Today is my birthday.
Now, if you were to look at my birth certificate, it would clearly tell you that my birthday falls on Oct. 10. And to a large degree, it’s correct. But it doesn’t tell the entire story.
Let’s start at the beginning, shall we?
It was just six months ago, Oct. 17, at about 12:50 p.m. over in Lumberton. I had a 1 p.m. appointment to chat with Gary Strickland, pastor at Kingdom Place, about the upcoming elections. A couple of weeks earlier, I heard Stickland give a sermon about taking God into the voting booth with you. Now, I’m not real big on politics, but I am big on God — so I decided to write a column about his sermon.
Well, 1 p.m. came and went. So did 1:05 p.m. And then 1:10 p.m.
But at 1:12 p.m., Strickland drove into the parking lot. He apologized for being late, but I later found out that He (capitalization intended) was right on time.
Before we got into our discussion about taking God into the voting booth, I had something else on my mind. I wanted to know the difference between being baptized as a baby and being saved, or born again, later in life.
It didn’t take long for me to realize that, what took place when I was just several months old in that Upstate New York Methodist church was a christening — something my parents chose to do to hold me over until I could make my own choice.
I don’t remember that christening and, to tell you the truth, I spent the next 51 years believing that I was right with God. I wasn’t.
Strickland made me see that babies and young children are given a grace period by God, so that if they are taken from this life at that early age, He understands they never had the chance to ask for Jesus to be their savior. So heaven was still their destination.
But at some point, that grace period ends ... and it’s generally up to the individual to decide when that is. For some, it’s at the age of 7 or 13 or 21. For some, it’s later. Strickland cautioned, however, that nobody should wait too long, because there does come a time when it’s too late.
The more we spoke, sitting in the cafe area of the church, the more I began to realize that I’d been missing out on something important. For months I’d been feeling the pull of God in my life, but Strickland put into words what God had been urging me to do. He asked me if I wanted to be saved.
Saying no to a pastor is one thing, but there’s no way to say no to God.
Strickland took my hands and, together we recited The Sinner’s Prayer. And when we finished, I knew that I now had a new birthday. Of course, there’s still the baptism part, which I’ve been told will be later in the spring.
Since that day, things have been happening that I believe would not have had I not been saved — things with me, things with my family and things at work. Good things. Things I’d hoped for.
And a few days after my birthday, Bill Register of Lumberton, who is originally from the White Oak area and still has kin out there, came up to me after church and asked if I had my own Bible. When I said that I didn’t, he handed me one and said he’d carried it around for a year — but that God had told him to give it to me then.
The tickets to a Carolina Panthers vs. Green Bay Packers game from my wife used to be the best birthday gift I’d ever gotten, but, sorry dear, not anymore. I have a new No. 1.
— W. Curt Vincent is editor of the Bladen Journal. He can be reached by calling 862-4163, Ext. 259, or by e-mail at email@example.com.