The same thing happened the next Thursday, and the next. I found myself enjoying each class taught by the teacher Barbara Stevenson and looking forward to the next Thursday. Coupled with the great preaching of our pastor, Dr. A. C. Janney, this class taught me that I could not walk in obedience to the Lord if I didn't know His Word.
I guess you could even say I fell in love with the Bible. Though I'd received Jesus Christ as my Saviour at age 11 and had begun to tithe with my paper-route income, I had never gotten into God's Word before. Now for the first time, I was studying Scripture and trying to understand its depth.
I'm no scholar, but I found it helped to memorize verses and relate them to my life. Just as important, I was receiving assurance that, despite all my sin and rebellion, Jesus Christ loved me and wanted me to make Him Lord of my life.
Some of the men in my church began to gripe about the impact my new preoccupation was having on their home life.
"My wife tells me you're in her Bible study class every week," one friend complained. "She's insisting that if Alvin Dark can be there, so can I. You're putting me on the spot, Alvin!"
The pressures in some of their homes must have been too much. Before long eight male companions joined me on the back row.
Each week I was reading 44 chapters of the Bible in compliance with our homework assignment. I have never been an avid reader, so for me to make such a commitment was a big step. Then Jackie and I made the discovery that it was exciting to read the Bible together.
It was a little like searching for buried treasure. "Listen, did you know this?" one of us would ask, reading a certain verse aloud. "Isn't the Lord good?"
"He had this verse written just for me," the other might answer.
Paul writes in Romans 2:4, "The goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance" - and it did!
When we heard that the church was starting a course in Christian counseling to be held Thursday afternoon with our same wonderful teacher,I said to Jackie, "I suppose you want us to join that one too."
"Can we?" she asked.
Almost without thinking I said, "Sure, why not?" I knew I could squeeze in a round or so of golf between the two sessions.
As part of this study, I learned to relate myself to some of the men of God in the Bible, Abraham, Job, Moses, David, Peter, and others - they'd all had periods of disobedience, but that didn't stop God from love them or using them again, once they had repented.
Those men gradually became more real in my life and offered important examples on how nothing in life is right if y our priorities are mixed up. My own had been baseball, baseball, baseball, and then golf and more golf. Finally down the line came family and God.
I knew I needed to ask God to forgive me and turn my life over to Christ to use for His glory. I also knew I needed to set new priorities according to God's will, putting Him first, then family, and then my work.
Toward the end of our second year of Bible study, I began to speak in churches. One afternoon Edwin Pope, a sports editor for the Miami Herald, called to discuss the upcoming World Series. During the next 20 minutes we talked baseball, but at the end of the conversation, he said, "By the way, I understand you tithe."
"Yes, I do. But there's a lot more to the Christian life than just tithing," I answered. Then I filled him in on some of the principles from the Word of God and how they were changing our lives as we applied them.
"Edwin, I don't know how much of this you can write without my coming off as a 'goody-two-shoes'," I remarked, "for the Lord, you, and I know how far I am from that."
I doubted that he'd write about the religious part at all. But the next morning I saw that his column hardly mentioned our talk about baseball, but he had quoted many of my remarks about my faith in Christ and His Word.