Tom Elliff
Oklahoma City, OK

After pastoring for forty-two years, Tom Elliff served the International Mission Board, first as Senior Vice President for Spiritual Nurture and Church Relations from 2005-2009, then as President from 2011-2014. Tom served pastorates in Arkansas, Texas, Colorado and Oklahoma and as an IMB missionary in Zimbabwe. Tom also served as president of the SBC Pastor's Conference and two terms as president of the Southern Baptist Convention.

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Two Birthday’s – Jeannie’s & the USA’s

By on July 3, 2011

I love this time of the year when we celebrate the birth of our Nation. I am genuinely patriotic and twenty years as pastor of a church located next to a major Air Force base served to regularly fuel that patriotism. The principles upon which our republic was founded, foremost of which is a basic, underlying belief in a Sovereign God, would serve our drifting and dangerously declining nation well.

Like many of you, I am giving myself to regular prayer for another Great Spiritual Awakening that will call our nation back to God. Without such an an awakening we will fare no better than other nations that have rejected God. In fact, we may fare worse, since we have been the beneficiaries of so much truth. God most certainly has every right to hold us accountable.

But July 4 also marks another important occasion for our family. On Sunday, July 4, 1971, my wife, Jeannie, was genuinely born again. Jeannie was twenty-five, and had been a pastor’s wife for five years when this remarkable transformation occurred.

Jeannie was reared in a Christian home, faithfully attended church all her life and, as a child visited with her pastor after witnessing a friend “walk the aisle.” Growing up in church and in a Christian home had prepared Jeannie  with all the right answers. Who hasn’t sinned, after all? And what church-going child doesn’t know the story of Christ’s life, crucifixion and resurrection? And what child wouldn’t want to go to Heaven, instead of Hell? And if you are told that “praying a certain prayer” will set the record straight, why wouldn’t you want to do that? So…she did just that.

The only problem with all that was that Jeannie was simply not born again of God’s Spirit at that time. She was baptized. She later did volunteer for missions. She did attend church, sing in choir, go to youth camp and a Christian college. But our faithful God never granted her the peace that her salvation was real.

When we began courting, Jeannie and I talked often about her lack of assurance. We would review the events surrounding her “salvation experience,” including the prayer she prayed, and always conclude that Satan was just seeking to rob her of her joy. After a few mental gymnastics, Jeannie would put on her game face and be all right…for awhile.

But God continued to pursue Jeannie, bringing her repeatedly face-to-face with the simple fact that those who know Christ have received the Holy Spirit, and His witness to the reality of their salvation (1 John 4:13, Romans 8:16). With His relentless love, God convicted Jeannie of her lost condition on July 4, 1971, and within minutes she had repented of any confidence in her goodness, and received salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone and in His completed work.

Sunday night, July 4, 1971, I had the privilege of baptizing my “wife and now my sister in Christ” as an open testimony of her journey unto salvation.

Happy birthday Jeannie!

And to you, as well, Uncle Sam!

I just pray that our nation will have a moment with God, and a touch from His gracious hand…like Jeannie’s.

Rejoice evermore!

Tom Elliff

2 Tim 1:12

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  • redaunt4

    I’m not sure I understand….. was there some manifestation of the Holy Spirit? How did she know that THIS was “different” ?