In 1980, I was working with a fervent evangelical Christian named Doug. Two years previously, Doug was living a hard life of alcohol, drugs, and women. Then he found Jesus and straightened his life out pretty quick.
Maybe I should say "trying to work". Doug could not stop talking about Jesus. It was almost as if his paycheck was for preaching, not getting things done for his boss asked him to do. When his workmates managed to tactfully retract from his Jesus conversations, he would sit at his desk, staring at the wall, grinning, and probably thinking about Jesus. I think Doug was being passed around department-by-department in this big corporation until it had enough evidence to fire him.
But Doug did get me into an interesting book called "The Late Great Planet Earth." The author Hal Lindsey used Biblical prophecies to predict the "end times" which were to be around 1988. Doug had lots of copies to give away.
Mr. Lindsay's logic was quite impressive. He could tie in current events with Biblical quotes and built a great storyline for the "end is near." It was our responsibility to get on board before Jesus came again. Many people took his warning seriously for the book was on the best seller's list for several years.
Well, 1988 was a few years away. So before I jumped on the Lindsay bandwagon, I made it a personal project to read the Bible for myself--and not under the influence of any one trying to promote his version of Christianity. This project took me a about a year. It was not easy. I really didn't have the historical background to fully understand a lot of the Old Testament. I read a few chapters of Isaiah and found too much symbolism for me to make any sense of what he was saying. So I skipped most of that lengthy book. As I was going through the New Testament, I was amazed at how many good stories that didn't make the front pages of my catechism classes.
In the end, I came to the conclusion that the Bible is a mysterious book. Anyone who claims they fully understand it is, in my opinion, a fool.
And I can't recall the particular Biblical verses, but I somehow figured that when Jesus does come again, the vast bulk of Christianity is going to miss the boat. In other words, when Jesus does come, it won't be obvious. I doubted my ability to find which of the 2000 or so sects of Christianity would be wise or spiritually attuned enough to recognize Christ's return.
I started my Bible reading project as an agnostic, albeit with a slight Christian bias. And I left the project in the same way. At that time in my life, I still liked my beer and my pubs and the excitement that comes with alcohol. There wasn't enough there for me to abandon those ways. And I no longer believed in the 1988 prediction.
Well 1988 came and went with no second coming. In the mid-1990s, Mr. Lindsay wrote another book that could have been titled "Why I was Wrong Last Time and Why I'm Right This Time". I didn't bother reading it. And it didn't become a best seller.
Even though my Bible reading had not changed my religious outlook, there was one verse that really stuck with me: "Ye shall know a good tree by the fruit it bears". That has proven to be a good lodestone in assessing character.