I was raised in a strict, two-parent household in the rural town of Blackstone, Virginia. My father was an Air Force veteran who spent his later years working for, then retiring from, the U. S. Social Security Administration. My mother was a lifelong educator who began her career as a teacher, was promoted to principal, and retired as Supervisor of Special Education Nottoway Public Schools, Virginia. Both of my parents are deceased. I attended public schools in Nottoway County, Virginia, graduating from Nottoway High School, and later attended Greensboro College in Greensboro, North Carolina. After college, I spent a few years playing and traveling with a band until I met the woman of my dreams, Sandra "Peaches" Bagley of Asheboro, North Carolina. After only a few weeks of marriage, I enlisted in the U. S. Navy and traveled the world. During this time, my life drastically changed. God intervened with his calling. After 10 years of military service, I returned home to my wife and two sons, but also, as a minister of the gospel. More change happened. More challenges happened, but through all of life's changes and challenges, I am a better man. My wife and I have been married for over 39 years, with two adult sons and grandchildren. I continued my education at Liberty University, earning a Ph.D. in Biblical Exposition.
As a pastor and gospel minister for over 30 years, God has brought me to this place in my life where I can see clearly his sacred Scripture as never before. I admit that for many years I was blinded by my efforts to force the biblical text to say what God did not author. I was ignorant of proper hermeneutics and exegetical methods and allowed myself to bring to God's word my cultural, political, and social biases and prejudices supposing that God would bless them. "Oh, wretched man that I am!" I thank God for his mercy in showing me my error.
Over the last few years, growing opposition has sought to devalue joining a local church. The effort is sponsored by individuals who share their negative experiences, including church hurt, broken trust, and hypocritical teachings. Many who lead this charge are Christians. Some have compared the church to an amusement park, very much like Disney. In contrast, others compare it to Las Vegas because of the prosperity doctrine and other heresies that support a pastor’s lifestyle of greed and that of influential church attendees whose material obsession with jets, luxury cars, mansions, and money, while using the Bible to support this proclivity.
Of this group, many are having trouble finding a church that is short on discipline, long on grace, and apt to divide God’s word rightly. Sadly, I have been a part of this type of church and have had similar experiences as both instigator and victim. I understand that there is no perfect church because its leaders are men of depravity. Much of what occurs within the consecrated walls is a lack of biblical courage, which comes from the Spirit's leading and a study of theology. Unfortunately, many of today’s pastors and church leaders, informed and uninformed, disregard this need, making it difficult for the weary in spirit to find a church whose leadership is trustworthy. Then, some believe that one cannot be both spiritual and intellectual at the same time. There is a closeness of the call of God and conceit.
Over these recent years, my preaching and teaching have been greatly affected by a deep study of Scripture so spiritually consuming that I still do not have words at this point. A reluctance to study theology in the past was due to arrogance, pride, and fear of the unknown. In reflection, I acknowledge that these behaviors, derivatives of sin, almost prevented me from viewing Scripture in the light of God’s authority. Such confession was the humbleness needed to rescue this foolish man from what he did not comprehend— that the foolishness of God is greater than the wisdom of men. Though sin’s depravity ruins the means of mortal men, it does not repeal God’s sovereignty over them. The timely words of C. S. Lewis challenged my deterrents: “Consequently, if you do not listen to theology, that will not mean that you do not have any ideas about God, it will mean that you have a lot of wrong ones.”
The study of theology is the study of the self-revelation of God, which is possible because God has revealed himself in various ways. God has revealed himself through his creation, his work directly with humanity, and Scripture, impacting not only the way Christians gather for worship but also how we interact with one another and with the rest of God’s creation. Much of what has gone wrong with today’s church is a direct result of the lack of proper training, in-depth study of the Bible, and a lot of “suggestive” theology. Improper study of Scripture comes at the risk of forming thoughts, opinions, and beliefs about God that are inaccurate. Studying theology is a discipline that informs us of God and the proper knowledge and understanding of redemption.
The principle of theological study has provoked my thoughts about God and the study of the Bible. As the authoritative and inerrant word of God, the Bible has a solid case for its inspiration in the convicting, convincing, and converting power of the message contained within its pages. The evidence is not only convincing for a change in one’s life— it is awe-inspiring. The point that Scripture is the inspired Word of God, as contrasted to merely being a work of man, can be proven in more than a few ways. It can be recognized from an ethical perspective since the origin of truth and knowledge from God Himself is reliable with an enthused disclosure of His will. From this perspective as well, the revelation of the only begotten Son of God, Jesus Christ, is introduced as the central figure of the Gospel message, the captivating influence of changed lives. It is recognized from a reasonable or balanced series of opinions, a historical study, or a study of nature itself. These, too, reveal God as well. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).