For many years, I've had the privilege to visit nursing homes, and I truly enjoy spending time with the elderly. I sing and teach Bible studies and appreciate hearing about their former lives. The Lord has allowed me to make some precious friendships, and I want to share with you about Barbara, a lovely lady I've met.

After a devastating stroke, she was no longer able to be independent and is now in a comfortable setting where she is well taken care of. I love talking with Barbara, and a while back, in the middle of one of her stories, we discovered that long ago she was my mother's next-door neighbor and they played together as children. What were the odds of that?

I love her positive and upbeat personality and how kind and thoughtful she is. She never married and lived a simple life of working and being a devoted member of her church, where she sang in the choir for over 50 years.

Barbara is intelligent with a clever sense of humor, and it warms my heart to watch her laugh. Recently she experienced a life-changing event that has caused me to do some serious thinking about the mission of every Christian. Within our conversations about God, it had not crossed my mind to be concerned about her spiritual condition. I felt confident she was a Christian and was ready to live with Jesus forever.

A couple of weeks ago, another minister visited this facility and brought a salvation message. In closing, he simply asked if anyone would like to accept Christ as their personal Savior and be born again. Barbara said a strange feeling of concern and guilt washed over her, and later that evening she began to cry. After a week of sorrow and conviction, the minister returned and prayed with her, and through God's mercy he led her to receive Jesus as her Lord.

When I came to see her, she was glowing with joy and excitement and said with all those years of going to church she could not remember anyone ever mentioning how Jesus came to redeem and save us. She told about being sprinkled when she was 12 years old, but she described it as more of a traditional formality instead of a spiritual encounter, more the result of hearing the gospel than seriously feeling the Holy Spirit revealing her need to accept Christ into her heart.

So at 78 years old, she responded to God's invitation and, with childlike faith, her spiritual eyes have now been opened. I'm so happy and grateful to the Lord that she received Christ before it was too late. At the same time, I was deeply convicted of my lack of discernment and for not recognizing her need to be born again. I wonder how many individuals are living the same emotional pretense.

We read in the New Testament about the Pharisees and notice they were highly respected for keeping the law, going to church and having religious knowledge. Yet in John 8, Jesus told them they did not know God at all. There are several accounts where Christ confronted the religious leaders and explained that good works mean nothing unless a person becomes born again through God's gift of salvation.

We all want to hear about going to heaven, but many refuse to associate eternal life with being in covenant with God himself. Yes, salvation is free because of God's grace, but it's also our responsibility to realize that we can only enjoy a personal relationship with God when we are redeemed by the blood of Jesus. Those of us who have been declared righteous are commissioned to boldly tell others about why Jesus went to the cross and to share the entire process of how God invites everyone to be spiritually transformed into a new creation.

I am learning that encouraging and comforting others is truly a much-needed blessing, but let us pray for spiritual sensitivity so that we might be an alert messenger who is not presumptuous or embarrassed to witness to someone even if that person has been a church member all of his or her life.

It's never too late to be forgiven, delivered and transformed into a child of God. He is always drawing people to him because he loves everyone and does not want to see anyone perish.

I encourage you to read the third chapter of John and to examine your heart to make sure that all is well with your soul.

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Billy Holland