This is my story:
Praising my Savior all the day long!

Outside shot Some of you who are reading this may have heard me give my personal testimony before, but there are several events in the last couple of years that have made my faith rock solid!

Every ten years or so since 1981, I've had prophetic or life-changing dreams, through which I have felt a special connection to God. Back in January 1981, I was living in a townhouse in Palm Bay, Florida. I was casually acquainted with a couple who lived next door. One day when I happened to be home at lunchtime, I met the couple as they were packing to go to Houston, Texas. The husband had been diagnosed with cancer, and they were going to Texas for treatment for him. They asked me to pray for him. I did so until May when I awoke from a very vivid dream. I dreamed that I was looking down into his hospital room, where I saw him in his bed, with his pastor, wife, and nurse nearby. I saw him pass away. A week or so later, I encountered his wife back in Palm Bay, where she told me he had died that same evening and in the same way as I experienced his death in my dream.

Aptos UMC exteriorOn the night before Easter in the Spring of 2002, I had a "silly" dream, or so I thought. The Aptos United Methodist Church (just south of Santa Cruz, CA) where Judy and I were active members had worship services in a beautiful triangular shaped building which had floor-to-ceiling windows on all three sides. The choir seats were on carpet-covered boxes stacked in rows in the corner with a view of the ocean, and the pastor preached from the floor in front of the choir. All the congregation's chairs faced this corner. In my dream, the seating had been changed to be "in the round" with a special altar area in the center and with no choir. And Pastor Dave Vallelunga was playing a tuba!

David Vallelunga I told Judy all about this "crazy" dream on the way to church that Sunday morning. When we arrived, "Lo and Behold!" the church was rearranged with the altar in the middle and the seats surrounding it. And Pastor Dave was outside rehearsing on a tuba! We had heard him play a flute and an accordion in church before, but had no idea that he could play a tuba. Just the day before, Pastor Dave had been attempting to align the choir boxes and discovered a platform on wheels that had been a center altar with kneeling rails for communion when the church was built. Without assistance or telling anyone, he personally undertook the transformation of the sanctuary which I dreamed about that Saturday evening!

In September 1993, I had a dream that is still as vivid today as the moment when I awoke from it. When I recall it and verbally describe it to others, I have difficulty getting to the end, as it was quite an emotional experience.

This is my personal testimony of how I've witnessed the risen Christ and am still responding to His call:

I was in a large city and somehow had gotten separated from my friends. I ended up walking into a run‐down shopping street, where the multi‐story department store buildings were either vacant or boarded‐up. I felt drawn to this one store, so I went to one of the front doors and pulled on it. It was unlocked and so I went in. In the far corner of the main floor – a couple hundred feet away – was a single table and bench, with someone seated at the table in a white robe. The entire floor of this building was dark except for this spot which was illuminated from above. The table and bench were dimly lit, but the robe was glowing a bright white.

As I got closer, I could see that it was a man with longish brown hair and a mustache and beard, and he was praying. He looked similar to the depictions I had seen of Jesus, so I went up to him and asked, "Are you Jesus?"

Jesus Before he could answer, I stammered, "L-L-Let me see your hands." He stood up, facing me, and held out the palms of his hands so that I could see them. There were deep scars in each of his palms. All of a sudden, miraculously, there appeared freshly dried blood in each hollow. I immediately felt shame at having doubted who He was.

He then looked me squarely in the eyes and spoke to me in a clear, resounding voice that I'll never forget: "Steve, do you believe in me?"

I said, "Yes, Lord. I believe in you". He started to walk away, but He turned back to me and said, "Come with me." He led me out of the building through a different set of doors than the ones I had entered. The street was still deserted. We crossed the street and entered another building on the other side.

After going through the doors, I could see across the floor a set of elevators that appeared to be "out of order" with tape across the elevator doors. We stopped in the middle of the main floor, and Jesus held out his hand to me. I grasped it and immediately felt a flood of warmth and energy pervade my body. We started rising through the air. I could see the ceiling approaching, but I wasn't worried. We passed right through it, as if it weren't even there. We kept rising, going through yet another ceiling. When we reached the 3rd floor, he released my hand and beckoned for me to follow him.

We entered a large room full of people seated along the walls and in rows of chairs through the middle. The room wasn't rectangular but had many nooks and covered at least an acre in size. There were hundreds and hundreds of people – all ages and races – men and women and children – all talking. It was very loud. I felt like I heard Jesus' voice inside my head saying to me: "Steve, these people need you." I turned to ask him: "Need me for what?" but he had vanished. I immediately woke up.

My grandfather, Charles Shuford Felder, was a Methodist minister in the early part of the last century and his grandfather was a Methodist circuit rider in South Carolina in the 1800's. My grandmother Felder had always insisted that God wanted me to be a minister, but I had never felt the call during my youth. If this dream about meeting Jesus wasn't a calling, I don't know what would be, but I haven't fully responded and shared this dream until just recently. I now feel the need to witness and share with others who need to hear about the salvation God offers through Jesus' death and resurrection.

Curtis DuBose The story doesn't end here. Since that dream where I encountered the risen Christ, I've had a vivid image in my mind of his face, and I've constantly sought to find a painting that shows his face as I remember it. Every face I saw failed to be a match with the one in my memory. Through a set of unusual circumstances, I recently reconnected with my "long-lost" best friend from 7th grade through high school, Curtis DuBose. He and his wife Chris served as missionaries in Africa for more than a decade. He is now an associate pastor at Mitchell Road Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Greenville, SC.

He and Chris invited Judy and me to Sunday dinner with their family at the end of February. After the meal, I had the opportunity to share details of my dreams and my lack of success in finding an accurate depiction of Jesus' face. He told us about a little boy who had died during an emergency appendectomy, went to heaven, and returned a few minutes later and recovered from his surgery. The little boy had seen and conversed with Jesus and retained a very vivid image of his face. Like me, he sought to find a portrait of Jesus that matched his memory. After almost three years of searching, his father saw a feature on TV about a young girl who was an artist prodigy who had visions of Christ and heaven, and who had painted a portrait of Jesus. When the boy saw her painting, he ecstatically confirmed that the picture was an exact match with the one in his memory. Curtis didn't remember any other details of the story, including the names of the boy or girl, so my searches afterward on the Internet came up empty.

Akiane with her portrait of Jesus Christ On our return trip home from the funeral of Judy's mother in Louisiana in mid-March, we stayed overnight in Hoover, Alabama, and stopped in to shop at Costco. As I was browsing the book section, Judy came over to me, holding open a paperback book, and masking everything except for a single photo on one page. She asked me who I saw in the photo. Goosebumps swept over me, and I had a quiver in my voice as I exclaimed, "Jesus!". The book was Heaven is for Real, written by Todd Burpo about his son Colton Burpo and Colton's experiences in heaven. The book also told about Akiane Kramarik, and her extraordinary, startlingly vivid portrait of Jesus Christ, which she painted when she was only 8 years old. The portrait matched precisely the image of Jesus' face that I had retained in my memory for the last 18 years!

On Easter Sunday 2011, we sang my favorite hymn: "He Lives!". I love the words because they mean so much to me:

"He lives, He lives! Christ Jesus lives today. He walks with me and talks with me along life's narrow way. He lives, He lives, salvation to impart. You ask me how I know he lives. He lives within my heart!"

And I know He lives because I've seen His nail-scarred hands. I've held His hand, I've heard His voice, and I've seen His face!

I'm going out of my way now to spread the Good News about Jesus Christ and what He did for us: I'm reading and studying God's Word diligently every day, I'm talking with God through prayer, I'm living according to Jesus' teaching, and I'm now making a genuine effort to speak up on God's behalf -- to witness about Jesus Christ and our unmerited gift of God's awesome grace! We need to encourage other believers to do the same!

If you believe in our Lord Jesus Christ already and have accepted God's amazing gift of salvation for your sins, reaffirm your faith and repent of your sins every day. Tell God how much you love Him, and then demonstrate that love to everyone you encounter.

If you have not already accepted God's free gift, if you will believe, confess, and repent with a sincere heart, God will blot out all of your sins as though they never existed. If you sincerely pray the prayer below, it shows God that you have chosen Jesus as your Savior and want Him to change your life:

Dear God, I confess that I am a sinner. Thank you for loving me so much that you sent your Son Jesus to die on the cross for my sins. I accept your free gift of salvation, and I ask you to forgive me of my sins and give me eternal life. Cleanse me of all of my wickedness and unrighteousness. Remove bitterness, unforgiveness, anger, strife, pride, greed, rejection, and rebellion from my life. I forgive and release those who have harmed me and wronged me. Break the strongholds of Satan over my life. Help me to live righteously according to your Word. Help me to know your will for my life. Today I repent and place my trust in Jesus Christ alone for my salvation. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.

Make a commitment to read through the entire Bible. Spend each day praising God and thanking Him for everything He has done and is doing in your life. Pray every day. Ask God to lead you to a powerful, Bible-believing church where you can be baptized and worship with other believers.

Grace and peace to all of you in Christ Jesus ,
Stephen Cottingham