Tuesday, August 25, 2009

God Works All Things for Good--Filled with the Holy Spirit and Fire

Lonnie Frisbee and Jill Austin (two heavy hitters in the
things of the Spirit) praying as the Holy Spirit falls
with fire and power over me some years ago.

Check out Bryan's Testimony Video above and
also click here to see a little bio on his surfing background

Trials aren’t fun, let’s get that straight right away here. They are just like the word implies, a time of testing and trying that brings suffering, stress, and often even confusion. We know however that as the Bible promises, God does work everything together for good for those that love Him and are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)

Trials can bring, in the end, maturity, perspective and even compassion for others who are also suffering, as well as many other things that can only be learned and brought forth through such hardship.

One doesn’t mine as much spiritual gold and the deep things of the kingdom in a seminary or Bible school as you do in God’s intensive school which could be called U.H.K. -- the University of Hard Knocks. You only need to think of Joseph in prison, Moses in exile, David as a refugee, Peter in prison, Paul in prison as well as beaten and sick, and of course Jesus who faced the cross, to understand that trials are often part of God’s plan to bring His children into deep places of revelation and purpose. Not to forget others like Job or the fact that two-thirds of the Psalms are laments and pleas for God’s help and intervention in the face of tribulation.

The idea that we would be exempt from the testing furnace of affliction really shows a lack of familiarity with the pages of Scripture. Jesus after all promised that in this world we would face tribulation.(John 16:33)

Trials come in many forms and can test us on many levels of our faith and trust in God. Be it financial or physical or both, or many other forms of testing, when in the middle of the dark tunnel the journey to the light at the end of it can seem impossibly long.

As bad as the pain is of an injury like say uh…a dislocated shoulder—what I’m personally enduring and recovering from at the moment—it is equally difficult to have your plans interrupted.

Someone said, it can be a bit disconcerting to know that God is still working on things in our lives long after we thought that chapter was finished. The reality we find instead is that the process goes on pretty much until as David says in the Psalms: “I will be satisfied when I awake with His [God’s] likeness.” (Ps. 17:15) If you didn’t figure that out, that means only once we are dead and go to heaven will God’s processing end in our lives here on earth. If you don’t continue to go through the processing, grinding mill, and refining fire—whatever term you’d like to attach to it—there is a good chance you’ve plateaued or drifted off into a place of trying to just be comfortable in your walk. Be forewarned He has ways of getting our attention.

This present trial and interruption of mine is not unlike others I’ve experienced before. Many years back, pre-marriage and ministry, I was a young Christian who got saved by “accidentally” listening to a black preacher on the radio and was later shanghaied through a divine appointment (get the whole story here-check out my surf bio) into going to a church. In the middle of pursuing a pro surfing career, modeling, and lifeguarding, life was dramatically and completely interrupted by a severe knee injury. In the matter of literally one mere second everything seemed to come crashing down around me like the World Trade Center.

Suddenly all the things that I’d trained and worked so hard for were decimated like wreckage on the freeway during a crash. In the passing of literally one mere moment I now had no job, no ability for a long time to pursue competitive surfing aspirations, nor to model—people hobbling around on crutches need not apply. In one fell swoop all forms of income, pursuits, and enjoyment were eliminated. The disappointment was further enhanced by the fact that I had been recently training with one of the coaches for the Olympic swim team at a local college who let me train with him to enhance paddling speed for surf contests and had garnered some victories and other strong results in surf contests recently, and had never been in such excellent physical shape in my life. Then, having it all come crashing down in one moment with a severe knee injury was a huge and crushing blow.

I may not have known a lot about the Kingdom and God at that point but one thing was clear about God that I did know—He was in the miracle and supernatural business. It didn’t take much to deduce this correctly from the Scripture I did know. All of a sudden, after previously resisting invitations from friends, I suddenly took interest in a fairly new church called Calvary Chapel Yorba Linda that I was told had supernatural things going on. They had recently had an outpouring of the Holy Spirit—though at that time I wasn’t sure what was meant by that—and were experiencing revival after Jesus People evangelist Lonnie Frisbee had ministered there.

It sure seemed different than I expected though when I got there, they met in a high school gym that was about as hot and made you sweat as much as a Swedish sauna. People were doing all kinds of weird things like lifting their hands in the air and I couldn't figure out what they were trying to reach or do, while others were crying and some laughing, some even fell over or off their seats. All I could equate it with was a Shriner’s Circus I’d been to as a kid where me and a friend had been made to go by his dad who said it would be a good experience for us; we were the only ones in the audience without a mental or physical disability and spent more time looking at everyone around us than at the circus performance itself.

Here I was in this weird church in a school gym sweating every ounce of fluid out of my body, watching people cry and laugh for no reason whatsoever, with their hands in the air and listening to this big heavy-set white-bearded dude on the stage drone on forever about who knows what—I couldn’t understand what he was saying—not a word of it. I was wondering where the miracles were. All I could see were reflections of the Shriner’s Circus—people around me laughing, crying, and some falling over for no known or obvious reason whatsoever. I thought, “Well, at least all these mentally challenged people have a funky church here where they can let it all hang out and be free, it was a good place for them. For me, I don’t know.”

Finally the bearded guy (John Wimber) wiped his sweaty face and said, “It’s really hot in here. Let’s move on to some ministry.” I was like, “Finally! I thought he’d never stop blabbing…is this where the miracles take place?”

He said everyone who wanted prayer to go into a back room. Along with a pretty good-sized crowd, I hobbled in my cast and crutches back there. I really wasn’t wanting to pray about anything, I just came for the miracle part and wanted to get out of there asap after that. Just get me a miracle here for my leg and I’ll be on my way, thank you and you can continue on with all your laughing, crying, and falling over stuff, all you want on your own.

I didn’t know what to expect, maybe a mini miracle service in this back room or something. “They may run out of seats,” I thought “so I better hurry up and get back in there” and started trying to hurry pushing my way in to get back there through the crowd. What happened next was so far outside my expectations it caught me off guard.

As I entered the room it was completely disorganized, there was no miracle service going on or any seeming organization to this thing at all. There was just a bunch of normal people praying for others and putting their hands on them which seemed kind of weird. One crazy looking hippie-type guy, who I later found out was the Jesus People revivalist named Lonnie Frisbee, was waving his arms around and yelling now and then about something, while standing on top of some school wrestling mats that were rolled up. I just stood there a bit perplexed with this whole scenario, looking around, and then mere moments before I could even process my thoughts, something happened.

Out of nowhere this heavy feeling came over me, I suddenly began to feel an incredible sense of God’s presence. Having been saved a few years back, there was already that awareness of God in my life. Suddenly now however, it was like that had been multiplied exponentially a thousand times over and God and His glory were right there with and upon me. All at once I began to be overwhelmed by God’s manifest presence right there upon me, and like those people I thought were disabled out in the gym, I was starting to cry and then laugh and then cry and then laugh and on and on for no visible reason whatsoever. His love and grace began to be downloaded from my head into my heart at light speed and it was overwhelming me. Waves of something like liquid love began to wash over and over me again and again.

Next, Lonnie Frisbee, the crazy hippie guy on the wrestling mats started pointing at me and praying over me and saying stuff over me; I didn’t know at that time that he was speaking prophetic words over me. He started yelling that the Spirit of God is moving powerfully now on this young guy here as he prayed over me. It was like being thrown into an ocean of God’s presence and suddenly, gloriously, drowning in his tangible mercy and grace. I became so overwhelmed I couldn’t stand up anymore and some people sat me down on some rolled up wrestling mats where they prayed for me and I continued to get hammered, being baptized in the Holy Spirit for the next three and a half to four hours at least.

When I finally opened my eyes from what seemed like an altered state of consciousness, the place which had been full was now almost empty. Without a doubt I had been in the presence of God in a major way. The last few people who were hanging around still praying for me said “Wow, God really filled your tank tonight. Boy you really got filled with the Holy Spirit.”

I was completely perplexed by their figures of speech, what tank? Filled with the what? I was totally naïve to these concepts and the “Christianese” language that surrounded them.

Much like the people Paul encountered on the way to Ephesus who believed in Jesus but knew nothing of the Holy Spirit or his power I was in that same boat. Paul had immediately prayed for them to be filled with the Holy Spirit though they had limited knowledge, likewise God didn’t wait for me to take a course on the Holy Spirit before he filled me to overflowing. The gift came without any knowledge, effort, study or merit on my part whatsoever. Just like the Bible teaches “you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This promise is to you, and to your children, to…all who have been called by the Lord our God.” Acts 2:38-39.

This was a life-changing event, my life took a complete change at this point as I began to pray and read the Bible regularly. I never had done much of that before, and I also began to realize that God had a higher purpose and calling for me regarding serving him and ministry versus just doing and pursuing my own thing.

Being baptized with the Holy Spirit like this brought me a complete paradigm shift regarding the reality of God’s love and presence and the reality of his call and purpose for my life, which soon began to be played out as I began to witness to others and even lead others to Christ and eventually started a Bible Study; I was pulled into ministry by God’s Spirit soon after being filled with the Holy Spirit.

God brought complete healing to my knee over time rather than bringing an instantaneous miracle; He knows best that I would have just returned to my own pursuits soon after if this is all that happened. He indeed works everything for good, I was brought into the reality of God’s presence and love and grace and directed into God’s call and ministry all through the filling of the Holy Spirit.

There is a reason that John the Baptist—who was the greatest of the Old Covenant prophets according to Jesus—declared only two things regarding the ministry of Christ: That he was the lamb of God who takes away sin and that He will baptize us in the Holy Spirit and fire.

I had already received the forgiveness of sins and now I was receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit and definitely the fire was being poured upon me at this time in a life-changing way. It was a pivotal and seminal moment that brought great change and revealed God’s purpose and call. There is a reason it is so emphasized by John the Baptist, Jesus, as well as in the book of Acts by Luke and by Paul the Apostle, because the reality of God’s presence released in one’s life through the Holy Spirit brings one into a reality of God’s love and grace and purpose like nothing else can.

We are encouraged to ask, seek and knock for the Holy Spirit’s fullness and gifts (Luke 11:9-13) in our lives and walks with God. I encourage you to do the same.

Even in this present trial of mine God the Holy Spirit continues to take things to a deeper level as he heals things of the past and specifically is healing some undealt with grief and pain from the death of my younger brother while we were on the mission field traveling and ministering through 17 different countries last year at this time; it isn’t easy to process something like that while constantly traveling and ministering. Sometimes he slows us down to deepen and expand the well so it can hold more. This way, he can then pour more into us so that more can flow out through us as things continue on.

The Bible encourages us to ask, seek, and knock and press in to be filled with the Holy Spirit and lean in on Jesus in your trials and tribulations.