God Shows Up–Inwardly and Outwardly

“ Jacob dreamed of a stairway that reached from the earth to heaven, with the angels of God going up and down it.  At the top of the stairway stood the Lord.”

After joining the Air Force, I was sent to Yale University to study Chinese. Restless  to shed my Sunday school faith, I began reading a book by the atheist, Bertram Russell.

One day I was surprised and happy when a real Yale student visited me in my dorm. Showing genuine interest in me, he invited me to a weekend gathering of Ivy League Christians. I agreed and when I arrived at a YMCA camp, felt their warm welcome.  As they studied the word and worshiped, I saw for myself their inward faith by their outward fellowship and love for each other. to me it felt like family and it was. I already  knew Jesus was God’s son who died for my sins. But when we sang, “Amazing love, how can it be, that thou my God died for me,” I was floored. Could it be? Was Jesus actually God?

That night, desperate to know the truth, I went and sat on my bunk. I can’t call it a prayer; it was more like a dare: “God, if you exist–if you truly love me enough to die for me, surely you can reveal yourself to me.” I was soon overwhelmed by this Great Presence—what Jacob must have sensed when he said, “Surely the Lord is in this place.”

It was an inward experience. There was no need then for outward evidence. I yielded, completely to him, inviting Jesus into my life for keeps. With slight hesitation, I began to share with a few of my buddies what happened to me, causing a mild stir. I had no clue that my inner experience would soon become a very outward, tangible one.

It started when Alex, a new friend, came to me one night with his Bible. He read to me from all four gospels John the Baptist’s prophecy: “I baptize you in water, but He who comes after me will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” Alex then read the passage in Acts where Jesus said his followers would be his witnesses after the Holy Spirit came upon them, filling them with power. He also pointed out five instances in Acts where believers did receive that promise. In all cases there was outward evidence of the inward presence–most often it was the gift called glossolalia–the supernatural ability to praise God in a language they never learned.

Alex shared with such deep sincerity. “Wade, this promise of Jesus is for you and all believers. You just have to ask Jesus to fill you with God’s Spirit.”  How could I doubt it? It was right there in the Word? I began to ask Jesus to fill me like that. As with all God’s promises, it is received by faith, so I believe Jesus answered my prayer at that time. However, it was a month before I experienced the actual evidence of that reality.

It happened at a believer’s gathering where I was praising God inwardly with such gratitude and love I could hardly contain it. Suddenly my tongue was moving in a strange way. This must be it! I opened my mouth and couldn’t believe it! A beautiful language gushed from my inmost being,. I was expressing praise to God in a way my limited English could not.

When I returned to my classmates this time, I was on fire, not at all shy to tell them all what had happened. Gossip buzzed all around. Some wanted to hear more, some thought I was nuts and Satan sent a band of militant atheists who took it very seriously. They grilled and argued– trying to talk me out of it. Much later, their ring leader who mocked me openly, told me in private, “Wade, you have no idea how much I envy you.”

After graduation from Yale, the Air Force sent all 30 of us to for training at NSA headquarters. Then it was off  to a mountaintop in Taiwan with a mission–listening by radio for activity of the  Communist Chinese Air Force. Little was going on then, so we had lots of free time. While my buddies were seeking the world’s pleasures, I was having a ball among my fellow believers on the base and down in the city of Taipei. An elderly missionary couple recruited me to preach and also teach the Bible to students from Taiwan University. They were eager to learn English. A young missionary and I became friends. We began witnessing to a brilliant Taiwanese artist and my friend urged me to pay him a visit.                                                                         .

When I knocked on his door, the most beautiful young woman I had ever set my eyes on answered—in a revealing negligee. She was deaf and dumb, but her eyes told me she was available. With hormone’s raging, I fled in panic. That’s when the devil began working me over in earnest, tempting me to join my lost comrades in pursuing the world’s deadly pleasures.

I decided on my own private retreat with the purpose of finding a way out of my faith.  I wrestled with God, rationalizing that it was possible that my inward experiences of His love could have been imagined. But then I recalled the outward, tangible reality of Jesus’ baptism with the amazing gift of tongues. I was stymied. It was no go. It would be  intellectual suicide to deny that. So the devil lost that round and I dedicated myself to serve the Lord with renewed commitment.

Years later, I realized that my wrestling was not unlike Jacob’s in Genesis 32. He had already had an inward experience of God years before at Bethel. But a night came when it became very outward. “A man came to him and they “wrestled” all night. Who was that man? Jacob had no doubts. In the morning “he called the place Peniel: “For I have seen God face to face.”

Isn’t it clear that God’s Word is very clear. God’s will and desire is to confirm to every believer’s heart their inward faith with objective, outward evidence of His love?  Isn’t it true that God will fulfill His promise when believers earnestly seek this baptism? My best friend, Tom Wood, was raised in a church that opposed this experience. They hated the idea of “tongues.” One evening Tom asked me, “What exactly is this baptism in the Spirit?” Immediately God gave me the answer. I replied, “It’s a baptism of Christ’s love.” Satisfied, he joined me at the our chapel’s altar to seek the fullness of God’s Spirit for himself.

This is only a small part of my story with many wondrous things. All praise to God.

If you have not sought this promise of Christ’s baptism in the Holy Spirit, I urge you to search the Scriptures and seek for yourself God’s outward sign of his inward grace.

 

 

When God Reveals Himself

“When you said, ‘Seek my face’, my heart answered, ‘Thy face, Lord, will I seek’--Psalm 27.8 “Ask, and it shall be given; seek and ye shall find; knock, and it will be opened.” Matt. 7.7

Imagine the mystery of the universe lying behind this great, heavy curtain.

  • The atheist stands before it, declaring, “There’s absolutely nothing back there.”
  • The agnostic comes and has no doubts, “We can never know what’s back there.”
  • The philosopher expounds on and on about what lies behind the curtain.
  • The religionist explains it with a host of creeds, doctrines and rituals.
  • The humble penitent comes to the curtain, asks, seeks and waits…until the curtain opens and the Lord God, King of the universe, reveals Himself

God revealed Himself first in real history. That first Christmas He actually did show up, coming to us as a babe. He lived among us, suffered with us, forgave us, saved us from sin and guilt and proved his love by dying for us. We celebrate Easter because He really did rise up from the tomb, conquering our worst nightmare—death. To top it off, he offers those who will ask and receive, the incredible gift of eternal life.

God reveals Himself today to us if we ask and seek. Surrounded by skeptics at an Ivy League University, I was on my way to becoming an atheist. But I had not given up my  curiousity, so I must have been asking and seeking. One weekend I chose to be among bright, eager, young believers. They lived out their faith, sharing their love for Jesus Christ with me. I joined them singing a hymn by Charles Wesley: “Amazing Love, How can it be, that thou my God hast died for me.” Those words floored me.

Could it be true? Is Jesus, who I heard all my life, died for me, really God?  I had to know, so I got alone and—well I guess you would say I prayed, though it was more like a challenge. “God, if you really love me and died for me, surely you can reveal this to me, can’t you?” Then I waited and guess what. That curtain opened for me. I knew and felt to be in the presence of the Holy. There was no doubt. It was all true, so I surrendered to Him and my life changed forever.

We come to know God the way we come to know anyone. Let’s say I go into McDonald’s, sit down next to this guy and we get talking. After some small talk, we ask each other some personal questions. By asking and answering we come to know something about each other. We might continue with this and eventually form a friendship. But if I don’t care enough to ever ask or he doesn’t ask, can we ever come to know each other?  Wouldn’t we leave McDonald’s as we came—complete strangers. To know God or anyone, we must care enough to ask and seek.

I am still asking God questions. I have found prayer includes asking, seeking, listening and waiting. God, as it turns out, delights in opening the curtain, revealing Himself and answering my questions. Over the years, we have formed a close bond this way, as He continues to reveal Himself to me. He speaks to my heart by His Spirit and to my mind by His Word, the Holy Scriptures. God’s servant, Paul surely grasped this, writing, “…that I may know him in the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings.” 

Would you consider taking this challenge by honestly asking Him, seeking Him and knocking. He will surely open that curtain for you.

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