Thursday, March 4, 2010

Remembering Harald Bredesen

Holy Ghost Harald Stories Video

It was about three years ago right around this time when a large group of people, including many well-known figures in Christendom, gathered at Church on the Way in Van Nuys, California, to celebrate the life and passing of one of the more unique and significant figures in the Body of Christ in the twentieth century, Harald Bredesen.

Harald was one of the principal fathers of the Charismatic Renewal, along with Dennis Bennett. As the first proto-charismatic—he was an ordained minister in the Lutheran Church, a mainline and historic denomination, who received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and yet stayed within his denomination—he was instrumental in ushering in the Charismatic Renewal into the mainline denominations, as well as introducing that renewal even to places like the Ivy League colleges of Yale and Dartmouth. He humorously called the Yale students who got filled with the Spirit and spoke in tongues “GlossoYalies.” He also reached and impacted many world leaders like Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, and Anwar Sadat, and led quite a number of well-known figures like Pat Boone and Dale Evan Rogers into the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

Harald was someone who exemplified Romans 8:14: “Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” When I first met him, however, I thought he was more like the bumbling Maxwell Smart from the Get Smart TV series. As I waited to meet him in his office for the first time, I noticed telephones everywhere, and out on his patio I even found a phone hidden down in a small wooden compartment underneath the cement right by his Jacuzzi. I totally expected to find a phone in his shoe next, just like old Maxwell Smart. He always wanted to be available to minister to whoever might call needing a word or some prayer, even while relaxing in the Jacuzzi. I soon found out that, behind the wild and crazy character who ate in my ear while I talked to him on the phone—he was notorious for chomping away at his lunch or dinner while talking on the phone—there was a very wise individual who was always deftly paying attention to the Holy Spirit. While my wife and I were eating dinner with him during our first meeting, our faces ended up pretty much in our food as Harald suddenly started praying and God’s power fell upon us. We were overcome by the Spirit’s presence and we ended up getting a little bit more intimate with our dinner than expected as Harald suddenly began prophesying over us.

Here was a man who had paid the price behind the anointing, much like I wrote about in the previous blog with Jill Austin, and whose numerous antics and missteps sharpened him in the place to discern the voice and leading of the Lord in a dynamic way in his life. You can read about all that in his book Yes, Lord! (for more info click here), which chronicles the trials of those early formative years. At one of the lowest points in his early life, he found himself sitting in a little broken-down decrepit hostel, his only furniture being a broken old stool missing a leg and a bed full of bed bugs, sick and wondering if he was really hearing God right, he unknowingly found himself at a decisive point in his life, where he was going from seeking to fulfill God’s purposes in his life by way of his own power and flesh, to being yielded and led by the Holy Spirit and relying on God’s power instead.

His many years of learning to discern God’s leading gave him an uncanny way of knowing where some area of one’s life needed some breaking, reforming, and embracing of the Cross. I remember being in a shopping mall and Harald got going on a witnessing spree to the clerks and employees in Target; next he said, “Let’s go through the aisles praying out loud in tongues and see who God leads us to talk to.” This was fun and fine with me and we ended witnessing to some more people. All of a sudden however, with arms locked together, he pulled us out of Target and started making a beeline for another store. As we got closer I freaked: it was a surf shop, I was yelling inside my head go anywhere but in there, but he went straight in, praying at the top of his lungs in tongues to the shocked look of all inside. He had hit on the head an area in my life that needed a little deathblow. Growing up as a surfer and spending many years in the competitive surfing arena as well as being sponsored by different surf companies there was always that issue of wanting to look cool amongst your peers, and this was a needed deathblow to that pride. The Holy Spirit fell on me in power with the Scripture, “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise.” (1 Cor. 1:27)

I’ve had many divine appointments involving surfing (read more here) and almost always it happens while listening to the Holy Spirit and doing something that would be considered foolish to the world’s eyes by His direction, but which leads to some miraculous encounter. He uses those willing to take risks, be foolish, and step out in faith, not worrying about one’s reputation but willing to be a vessel of His word and power. Harald was a great example of this. You can never learn to swim without jumping in the water and flailing around a bit. You’ve got to take that risk; like Peter, you’ve got to step out of the boat if you want to follow the Lord and walk out on the water! Peter got out of the boat and had that radical experience of walking on the water while all the other disciples just sat in the boat watching and he got to walk on the water twice as Jesus helped him when he faltered and sank and then walked him back to the boat. It was easy for the others to just sit in the boat and possibly even criticize, “Look he doubted! Now he’s sinking.” Armchair critics are a dime a dozen and the world and the church are full of them while only a small percentage of the Christian population even gets involved in the actual activity of the Kingdom.

It takes guts and faith, however, to step out and take a risk and be willing to be used by God; you’ve got to be willing to make mistakes and missteps, you can never make it to the goal if you don’t pick up the ball and run and that means risking falling on your face. Too many want to play it safe and sit in the comfort of the pew and let someone else step out and do the Kingdom stuff and unfortunately this status quo is all to often encouraged by the powers that be.

You can listen to many sermons but there’s nothing like that living sermon of stepping out to follow Christ, which presses you in to discern His voice. Over many years of trial and tribulation, Harald learned to discern the Lord’s voice in his life and he is a wonderful example of that important dynamic in a believer’s walk.

Scriptural Insight:

"Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord. To obey is better than sacrifice.” 1Sam. 15:22

“Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God,” Romans 8:14

“If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.” Gal. 5:18

“Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” Gal. 5:25

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