Many people have amazing dramatic testimonies. Its true – some people
get off drugs miraculously and quickly become the most radiant, wonderful
joyful people so quickly that you can wonder: “God, what about the rest
of us?” I am one person who had a gradual conversion experience. Later
there were moments of profound spiritual experiences with God, but initially,
I was very stubborn and it took God a long time to get me to be willing
I grew up in a Christian family. I was baptised as a baby in the Dutch
Reformed church. Dad would always read a portion of the Bible after the
evening meal and we learned to pray before meals. As a result, I grew
up with lots of knowledge of the Bible. I thought I was a Christian because
I believed the Bible was God’s Word and that Jesus died for me. However,
Jesus was not really the Lord of my life. I did not really know him at
all, though I knew all about him. Although I believed totally in the existence
of God, I’d have to acknowledge that, for the most part, during my childhood
and adolescent years, I never experienced or knew God personally.
Its easy to be religious without knowing God. I’m sure there are still
many people like that today. I wasn’t only religious though. I was proud.
Very proud. This pride made me obnoxious to others and as a result I suffered
from lots of rejection as a grew up. I felt the pain of this intensely
for many years. However, I seemed powerless to change myself, nor did
I really want to. Instead, I resolved to prove my worth and significance
by academic achievement. It mattered a lot to me to prove I was smarter
than everyone else. I couldn’t stand to lose even a game of chess. I used
to cry when that happened or when my classmates mocked me. This only made
matters worse. The result was that I was very miserable. My belief in
the doctrines of the Bible did not seem to help me.
Hyper-sensitivity was not my only problem. I was also extremely critical
of others, negative and unpleasant to be with. I’m not saying I am perfect
or wonderful now, but I can say that Jesus has made a big difference
to my personality. For many years though, I rejected Jesus also. I did
this because I desperately wanted to be in charge of my own life. I was
happy for Jesus to be my Savior, but not my Lord. I wanted to go my own
way and somehow prove that I was great. My motives for acknowledging Christianity
had more to do with a desire to be right even if others were wrong. I
didn’t care about others at all, but due to the influence of my parents
I did have some moral principles which I generally stood by, though not
perfectly. One of these was honesty. In the end, it was the love for the
truth which God put in me which helped me to humble myself and receive
God’s love into my life. It didn’t happen instantly. It was a process.
In the Anglican church in which I grew up, it was very commonplace to
do Bible studies. I was very proud of my ability to know the stories and
have an opinion on everything. I grew up with the feeling that I had the
right religion and that I was better than other people. I was so proud
of my academic results at school also. I looked down on others and had
little regard for their feelings. As a result I failed to develop socially.
As I entered into adolescence I had a hyper-active mind. It was constantly
thinking and planning according to the thought “What’s in it for me?”
It was constantly seeking to inform me of things to feed my pride. My
grandmother said to me a few years ago, “Michael, when you were growing
up, you were a ball of pride.”
At the same time I was convinced that I was a Christian. I knew I had
sins and was basically selfish, but I had confidence that I was saved
because I mentally assented to the idea that Jesus Christ died in my place.
I convinced myself that I had God’s forgiveness even though I was still
living for myself. There were times, however, when certain people made
me uneasy, because of their obvious joy in serving God. There was something
about certain people that made me very uncomfortable with myself. I now
know that was the conviction of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit, when
he first comes to us, makes us realise that God is good and we are rotten
sinners. During times when this was happening to me, I was always waiting
for an escape so I could get back to enjoying my various hobbies and avaricious
After finishing high school, I went to University determining to be a
great computer scientist. I was already pasionate about computers. I’d
written my first commercial game program at 14 in 1980 and I know now
that the love of computers (which were essentially tools to praise me
and my cleverness) was a major form of idolatry in my life. But I was
sure I was a Christian! I had felt sorry about some of my sins and had
even asked Jesus into my heart! I was doing what others in church were
doing! I could discuss theology with the best of them! I was outwardly
moral, principled etc. – but utterly self-centred.
The one thing I was most uncomfortable with in those days was telling
others about Jesus. Being socially backwards and with lots of acne on
my face, it was not something I wanted to do. I felt uncomfortable with
But there came a day when a young ethnic Chinese man from Campus Crusade
for Christ gave me a call on the phone and invited me to meet with him.
I don’t know why I agreed, but I did. Over the next few months with this
man, my life began to change. He helped me to start telling the good news
about Jesus to others. Doesn’t the Scripture say that if we keep on confessing
Christ as Lord and believe God raised Him from the dead, we will be saved?
Strange as it may seem, it was at this point that I believe I truly surrendered
my heart to God. For I had surrendered to Christ the thing I was most
unwilling to do for God. And I think until we come to that point, we still
have not received Christ as Lord. Until that point, we do not really belong
to Christ. I didn’t know that Jesus had to be Lord in my life before I
could be really part of his spritual kingdom and receive the forgiveness
of sins I needed.
One of the surprising things for me was the joy I found in doing the
thing I was most fearful of – to talk with others about Christ. What I
found was, Christ became real to me as I went in His name. Before that,
I knew lots of Bible and had done some things for God (I thought), but
I was still miserable. However, taking these first steps in living for
God released a joy and a happiness in me that I was not expecting.
The Bible says that the Kingdom of God is "righteousness, peace
and joy in the Holy Spirit". There is a surprising joy that comes
when you give your life to God. That’s my experience.
At that stage I was still going to the Anglican church. No one explained
to me the importance of being baptised in water as a believer. But I had
begun my walk with Jesus – even though there was still plenty of things
God needed to change in me. It was later that God brought me to the point
of understanding that I should follow the example of the Lord Jesus in
There is no way to be at peace with God if you are inwardly rebelling
against his desire to govern your life. The only way to be in the Kingdom
of Heaven is for Jesus to be your King!
Since the time I really began to go after God, I’ve been changed in many
ways. I’m learning to think of others more. I really enjoy God’s presence
and I’ve learned to humble myself so that God can use me.
Baptism in the Holy Spirit
At the time when I started living for God, back in 1984, there were still
a lot of things that God wanted to deal with in me. (I’m sure there still
are!) Until that time, my desires had been after intellectual stimulation
and personal recognition based on performance. I was still into computers
pretty heavily and still played Dungeons and Dragons with my friends at
times, sometimes until the early hours of the morning. I was no longer
playing in a rock and roll band as I had done in high school, but I was
still listening a lot to the radio.
It still seemed to me in many ways that the really appealing things were
in the realm of fantasy, and that reality was kind of boring. Yet God
had begun to work in my life. The fact that my pursuits did not always
coincide with my belief in the gospel didn’t worry me too much, since
most of the other Christians I had ever seen were the same. It wasn’t
until later that God really began to change my desires in these areas.
While in second year University, the popular Anglican preacher we listened
too began to preach about the Holy Spirit. I didn’t realise it at the
time, but he was preaching against charismatics. The effect his preaching
had on me, however, was to stir up curiosity. We had been so well taught
that the Bible was the final authority on matters of faith. So I decided
to check things out against the Bible. I was not satisfied with this preacher’s
response to my question: “If being filled with the Holy Spirit in the
New Testament was accompanied by supernatural spiritual gifts, why is
it not like that today?"
Around the same time, I was invited to a pentecostal cell group by some
people I had met around the University campus.. I decided to check it
out. I remember feeling really out of place there. Everyone had their
hands in the air and the leader was saying, “Come on. Just reach out and
touch God!” I thought it was quite embarrasing really. I was not used
to such demonstrative practices in worshipping God.
I wasn’t particularly impressed with what I saw. I thought: those so-called
prophecies – anyone with a knowledge of the Bible could have made them
up. But then again, who knows? Maybe there is something in it. I asked
a lot of questions. I said, “If you guys are right, where are the miracles?”
The leader said words to the effect of “We’re getting there”.
The leader of that group came and visited me in my college dorm, wanting
to pray with me so that I would speak in tongues, but I put him off, since
the exams were near, and I didn’t want my brain to be addled before taking
Two other things happened around that time. One was, my mother gave me
a tape from a charismatic Anglican preacher about the Holy Spirit and
speaking in tongues. It turned out my mother spoke in tongues, but she
had not wanted to push it on me. The other thing was my best friend told
me he had started to speak in tongues while he was alone in his room.
Another event worth mentioning is that God led me to ask forgiveness
from my father for certain things and to forgive him myself. I believe
this was very important for what was to come.
I continued my search, reading the passages in the New Testament and
wanting to know more. I visited an Assemblies of God church with my friend.
I was under the impression that Pentecostals were like a cult – pretty
heretical. Imagine my surprise when I heard the preacher preaching Jesus
Christ and Him crucified, and salvation through the blood of Jesus. I
concluded it couldn’t be that bad after all. I’m so glad it wasn’t some
fund raising message or something really far out that day, like you can
find from time to time in Pentecostal churches. Something like that would
most likely have turned me off completely.
I ended up seeking this pastor out at his house. I did want to be filled
with the Spirit, if this could happen for me. After sharing with some
things with me, another appointment was arranged. This pastor told me
that he had seen blind eyes open in Jesus’ name while ministering in Fiji.
Also God had also saved his life miraculously in an amazing way out of
the biker scene. Somehow, I sensed he was telling the truth, though I
had never witnessed any miracles like that in my life.
On the second appointment, this pastor asked me, “Do you believe you
will speak in tongues when I pray for you?” I said I wasn’t sure, but
he assured me it would happen. I was scared that nothing would happen.
After further discussion, I prayed to the Lord something like this: “Dear
Lord Jesus, I want you, and only you. Fill me with the Holy Spirit and
give me the power of God.” I prayed this prayer based on Luke 11:13. God
will give his children the Holy Spirit if they ask, not a serpent (a demon).
I believed that I should open my mouth and speak what came out – so I
did. At that very instant something very surprising happened to me. I
felt like 240 Volts of power was going through my body – it was also a
bit like pins and needles. I thought, “Something real is happening”. I
had never experienced anything like that before. At the same time, I continued
to utter syllables that I did not comprehend at all. It was something
that was right outside my experience. I had never felt anything like that
when I prayed before! I knew it was God’s power that I had asked for.
I went home and kept praying in tongues. Then I went to a Christian conference
organised by Campus Crusade. I noticed in my life a greater desire to
serve God, a desire after holiness and purity which I had never known
before. Up until that time, holiness had a very negative connotation for
me. It was something I didn’t want. But now things were different. The
first unbeliever I talked with prayed to receive Christ.
When I returned to University, I knew that what I had experienced was
not going to be accepted by most of my Christian friends. And I was right.
I had already made the commitment though, that I was after truth no matter
what it would cost me in terms of social relationships. I have never regretted
I started attending an AOG church. It wasn’t long before the matter of
water baptism was brought up. Having now experienced the Holy Spirit in
a new way, I was eager for everything God had for me. I had long suspected
that baptism was for believers, not babies. I remember wishing I could
be baptised before as a believer when I was in the Anglican church. I
was glad to learn that it was still part of God’s plan.
I was baptised in water in July, 1985. To me this was also an act of
consecration. No longer was I to live for the old desires, for the old
nature. I was dedicating myself “unto all righteousness”.
In 1985, while in my final year of University, studying computer science,
several significant events took place in my life which changed my life
and destiny. I had gone to University with the plan to become a great
computer scientist. I wanted to do honours in Sydney and then a PhD at
Stanford University in the States, and I was very much on track until
the end of my third year at Uni. But these goals and ambitions seemed
less and less meaningful to me after the encounter I had with the Holy
This encounter with the Holy Spirit made an impact on my world view.
I had entered into a totally new realm about which I knew very little.
Many of the assumptions which I had held about the way God works in the
world changed. I read the New Testament with a new perspective.
Many different things started to happen in my life in 1985. I had an
increased desire to win souls to Christ. But more than that, I wanted
to know why the Pentecostal church I belonged to fell so short of the
mark as far as revealing the truth of the promises which I had previously
assumed to be “not really for today”.
It wasn’t that the leadership of the church wasn’t aiming for it. The
leader of that church (now retired) had led revivals and been used by
God in the healing ministry begore. That church had a great record as
far as evangelism and church planting, and in the 20 years in 1977 from
when it was planted from 9 adults and 5 children it has grown to a worldwide
movement with tens of thousands of people involved. However, my soul was
reaching out for something more.
Why was it, for example, that there was so much talk about divine healing
and so little concrete evidence that it was actually happening? My mind
rebelled also against the teaching that one should say that they were
healed even when there was still no sign of change. The whole thing seemed
There were meetings with loud contemporary music, enthusiastic preaching
and salvation appeals that drew 10-15 new decisions for Christ every meeting,
but where was the promised power of healing so much talked about?
Earlier that year, however, I had been to a meeting organised by a charismatic
pastor on the north side of Sydney. He had invited a certain gentleman
by the name of Gordon Gibbs to preach there. Oddly enough, it was my mother
who took me along there. I was pretty skeptical still about divine healing
even though I had spoken in tongues and knew that was real.
There were about 100 people at this meeting. After the time of praise
this old preacher was introduced. It was nothing like I expected. Basically,
all he did was share different stories from his experiences with God,
and a few texts of Scripture. He didn’t shout – he just talked, and he
had the funniest mannerisms.
What was interesting though was what was happening on the inside of me.
This incredibly warm presence gripped me in the area of the stomach. I
can’t describe it exactly, but it was like molten iron was in my belly
(but absolutely no pain). I found myself absolutely riveted by the presence
of God in the place.
Then something equally astonishing took place. The preacher had finished
preaching, and some had come forward for salvation. But the meeting didn’t
end there. The preacher started calling out all these medical and emotional
conditions – not general ones like back problems that someone is bound
to have but very specific things. It seemed like he called out about 30
different things and always it matched someone in the crowd exactly. People
were coming forward, receiving prayer, falling to the crowd, and getting
up testifying that the pain was gone.
At the time I had RSI from typing too much at computer keyboards. He
never called that condition out, but what I noticed was that the blood
in my hands started circulating very quickly it seemed, and the pain left.
Some friends of mine and myself returned with an unsaved friend to another
one of these meetings. It was much the same, but this time the preacher
started naming the problems that our friend had. Our friend would not
respond. But the preacher kept going into things in more and more detail.
When my friend still refused to come out the preacher addressed him personally
in front of everyone and asked him to respond. He got saved that night,
and is in the ministry today.
All this put in me a strong desire to know God like this preacher did.
Yet in the church I was attending, it seemed there was more smoke than
Another important thing happened to me in August 1985. One night I had
a dream in which I saw what seemed to be the faces of a multitude in darkness
being sucked down into everlasting perdition. I woke up so shaken by that
dream. I said, “God, I want to be an evangelist. But I’m asking you to
confirm this by giving me 5 prophetic words from others in the next 10
What was interesting was that although people didn’t usually prophesy
to me, in the next 10 days I did receive 5 prophetic words which indicated
to me that I should make the preaching of the gospel my central activity.
One of them was from a preacher. He said in the name of the Lord, “I’ve
been calling you for a long time. And don’t let a career get in the way.”
This was significant for me because in those days I had the opportunity
to earn a lot of money with my computer skills. I had made $10,000 at
least in my third year of University without much effort and it seemed
the world could offer me a lot in that area. But now my direction was
to change. Money meant nothing to me, winning souls meant everything.
Around this time, I was still agonising about the Scriptures concerning
divine healing (like Exodus 15:26; Psalm 103:3; Isaiah 53:4,5; James 5:14;
Mark 16:17,18; John 14:12; Matthew 8:16,17) and many others. I wanted
to believe it was true, but I could not! I felt tortured in my mind whenever
I considered the matter. I had already seen some concrete evidence for
it in life, but the failures in this area were all too evident to me also.
I finished my University degree without doing my honours year and, responding
to the call of God, entered into student evangelism on the Universities.