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 had convicted me about my sin, and where I had 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 had a chair back then).
Fortunately, the pastor didn’t just have me raise my hand and then send me out the door. Had he 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 had no clue of my inheritance!)
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.
Pastor Mac 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 by taking me through some of the basic salvation (and assurance of salvation) verses. 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! How I wish I could hear a 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 baby 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 [both with Jesus now], DeWayne and Georgie Wageman, Mickie and Bob Amen, Tom and Dala Walton, Bruce and Flo Walters [my beloved Flo is also now with the Lord], 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 believism” and away from experiencing the power of God in their lives.
Salvation in Jesus is far more than parroting a prayer and then walking out the door and going back to life as usual.
Salvation is not continuing in sin that grace may abound. “God forbid!” as the Apostle Paul says. True salvation results in fruit and in a growing desire to know Him and walk with Him.
May God help us to present the Good News accurately and thoroughly … to identify the need … to expect a visible response … and to take our responsibility to disciple new believers seriously.
Thank you to all those who followed the Matthew 28 mandate to disciple me … and 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, 1 John 5:12-13, and so many others!
And thank you, Lord Jesus, for dying for me on the Cross of Calvary, and for taking the punishment that I deserved. Thank you for preparing a home for me in heaven. And thank you for giving me purpose as I finish the race on this planet.
And thank you for changing my life forever! ❤