Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, 1968; McChord AFB, Tacoma, WA, 1969 — A young college girl whom I met in Alaska in 1968 began to tell me about Jesus and her personal experience of salvation through Him. Over the course of the next six months I found myself drawn steadily towards faith in Christ. In early 1969 I was a first lieutenant in the Air Force, stationed in Alaska, and was on temporary duty at McChord AFB, Tacoma, Washington. That same young lady was at that time going to college in Portland, so I would drive down to see her often on weekends.
As her shining testimony drew me closer to accepting Jesus as Savior, she had the wisdom to take me to a bible book store in Portland, where I bought a New Testament. Back in my room at the base, night after night I found myself devouring the Scriptures. Faith grew in my heart from reading the Word — “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ” (Romans 10:17). And one night I made my decision for the Lord. I will never forget the intensity of that spiritual experience.
The Scriptural exhortation to “repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21, KJV) had been deeply impressed upon my heart from God’s Word by the Holy Spirit. All alone, sitting on the bed in my room on base, I repented of my sins and sincerely asked Jesus Christ to forgive me and to be my Savior in a real and personal way. I immediately felt myself flooded with the joy of being forgiven and accepted by God. That experience alone, of being “born again” (1 Peter 1:23) into the family of God, would have been the greatest day of my life.
But something else very dramatic happened right then. In what I can best describe as a “mind’s-eye” vision, I saw Jesus standing at the foot of my bed, with His hands extended toward me. Without words being spoken, I understood His extended hands to mean two things to me: (1) He had accepted me and was reaching out to me; and (2) His extended hands seemed to be saying, “Give me all of yourself. Hold nothing back.” Today as I write this 47 years later, I can still recall that day in February 1969 as my eternal deliverance from damnation into salvation, from being a servant of Satan to being a child of God. I haven’t regretted that day’s decision even for one moment in the 47 years since then.
Anchorage, Alaska, April, 1971 — By early 1971 I had finished my four years of service in the Air Force and moved back to Anchorage, Alaska, where a few months later I became an FAA air traffic controller. Immediately upon arriving back in Anchorage I began to attend a Pentecostal church then known as Abbott Loop Community Chapel. The pastor, Dick Benjamin, was a man of God who preached wonderful, Spirit-filled sermons from God’s Word, the bible. Very early on I heard the biblical truth of being baptized in water in the triune name of the Lord Jesus Christ. I saw from Scripture that the apostle Peter’s command — “Repent, and be baptized every one of you” (Acts 2:38) — included me! (“every one of you”).
Pastor Benjamin taught us the biblical truth that believers are to be “buried with him [Christ] through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (Romans 6:4). So in April 1971 I joined a group of fellow believers who came to be water baptized and, by so doing, to bury the old “man of sin” and to arise from the baptismal waters to “live a new life.”
The experience of baptism itself was profound. The “old Jim” who had repented of His ways and had accepted Jesus Christ and His ways was buried, then raised from the waters. I sensed deeply the liberating effects of this sacred baptismal act. Jesus had gone to the cross to take our sins. Then He was buried and later arose to new life on the third day. I had the privilege of following Him, first by (spiritually and by faith) being “crucified with Christ” (Galatians 2:20) — which I described in part 1 above — then being “buried with Him through baptism” and rising from that watery grave to walk a new life of faith and obedience to my Lord and Savior Jesus.
My baptism was an even more stirring experience when, while still in the baptismal tank, I received a person prophecy spoken by Pastor Benjamin. Today, 47 years later, the precise words have become vague in my memory. But at the time that prophetic word spoke very, very precisely into my life and gave me guidance and encouragement that were quite helpful to me in those, my early Christian years.
Anchorage, Alaska, spring 1971 — Recently saved and newly baptized in water, I continued seeking more of God. I attended a conference on the Holy Spirit at an Assembly of God church in Anchorage. After some excellent bible teaching, the preacher gave an invitation to those who wished to receive the baptism with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5), with the biblical evidence of speaking in tongues (Acts 2:4). I quickly and excitedly raised my hand.
Visiting pastor Ralph Wilkerson from Melodyland Christian Center in Anaheim took about a dozen of us to a downstairs prayer room. He briefly shared about this powerful Spirit baptism, then asked who would like to be prayed for first. I am normally a fairly reserved person. But my hand shot up almost by itself. Pastor Wilkerson and another local pastor laid hands on me and prayed for me, and I was immediately filled with the Spirit and began speaking in a tongue unknown to me, but given to me by the Holy Spirit — "All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them" (Acts 2:4).
I was immersed in the joy of the Lord’s strong presence. The last thing I recall was falling to my knees and just praying aloud in tongues and reveling in His presence. The next conscious thing I heard was Pastor Wilkerson’s voice asking us all to be seated again. Well, it turns out that about 45 minutes had passed! He had prayed for all the others in the room, and I was completely unaware of all that going on around me, since I was in virtually a trance-like state in close communion with the Lord for those 45 minutes.
In the days and years since, I have time and again experienced the joyful fulfillment of Jesus’ promise concerning the baptism with the Spirit — “…you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit….  you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:5,8).
Anchorage, Alaska, June 1979 — My firstborn child Brian was born. That’s a pretty common experience to billions of parents. But the story started seven years earlier and is quite unlike the normal experience. Yes (some of you were wondering), I did marry that college girl who led me to the Lord. And that too was certainly an event that dramatically, radically changed my life for the better. We had a happy 38-year marriage before she went on to her heavenly reward. However, not everything was happy. You see, she was diagnosed with a medical infertility condition. She could not conceive children. We prayed and prayed, seemingly to no avail. During those barren years she would attend baby showers for other ladies, then come home from some of those baby showers in deep sorrow, having been the only woman there without children.
Then one day, after almost six years without children, we were approached in church by a woman of God. She said that the Lord had awakened her the night before with a message to tell my wife: “Your barren days are over!” Just over a year later my wife delivered our first child, a son. In the ensuing years she bore us three more children — a daughter, then a son, and then another daughter. Those four are now happily married, are all devotedly serving the Lord, and have presented me with eight grandchildren, with two more (twin girls) expected in four months. He is indeed “The Lord who heals you!” (Exodus 15:26, NKJV)
God is faithful! He did a healing miracle and fulfilled His promise — “He gives children to the childless wife, so that she becomes a happy mother. Hallelujah! Praise the Lord” (Psalm 113:9, The Living Bible). God faithfully fulfills what He promises, in this case His promise of divine healing — “Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits — who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases” (Psalm 103:2-3).
I have shared four life-changing events that I have experienced from the Lord —
[Postscript: I would be remiss if I left out God’s latest life-changing blessing to me. In my widowhood God brought another wonderful lady into my life, a godly widow whom I had met some 40 years ago. We got married and have enjoyed 4-1/2 wonderful years together to the present. We are greatly enjoying serving the Lord together in these, our senior years. God has been so good to me from my earliest years to the present! I can’t thank Him enough.]
Thank you for taking the time to read these special events taken from my life’s testimony. I hope some of it has been encouraging, even inspiring, to you. If you would like to read some more of my spiritual journey, you are welcome to click here. If you haven’t yet accepted Jesus into your life as your Savior, please allow me to recommend a short message from evangelist Billy Graham.
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©2016, James H. Feeney.
Pentecostal Sermons and Bible Studies
by Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.