I grew up in having a fascination with origins. I
would wonder about how the universe came to be. When was the first moment of time? What
happened five minutes before that? I wondered about the moment that a baby first has consciousness and
what is that like? If everybody has a mother and father, who was the first mother and father?
I had heard of Adam and Eve, in fact, one of my first memories is of my father reading from a book. I
don’t know if it was a Bible story or a science type book, but I remember that I was not interested in it and I kept
telling him “get to the part about Adam and Eve”. To me, it seemed like my dad was frustrated
that I wasn’t interested in whatever he was reading to me. After several times of me interrupting
him and asking him to get to the part about Adam and Eve, he closed the book and said that he would have to go out and find
a book about Adam and Eve. A few days later, I remember him coming home with three books and telling me
that he had gotten a book about Adam and Eve! I was very excited but felt very let down when the story
didn’t seem very interesting to me. A few years ago, I found some books on eBay that I recognized
as the same books from my childhood. I bought them. When they arrived, I noticed that
they were Seventh Day Adventist books.
As a child, on (what seems like) rare occasions, my parents would
take me to church. It would be one of two churches. One was (what seemed like to me)
a Bible teaching church. It had Sunday school classes that taught the Bible stories. The
other was a mystery to me. It was a church called Unity. It felt like I was in a nightmare.
Actually, I hated both churches almost equally. Church is the only really negative memory that I
can think of in my childhood. It stands alone.
As a child, I had a closet fascination with TV preachers.
I always hid that. I wanted to understand why people seemed to be so interested in “church
stuff”. Some of them seemed so strange, bizarre and fake that I couldn’t understand why anyone
would take them seriously. Others seemed very intelligent and nice. I remember being
fascinated watching a Billy Graham crusade. I don’t know if it was live
(probably not) but I remember watching it on the forth of July. I remember the neighborhood kids getting
into conversations about God, Heaven and Hell, etc. They would say things that seemed foreign to me, but
they seemed confident that they knew what they were talking about. They went to church every week, so I
didn’t feel like I could argue with them. Some were Jehovah’s Witnesses but most of them were probably Catholic.
I had one neighborhood friend whose family attended a Baptist
church. They seemed to take “church stuff” more seriously than others. To
them it didn’t seem like game. It wasn’t like their church was like a favorite sports team
that you root for over other churches. They put their beliefs above anything else. It
was what they based how they lived their lives on. I remember having a silly conversation with my cousin.
She mentioned that nothing was impossible with God. I challenged that with silly things like, “Could
that television set turn into a rocket and take us to the moon?” She would answer “If God wanted
that to happen, He could make it happen”. I went on and on with other scenarios, but her answer was
always the same. Although it seems silly, I was impressed with her confidence that God could do it.
She seemed to know that God could do it. My Grandmother (mother’s mother)
seemed that way also. The church that I would sometimes go to that seemed like a Bible teaching church,
was my Grandmother’s church. She had confidence in what she knew about God. I
was about 5 when I remember her telling me something about Jesus. I remember her being frustrated.
I was not giving my Grandmother the answers that she was hoping for. I remember her smiling as she
gave up. She said “someday you will understand”.
I wasn’t like my Grandmother, or my Baptist neighbors,
or my cousin. I was skeptical. I thought a lot of what I heard seemed like a bunch of
bologna. I did not want to be conned. The thought of being conned made me very angry.
Growing up after this time period, I always thought the Story of Jesus was true but I didn’t know much about it. In 1972 I became fascinated by “Jesus Christ Superstar”.
It got me interested in the Bible. When I would feel overwhelmed, I would always talk to God in
my head. Although it was a one way conversation, it always felt like it wasn’t. I
felt like I had talked to someone and it had helped and it seemed like things would not be so overwhelming. This
talking to God in my head thing is what I was doing the night before I met my wife, Akiko, in 1985.
Soon after I met my wife, we started attending church together at Mission Valley Free Methodist church, which
my wife had been attending previously, for about five years.
In 2001 I started meeting with my pastor,
Arnold Doi I told him that I believed the story of Jesus but there was a lot
about the story that didn’t make sense to me. I told him that I didn’t understand how a guy
dying on a cross 2000 years ago could be something that could save people from going to Hell and allow them to spend eternity
in Heaven. Pastor Arnold told me that it is sin that separates man from God and that Jesus is the way that God chose
to remedy that problem. I said that if I was called into a meeting to try to solve this problem, crucifying
one guy would not enter my mind because it doesn’t solve the problem. What is the connection?
Arnold asked me “why don’t we read a book together?” I told
him that I had already decided to read the Bible and I have my calendar marked that I am going to start reading Genesis in
a few weeks (when I returned from vacation). I have it worked out so that I will finish the entire Bible
through Revelation, in three months. Arnold seemed to think that was going to be hard. He asked me if we could read
a book together. He asked if I had a book that I would like to read. I thought to myself,
“wasn’t he listening? I just told him I wanted to read the Bible”. He
said how about the book of John? I said “okay. How do we do it?”
He said to go home and read the first chapter of John and come back next week and we would discuss what we read.
The next week we sat down and read it word for word
and he asked me to tell him every time that I didn’t understand something.
What happened next I will always remember. It became clear to me that Jesus was not some guy that
lived 2000 years ago. He was the creator, the eternal God, He had ALWAYS existed, and He was not ever created.
He never “came into existence”, He always existed, and the eternal God BECAME flesh 2000 years ago!
I never understood that before! This changed everything! Now, I REALLY wanted
to read the Bible, with this “new” information that would change everything! Arnold and I continued
to read a chapter a week for the next two weeks, but my heart wasn’t in it. I wanted to read the
Bible from beginning to end. I planned to continue with my three month reading plan. Arnold
gave up on his plan to read the book of John and supported me on my bigger venture.
I was scheduled to leave for Washington
D.C. for a vacation with my wife and kids. We would be coming home in early September and I planned to
start reading the next day, after we returned from our trip. My wife decided that she would like to read
along with me (we used an audio recording and read along in our own Bibles, stopping the tape whenever we didn’t understand
something). I planned to devote about 45 minutes a day to reading but we quickly realized that that we
would have to devote an additional 45 minutes every night to studying what we had read (We had many different study Bibles
on the table such as John MacArthur’s, New Geneva [R.
C. Sproul], Life Application, NIV, and others). We kept Pastor Arnold updated with our progress and he was very helpful when we wanted to discuss something that
we had read.
When I got to Genesis chapter 3, I had another moment like I did when I read and understood John chapter 1. Genesis 3 was fascinating! It not only told what happened, but told what would happen
from that time on (before anyone was ever “born”) until the end of this world (time). Understanding
the first few verses of the book of John and Genesis 3, made it easy to see what was going on all through the entire Bible (our history, present
day and future), what is going on today (part of the Bible), and what will happen in the future (part of the Bible). Being
armed with the understanding of these sections of the Bible, made for an exciting reading adventure.
Just a few days after we began reading,
the Twin Towers were attacked on 9/11. It seemed like the lands that we were reading about every evening
were also the topics of the evening news almost every day. My wife and I were also listening to Christian
radio in the car (independent of each other and at different hours) on the local radio stations KKLA, KWVE and KBRT. It seemed like the Messages that we heard every day (from people like
Charles Stanley, R C Sproul, Bob Coy, Chuck Smith, J Vernon McGee, Skip Heitzig, John MacArthur and others) on the car radio were custom
tailored to go along with the subject matter of our study (maybe it didn’t hurt that Pastor Arnold was praying for us every day).
We also rented movies that told the Bible
stories as we read those portions of the Bible. I was amazed to see how Cecil
B. Demille movies and many films from a series called The
Bible Collection were incredibly accurate, chapter by chapter portrayals of the Bible.
I was equally amazed by how inaccurate and fictionalized many other films portraying the Bible stories were.
This was a helpful aid to understanding and a nice educational way to relax. It was fun to “know”
what was going to happen next!
My wife and I read through the entire
Bible in 100 days. Pastor Arnold would ask about our progress and occasionally come over for dinner and read with us. We started reading
a few days before 9/11 and finished on Christmas day, 2001.
I am still amazed by how that story in
Genesis 3 constantly repeated over and over all through the Bible and is still happening today with individuals and “new” religious groups. I believe understanding the Book of John and Genesis 3 is a key ingredient to understanding the Bible. And the most important
key would be asking God to reveal His story to you. I believe anybody that does not take the time, make
the effort and ask God to reveal the Bible to them is missing out on the greatest opportunity in the world.