“Don’t go! Don’t go!”
I heard those words several times that day. Not out loud, just in my mind.
It was May 28th, 1966. 50 years ago today. I was just 10 years old.
At the time, I did not know the source of those words. I do now. Someone was trying to keep me from experiencing the greatest, most amazing, most crucial event of my life. Someone wanted my soul in hell for eternity. Someone was trying to prevent me from being rescued from that horrible place. Someone did not want me to know God – the only One who could save me. Thankfully, that someone – Satan – did not succeed.
The night before, my Mom – a single parent – had taken me to a church in St. Francis, Kansas to hear a World War II veteran speak about his experiences in the Bataan Death March, how he forgave his Japanese torturers, and how he went back to Japan later to tell the Japanese people about Jesus. She spoke to the man – Jesse Miller – afterwards and expressed her concern that I had not “received Jesus as savior.” He said he would be glad to speak to me the next night after he spoke again.
But that next day, the voice was very real: “Don’t go! Don’t go!”
But. . .I did.
Unless I lose my memory, I will never, ever forget that night as long as I live. No moment, no event can compare to what happened that evening.
After Jesse Miller spoke that night, he invited me to sit down with him. He was very kind. All he did was to open his Bible to a specific verse – John 3:16 – and read it to me. I instantly understood several things without him saying another word:
1) I was a sinner
2) I deserved hell
3) God loved me and did not want me to go to hell
4) God proved His love for me by sending Jesus to die the death I deserved
5) If I put my faith in Jesus and what he did for me, God would forgive me of every sin and I would spend eternity in heaven with Him
With tears, I prayed that night. I repented. Yes, even a 10 year old kid needs to repent.
I tell you, it was amazing. Something happened. Not on the outside. On the inside. I was different. I was new somehow. Jesus himself called it being “born again” and stated emphatically that it was essential to entering heaven.
I know many of my Muslim friends say, “I was born a Muslim.” It was not a choice. It was a fact of life.
For us as followers of Jesus, at some point – and solely by the grace of God – we made an intentional, deliberate choice to turn from our sins to submit to God (repentance). We made an intentional, deliberate choice to invite Jesus to be our Savior and follow him with all our hearts for all our lives.
I made that choice on the evening of May 28th, 1966. 50 years ago today.
I hope I never forget that night.
All glory to an amazing, gracious, loving God.
Today I celebrate.
Today is my “spiritual birthday!”
(Postscript: in all these years, one thing remains. God has never failed me. His love has never let go of me, never given up on me, never run out on me. In death, in life, I’m confident and covered by the power of His great love! Nothing can separate me from it! Romans 8:38-39)