providence, I could not go, and I went to minister as the pastor of Sovereign Grace Baptist Church in Anniston, Alabama from 2009 to 2018 (my fourth pastorate).
MY THOUGHTS ON EDUCATION
I had written all that to say this: I believe a biblical education is essential for every Christian. Nevertheless, I understand it might not always be possible or practicable for one to attend Bible college, seminary, or other Christian training.
Because of that, I want to do all I can to pass on to you some of the wonderful blessings God has provided for me in His merciful love and amazing grace.
MY THEOLOGY ARTICLES
With that, I’m starting a category of posts called, “Theology Thursday.”
Theology is sometimes a word some Christians may shy away from. It tends to conjure up ideas of dry academics. Look, I get it. I dropped out of college in 1979 to join the Navy to be a frogman because I was tired of school. But theology doesn’t have to be some deep scholastic thought endeavor. It can be simple, enjoyable, and best of all, glorifying to God through Christ’s exaltation as we grow in understanding of the doctrines from God’s Word. Here’s a terrific definition of what theology is:
…the science of God and divine things; or the science which teaches the existence, character and attributes of God, His laws and government, the doctrines we are to believe, and the duties we are to practice. —Noah Webster, Webster’s Dictionary of American English, published 1828
Each week, on Thursday, I’ll present some theological article. I pray they will be a blessing to you. And remember, using this platform on Substack.com, you can leave comments or ask questions to get clarity from what I’ve written.
That said, Theology Thursday is coming soon.
MY TAKE ON HERMENEUTICS
Although it’s not yet Thursday, I wanted to leave you with something helpful today. The topic is basic hermeneutics. Recently, I gave a student of Alaska Bible Institute my four-minute hermeneutics course. Hermeneutics is simply this:
Interpreting; explaining; unfolding the signification; as hermeneutic theology, the art of expounding the Scriptures. —Noah Webster, Webster’s Dictionary of American English, published 1828
My unaccredited college course isn’t exactly a 101; it’s more of a 001. Here it is…
First, read the Bible daily, and read through the entire Bible in one year… every year. As a resource, you can use Robert Murray M’Cheyne “Daily Bread” Bible Reading Plan, which is available online for free by clicking here.
Second, learn the meanings of words from original languages.
Ideally, it’s best to learn the original languages in Hebrew, Chaldean, and Greek, most especially if one is going into a preaching or teaching ministry. The wonderful pastor’s pastor and author of the hymn, “Amazing Grace,” counseled a young minster with this rich wisdom concerning the pursuit of study in the original languages:
“The original Scriptures well deserve your pains, and will richly repay them. There is doubtless a beauty, fullness, and spirit, in the originals, which the best translations do not always express.” John Newton, The Works of Rev. John Newton, Volume 1, Williams & Whiting, London; 1810; pgs.118-119
Most people don’t have time to learn another language; however, a good concordance for word studies would be an eternal investment of infinite value. Click here to examine an exhaustive concordance for the ESV. Click here to examine an exhaustive concordance for the KJV.
Third, interpret Scripture with Scripture. The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge is a great primer for finding associated, applicable, and complimentary Bible verses for the portion of text you’re studying. I’ve used this for the 22 years the Lord has allowed me to minister as a pastor, gospel preacher, and Bible teacher. Click here to examine that resource.
Fourth, interpret Scripture by the truth of the gospel; in other words, by the truth of the New Testament in general, and the truth of Christ Jesus, and Him crucified, risen, ascended, and coming again, in particular. While some systematic theologies are good, they can be overwhelming in their many volumes. A good, thorough Confession of Faith would be a great place to start. The 1689 London Baptist Confession is a terrific theological, gospel presentation, and a free PDF copy can be obtained by clicking here.
Finally, if your hermeneutic does not drive you to exalt the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ for the ultimate glory of God the Father, the interpretation is in error. God is most glorified in the exaltation of His only Son, as it is written,
Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:9-11
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