Desiring to celebrate my 40th anniversary of walking with Jesus, I revisited the place where I had first met Him. I had planned to sit on the steps outside the church and talk to Him, but serendipity awaited! The door to the building was OPEN and the muted resonance of friendly voices drew me inside. Consequently (and Providentially), I was able to visit the exact spots where the Lord convicted me about my sin, and where I responded to His offer of forgiveness (all pictured below)! My friend Dala, who had witnessed my new birth 40 years prior, just so “happened” to be there at a women’s Bible study the night of my impromptu visit, so she was able to celebrate with me (along with all the other women who were there).
Isn’t God GOOD!!!
Getting inside the church that birthday night (at precisely the same time I had been there 40 years earlier) was a gift from His hand!
But, as good as that was, it wasn’t as good as that FIRST Gift He gave over 2000 years ago — His only Son who died and bled on the Cross to buy my pardon! Glory to His Name!!!
This marquee was not there 40 years ago, but this is the church where it happened.
This was the view from my vantage point the night I responded to God’s invitation to trust in His Son. My first pastor, Floyd McElveen, had been standing at the front presenting the Good News of Jesus (the Gospel), and the Holy Spirit had convicted my heart. I remember sitting in that pew and raising my hand, acknowledging that I was a sinner in need of forgiveness.
This was the exact pew in which I had been sitting when I acknowledged my need for a Savior, and this is my friend Dala who was there “that” night — the night of my salvation and the night I revisited the church 40 years later. We had been a couple of young women with babes at our knees and our whole lives before us. We have been friends ever since, walking this earthly journey together … and we will spend eternity together, dancing around God’s Throne, rejoicing in Him!
This was the very spot where the most important conversation I’ve ever had took place (except I’d had a chair back then).
Fortunately, the pastor didn’t just have me raise my hand and then send me out the door. If he had said, “Talk to somebody before you leave and tell them what you did,” I would have walked out the door, would have talked to no one, and would have never realized the significance of my decision that evening! (I know this because I had taken this step multiple times in my past and still had no clue!) But this dear pastor was a shepherd! He had pressed and required me to step up and identify myself. With heart pounding and palms sweating, I found myself standing. From there, I was invited to a room — the very spot where I am sitting in this photo — where he talked to me one-on-one. He didn’t preach to me or talk “at” me. He asked me questions. He let me express myself to discern where I was coming from — and then he made sure I understood what had taken place. A week later, I was baptized, and then found myself sitting at a microphone in a radio studio, telling the world about my conversion! Wow! (It makes me chuckle to think of that! Wish I could hear recording of that conversation today!)
Immediately after that night, I was taken through several weeks of discipleship classes where I received a thorough grounding in the basic tenets of the Christian faith. (I am thankful that it was done that way!) God had also placed some wonderful believers in my life who helped me through those first wobbly steps. Dried up old sponge that I was, I bombarded them with a myriad of questions about this new life and what the Bible said about it! (Thank you Pastor Mac and Virginia, DeWayne and Georgie Wageman, Mickie and Bob Amen, Tom and Dala Walton, Bruce and Flo Walters, John and Bonnie Meyer, and Pat Barnes!)
Sometimes I wonder if we as followers of Jesus have become “careless” in presenting this Wonderful Gift that is available to our friends. I fear that we’re not making salvation clear to people and that we are leading them into a state of “easy and lackadaisical believism” and away from experiencing the power of God in their lives. Salvation in Jesus is far more than reciting a simple prayer and then walking out the door! May God help us to present His Words of Life accurately and thoroughly … to identify the need … to expect a response … and to take our responsibility to disciple new believers seriously.
Thank you, Lord, for John 3:16, John 1:12, Romans 5:8, Romans 8:9-10, Ephesians 2:8-10, Titus 3:5-6, and so many others! It’s hard to fathom that kind of love!
Matthew 28:18-20 ~Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
It doesn’t say to have them repeat the words to a prayer, send them out the door, and hope for the best. It starts there, yes (if that is the way the Holy Spirit chooses to work, as He did in my case). But that is not the end of that person’s journey. It is the beginning!
Thank you to all of you (named above) who followed the Matthew 28 mandate with me! I am forever grateful!
And thank you, Lord Jesus, for dying for me on the Cross of Calvary.
You changed my life forever! ❤