Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas and Blessings to You in the New Year!


Only through the revelation of the Holy Spirit can the glory and the enigma of the incarnation be understood.

That the Holy Spirit came upon a little peasant teenager living in an obscure village in an area most Jews referred to derogatorily as Galilee of the Gentiles should make us take pause and reflect a bit.

The town of Nazareth is so obscure that driving there, it’s easy to miss it, which is what happened to us when we visited it some years back. Mary was the ultimate nobody from a real nowhere town, and yet we’ve become so familiar with the story that we forget how ordinary and unassuming was the person and place through which God chose to bring his Son into the world.

Furthermore, Mary travels what would be considered a huge distance—while most likely 9 months pregnant—from her home in Nazareth to Bethlehem to fulfill the Roman census demand. A demand that seems most harsh, and yet God allowed it to come forth right when the woman carrying His very Son is closing in on baby day, so that the ancient Hebrew prophecy would be fulfilled.

The next scene has to really boggle the mind, and yet the familiarity of it all obscures its reality: Mary is out in a manger giving birth to the Savior amongst barnyard animals. The true rawness and grit of it all is often lost on us modern folk who see so many romantic depictions of this scene in Christmas plays and Christmas cards. We forget that this was a dirty, smelly barnyard. It is a place not much different from where the poorest of the poor often still dwell in our world even today.

While in a little Mexican village one time we visited some of the little plywood shacks with their dirt floors where I saw a little baby lying all wrapped up with a little teenage mother—the significance of the scene was not lost on me.

God reached down to the lowliest point in both the manger and on the cross to our lowest depths of sinful broken humanity. In all our poverty of spirit He identifies himself as one of us while still remaining sinless and God the Son, taking on Himself the transgressions of a fallen race that we might receive grace and redemption.

Much like the New Testament, which is written in the crude koine Greek of the marketplace, not the high Greek of Homer or The Iliad, with even some of its portions being penned by fishermen and tax collectors, hardly the scholarly type. It was in fact Alexander the Great’s conquest that spread the Greek language all over the known world and made it a language that was no longer high and scholarly but that of the everyman. God’s Living Word—both written and incarnated—reaches down to us right where we are in our human lowliness and brokenness.

On every level, God the Father reaches down and meets us right where we are. Stripping away all human pride and loftiness, He meets us with compassion when we are willing to divorce ourselves from the arrogance that stains the human condition and humbly receive His grace and mercy that He offers so freely—another thing the mind of fallen man has a hard time accepting—yet freely He forgives and receives us, adopting us as His very own.

The little baby crying in the manger cries to us to receive His abundant grace in Christ the Savior and the comfort of the Holy Spirit so that our human brokenness might be healed.


Another aspect of the Christmas message that is often overlooked is the prominent role the Holy Spirit plays in the Christmas narrative.

Luke’s Christmas narrative is infused throughout with references to the Holy Spirit. Often overlooked in the Christmas story, the Spirit of God is in fact at its core. From beginning to end, the story of Christmas is an account of the supernatural invading the natural world with angels, dreams, visions, and the power of the Holy Spirit.

To the question Mary had of how she a virgin could bear a child, the angel answered, “The Power of the Holy Spirit will come upon you…” She wasn’t told the miracle would just all of a sudden take place; no, the Holy Spirit must come upon her first for the miracle to take place. The Holy Spirit came upon her and thus God brought forth the miracle of a virgin who bore forth the Christ Child—the supernatural invaded the natural through the power of the Holy Spirit.

We’ve been blessed to experience the Holy Spirit moving in power. The wind of God was blowing in a recent meeting at a church, and the pastor’s wife testified that the wind of God blew directly upon her with an angelic visitation as we ministered amongst the congregation. On another occasion, some guys asked us to pray with them before a worship meeting, when the Holy Spirit began to be poured out right then, and what was supposed to last just a few minutes, lasted for close to two hours as they were overcome with the presence of God bowled over on the floor. Numerous healings have also been taking place, as well as a number of people receiving Christ, including a young Latvian woman who was selling things door to door that we led to Christ right on our driveway. “The Holy Spirit will come upon you”…”You shall receive power”… “Live by the Spirit.”

Nothing could be more central to getting into the Spirit of Christmas, for the true Spirit of Christmas is THE HOLY SPIRIT!!

Christmas blessings to you – Be filled afresh today and as you begin the New Year!!!
Bryan, Mercedes, and Patrick Marleaux


The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Luke 1:35

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Luke 1:41

He [John the Baptist] will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth. Luke 1:15

His [John the Baptist’s] father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied. Luke 1:67

It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. Luke 2:26

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Giving Thanks for America's Revival Heritage

Watch this video on the Great Awakening,
an important view into the revival that helped shape America.

Listen to this impacting audio message
on how the Reformation led to the development of America.

Luther’s admonition on prayer: “Pour out your heart before God and say, ‘I am empty, fill me…strengthen me…warm me and make me burn,’” as well as his insistence on the need for the Spirit's power: Unless you are continually baptized in the Holy Spirit and fire you will fall back into unbelief" were taken up in practice by the Puritans in England when the Reformation spread there. They inveighed against a Christianity that went only through the motions and rituals, but instead preached that “one must have an encounter with God; Christ must fill the heart.” This was a central focus of early Puritan faith. They were, as historian Sydney Alhstrom points out, “an extended revival movement.”

Thus, when Puritans (those who desired to purify the church from Romish chains and return to a New Testament standard) and Separatists (those who sought to ‘come out and be separate’ from Roman Catholicism) came and formed the early American Colonies, they did so in personal obedience to the Great Commission. They sought to establish a place where worship could be free, free from the restrictions of dead institutional religiosity, returning to that of the early church in Acts. They were all about revival and eagerly sought after it.

Through long travail and many trials, revival finally came forth when Jonathan Edwards, a descendant of Puritans, and George Whitfield, who was converted to Christ directly by the teaching of reformers and the Reformation, ministered in the early American Colonies and the fire of God began to fall.

Edwards began to seek God concerning the lethargy that was later setting in amongst the Christian Community in the colonies and was directed by the Holy Spirit back to the central focus of Christ’s payment for sin and God’s prevailing grace for all who will believe. As he preached a tightly reasoned sermon series on justification by faith through grace, “a great acceleration of the Spirit’s presence took place.” This was followed up later when he invited George Whitfield, who would regularly preach on “the righteousness from God given to us as a free gift wrought by Christ’s work on the cross for us who believe.” Edwards, an unemotional person, would often weep through the entirety of Whitfield's preaching, so touched by God was he.

The embers Edwards stirred exploded into a raging conflagration through Whitfield’s preaching. The fire of God began to spread and powerful manifestations began to take place on a regular basis as revival took hold. The colonies were turned upside down with an outpouring of the Spirit and manifestations of many falling to the ground under the power of the Spirit, shaking, crying out, profuse weeping and laughing. All these took place regularly as the Spirit’s power spread. Whitfield crisscrossed the colonies and began to have massive crowds come out to hear him regularly. Crowds of eight to ten thousand people (for the size of the colonies this was huge) were the norm, culminating in him preaching to over 30,000 at one time on the Commons at Boston. Benjamin Franklin, a self-described skeptic who nevertheless was always interested in Whitfield's effect, measured the crowds and recorded the events, giving even more credence to the phenomenon of the revival. When Whitfield would preach, absolute mayhem would often take place, with crowds running to the event and stirring up so much dust it looked like a cloud had descended, with the added phenomenon of boats and carriages crashing in their attempt to get to the meetings.

Through the effects of the revival many were raised up to be preachers, missionaries, evangelists, and the like, and took the Gospel out to further reaches of the expanding settlements; churches were strengthened and grew and many colleges were raised up to train preachers, including Dartmouth (originally called Moors Charity School for Indians), and Brown University.

This revival, like all revivals, was of course not without controversy, as many in staid and formal churches didn’t appreciate “such enthusiasm” as they called it, looking down their noses at such base behavior, much like Michal looked down on King David’s worship and dancing. It is interesting to note, however, that many of those who opposed the revival would themselves fall later into liberal ideologies like Unitariansim; it isn’t really possible to resist the Holy Spirit on one hand and think He’ll bless you on the other. Whitefield's comment on that situation was "The reason there are so many dead churches is that dead men are preaching to them." Gilbert Tennent also wrote and preached on "The danger of an unconverted ministry" reflecting the reality that many leaders in a lot of churches resisting the revival didn't even know Christ personally themselves.

Nevertheless, denominations today like Presbyterians, Baptists, and Methodists owe their size directly to their participation in this and other revivals that took place in early America. However, the vast majority of churches in which the Great Awakening took place were Puritan. The Spirit of God was poured out in power with mighty manifestations taking place and so the Gospel spread.

This is a large unsung part of our Thanksgiving Heritage: Thank God for the way the grace of Christ and the power of His Spirit gave such a Christian foundation to this nation in its earliest days.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Ulrich Zwingli and the Swiss Reformation

On October 31st, 1517 Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses to the Castle Church door in Wittenberg, Germany. Thus began the Reformation, which quickly spread all over Europe, leading multitudes back to Christ and the truth of His Word!!

Martin Luther said: “Unless you are continually baptized in the Holy Spirit and fire you will fall back into unbelief.”(1) The words of the great reformer couldn’t ring more true. So many of the people I knew from way back who played a game of safe Churchianity and warned against being too focused on that “Holy Spirit stuff” are not even walking with God now but have fallen back into the world while pursuing its empty nonsense. There is nothing better you can do for your walk with God than to pursue being filled and empowered by the Holy Spirit!! For the Holy Spirit is God, and He leads us into all truth, opens our eyes to spiritual reality, and gives us life.

Luther’s highlighting of Paul’s creed (Rom. 8:1-16; Gal. 5:16-25; Eph. 3:16-19, 5:17) puts into perspective the reality that we do not wrestle against flesh and blood but spiritual forces of darkness who constantly assault the believer on every front. The battle of faith constantly wages on and we need the light and illumination of the Holy Spirit to see clearly the battle we are in.

Like the character Susan in C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe who crosses over into another world she previously knew not existed and whose eyes open to a reality she beforehand knew nothing of, Luther himself says he entered into the paradise of God’s grace when the Holy Spirit opened his eyes to God’s Word declaring, “I was born again through gates of paradise and the whole of Scripture took on a new meaning,” (2) (click here for an overview of Luther’s life) as he finally understood that Christ had once for all paid for his sins on the cross at Calvary. Luther’s clarity on the finished work of Christ and subsequent confrontation of Catholic errors on things like:

  • Indulgences—the Catholic Church selling documents proclaiming forgiveness to those who rendered sufficient payment, a practice that still continues in the Catholic Church in parts of Italy and elsewhere.

  • Relics—the worship and idolatry of pieces of bone and hair from already-deceased, well-known Christians. This is actually a forbidden practice in the Old Testament called necromancy, yet one that the Catholic Church did and still persists in carrying out.

Confronting these abuses spurred the Reformation forward like wild fire, so many throughout the continent were sufficiently disgusted at the constant unbiblical abuses and money grubbing going on in Catholicism that when Luther’s sharp and clear words regarding the freely given grace offered through Christ’s finished work along with the pointed rebuke at the abuses the Catholic Church was carrying out, the sentiment spread like a wild conflagration.

Luther’s clarity in his writings on Christ’s finished work and confrontation of the errors of the Institutional Church turned many back to the truth of God’s Word and towards real relationship with Christ. Students grabbed hold of his writings and began reprinting them on the recently invented printing press (click here to learn about Gutenberg's printing press), disseminating them all over Europe, which stirred a movement that spread throughout the nations and eventually to the formation of a nation that would become known as America.

One of those impacted by Luther’s teaching and preaching was Ulrich Zwingli in Switzerland as well as his contemporaries like Heinrich Bullinger and William Farrel.

Zwingli, a Catholic priest like Luther, was greatly disillusioned with Catholicism as well and yet, unlike Luther, found himself unable to live up to the demands of celibacy (like many priests we see in the news today). Zwingli later, like Luther, turned his back on the unrealistic idea of celibacy and married. He was influenced by Luther’s writings early on and experienced a conversion to Christ and began to disseminate Luther’s teaching in Switzerland. He subsequently began to lead the Reformation in Zurich and brought a great impact to the area and just as Luther, he taught on God’s grace while speaking out against the abuses and errors of Catholicism. (As former priests, all these men were intimately in touch with the damage caused by such institutionalized error.) Luther and Zwingli as well as the other reformers, stressed the authority of God’s Word over against the teachings of man found so much in institutional religion.

Zwingli also proffered great insight into the breaking process one goes through as we learn to lean on the cross of Christ. Faith and grace come forth “when one despairs of oneself and trusts wholly on Christ alone.” Salvation is known and matures when “a man casts himself off and prostrates himself before the mercy of God alone.” Until one stops looking to oneself and one’s own works “you remain yet to know the depths of the grace he offers.” Though Zwingli and Luther saw a few small details differently, on the main essentials their belief were the same: by faith through grace alone—nothing more and nothing less—does one receive the great gift of pardon and mercy God offers in his Son Jesus Christ.

This essential Biblical foundation held in common by all the reformers became the cornerstone of later revivals at: Hernhutt in Germany, in England, and in the American Colonies. Revivals that, because they had a solid Biblical foundation, lasted, flourished, and spread the Gospel, unlike many of the so-called revivals of today that spring up quickly and seem focused more on an individual and his personality and die out just as quickly as they arose. (Can anyone say Lakeland….etc.)

Zwingli also influenced many others in his area that joined the Reformation as well, and these Reformers like Bullinger and Farrel, did much to reach out to the poor and bring reforms to not only the Church but social situations as well. Bullinger made Zurich a refuge for Christians being persecuted by the Catholic Church and fleeing the burning at the stake, especially other Lutherans. Farrel was a fiery preacher who raised up many young preachers and sent them out to reach others with the Gospel of grace as well as reaching out to the poor and sick. He was also a figure who shone the light of Christ and even reached out to the Waldensians who had been persecuted centuries earlier and had taken refuge in Switzerland.

This simple turning back to the fundamentals of the New Testament’s core teaching of Christ’s finished work and the grace he freely offers through faith in His blood, shook not only these regions but also the nations. As even Life Magazine put it, Luther and his influence remain in the top three of most important events over the last one thousand years.

I'll share with you shortly the radical divine appointment story of how the above video on Zwingli came to be made. Stay tuned!

(1) Luther’s Sermons, Volume # 2, Page 182
(2) Martin Luther quoting on his conversion. Here I Stand by Roland Bainton.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Understanding God’s Processing In Us Through Trials

I want to give a quick synopsis of a recent message I gave as I believe it is timely for many people at the moment:

Joseph, Moses, and David all had important calls and purposes God had for their lives but all of them went through severe and extended trial, testing, and preparation, in being made ready for the blessing the Lord would eventually bring so as to handle it correctly once it came.

Imagine Joseph in prison wondering what had become of the dreams he had received and how on earth could this severe trial possibly have anything to do with those dreams. However, that trial was indeed part of the preparation for those dreams being fulfilled; God had indeed called him and would use him later in a very important way. Likewise with both Moses and David, trials did rule their lives for quite an extended period. David must have wondered what being pursued like a fugitive all over the countryside by Saul had to do with being anointed as the next king by the prophet Samuel. He, in fact, was having the Saul tried out of him however.

King Saul never had that preparation and in fact completely faltered when brought into a position of leadership; he thought his own human reasoning could take the place of being led by God’s Spirit, and it led him alright, right into disobedience and catastrophe. David learned to seek God through these severe trials and those lessons stayed with him later.

In the same way, God often takes us as his children through heavy trials but they have a purpose if we have ears to hear. He wants to teach us reliance on Him. The Apostle Paul learned to not rely on his own strength and instead learned to say, “When I am weak then I am strong, for God’s grace is sufficient for me.” Likewise God will extract out of our lives everything that keeps us from being centered on anything but the sheer grace of His glorious Son Jesus.

Jesus alone paid the whole price and all the glory goes to him. He will have no competing thoughts, idols, or strongholds that might lead us to think that our own works, or abilities, or accomplishments, have anything to do with the great blessing He brings. Christ and Christ alone is to be glorified. As Luther said: God creates out of nothing and until he makes us realize we are nothing He can do nothing with us. Oh, what do you know? Christianity actually has a cross in it (!) in spite of what some TV preacher guy may have told you about unbridled prosperity. The cross and trials are indeed part of the preparation process for us to handle the blessings and increase that He will eventually bring.

He wants to prepare long distance runners that persevere and hear His voice and follow His will and direction, those that are led by His Spirit and rely on His grace and love and power, and not human-centered individuals that look only to their own strength and resources and their own human reasoning and like Saul, falter when given a task to carry out by Him. And the only road that will get us to that place is through the cross.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Thirty-Year Anniversary of Mother's Day Outpouring

Canyon High School gym where God poured
out His Spirit thirty years ago on Mother's Day

Follow this link for a video and background to the
Jesus People and Third Wave Revivals.

This Mother’s Day is the 30-year anniversary of an outpouring of the Spirit that gave birth to a very powerful revival that went out to the nations and affected many lives, including my own.
Known by a few different monikers including “The Third Wave Revival” (named thus by missiologist and Fuller Seminary Professor Peter Wagner who includes it as one of the three most important outpourings in the Twentieth Century) it has also been called the “Vineyard Revival” and, though this may be a more popular term, I prefer Wagner’s term because the roots and the reach of the outpouring went way outside the bounds of the Vineyard movement.
Thirty years ago John Wimber, pastor of the then called Calvary Chapel Yorba Linda, had Lonnie Frisbee come share his testimony for a service which happened to be on Mother’s Day. Frisbee had previously been the instrumental evangelist in the Jesus People Revival, a movement which had given rise to the growth of Calvary Chapel churches—as well as being the leading evangelist at Calvary Costa Mesa, Frisbee had also actually led now well-known evangelist Greg Laurie to the Lord, discipled him, and started his church out in Riverside, now known as the mega church Harvest Christian Fellowship—though Frisbee never received much credit for all God did through him (follow this link for more on the Jesus People Revival and the Third Wave Revival.)

What ensued on that Mother’s Day has been the subject of multiple books (1), articles, research, documentaries, and even seminary discussions. Frisbee basically just shared his testimony, which was nothing unusual. What happened afterwards was what turned things on their head. Straight after his testimony, as Frisbee began to invite the Holy Spirit to move on this pretty straight-laced evangelical group, the Spirit of God began to be poured out in radical power. People who didn’t even believe in speaking in tongues began to speak in tongues; in fact as the Spirit moved on people and knocked some over to the ground, a dog pile of young people fell near the front inundated by the power of the Spirit, and one of them ended up on top of a microphone crying out in tongues over the amplification system which seemed to cause a reverberation of the Spirit’s power throughout the meeting. An all out radical outpouring of the Holy Ghost took over. Wimber, who had no idea what was happening, was completely perplexed and in his own words “fit to be tied.”

After such a wild service he was at first angry, but as he began to pray and examine the Bible, he came to the conclusion that “Lord, maybe this is from you.” In the middle of the night he received a call from Tom Stipe, a fellow Calvary Pastor who knew nothing of what had happened that day and had a word from God for him. Calling in the literal middle of the night Stipe told Wimber that he had been kept awake all night long with this word from God for him: “John, the Lord says ‘This is [of] Me.’ ” With the word from God confirming this was of the Lord and a fresh examination of the Scriptures, Wimber had what in the lingua of Fuller Theological Seminary, where he had previously taught, was now his very own experience, a complete paradigm shift, and went forward full force with what God had just done.

That Mother’s Day outpouring sparked a revival that continued on at full throttle. The church in Yorba Linda tripled in size over that very year and many, many people began to get saved, filled, healed, delivered as well as experiencing the outpouring and fullness of the Spirit in their own lives.

In time a team was assembled from the Yorba Linda church that went out to different nations with Wimber and Frisbee doing conferences on the subject of “The Power of God,” further spreading and widening the acclaim of this move of God.

This outpouring was made even more prominent by Wimber’s subsequent course at Fuller Seminary entitled “MC510 – Signs, Wonders, and Church Growth” which became the most popular course in the mainline evangelical seminary’s history.

Some people just don’t know a good thing when they have it, as Fuller eventually caved to those whining about people getting healed on campus, like when Prof. Peter Wagner got healed of high blood pressure during a class by Wimber. The view that prevailed was that a seminary should be a place for mere extracted thought and not practice and so Wimber was pushed out, but not without having had a huge impact on the place and those attending.

I was blessed to attend one of the last classes Wimber taught there with Wagner, which had been synthesized with some other issues to keep the basic course and idea going titled “Spiritual Issues and Church Growth.” The Signs and Wonders name was just too potent for some, so the name was dumbed down a bit, but the basic premise was the same: the Power of God as seen in the Bible is integral to the spread of God’s Kingdom on earth—why such a clearly biblical topic should be so difficult for some to stomach is still hard to figure out.

Like Dr. John White says in his book When the Spirit Comes with Power (another book that recorded these events): When one steps out to radically follow God he is usually met with scorn by those who hold to the status quo, later on however he is often given an honorary doctorate—usually posthumously—by those who finally realize the contribution he has made to the community of believers. Such is the case with figures like William Seymour who is only now, a century later, being recognized by publications like Christianity Today as one of the top ten most important Christian leaders in the Twentieth Century. Previous to this, Seymour received mostly the obligatory scorn from the larger Christian community for founding the Pentecostal Revival. Surely the same pattern is already starting to emerge for Frisbee and Wimber as even many who had no connection to this revival are looking back, documenting its events, and seeing the major contribution to the Body of Christ of these two as well as other players who played pivotal roles.

Political correctness ruling the day, Wimber’s Calvary Chapel Yorba Linda was eventually given the left foot of fellowship and asked to find itself a new name, not one with “Calvary Chapel” in it and so joined up with another former Calvary Chapel leader named Ken Gulliksen and his small group of churches called “The Vineyard.” Folk singer Bob Dylan was hanging around these fellowships back then and radical things continued to happen and spread as the Vineyard movement with Wimber taking the helm became a major force for renewal and revival over time.
Frisbee’s impact on both Calvary Chapel and the Vineyard has been mostly understated and underreported. His impact, however, in both these movements is huge and instrumental. (Click here for more info on Calvary Chapel history)
Wimber’s first ever “Power Encounter” took place when Frisbee ministered on that Mother’s Day service, according to Wimber’s own words in his book Power Evangelism. The fact that his four books Power Evangelism, Power Healing, Power Points, and Power Encounters as well as his conferences on “The Power of God” are all based and flow out of that seminal encounter, clearly demonstrates the enormous impact of Frisbee’s influence on Wimber’s subsequent thought and practice, thought and practice that had a huge impact on the body of Christ.
Nothing ever happens in a vacuum and the Third Wave/Vineyard Revival itself was actually rooted in the Jesus People Revival, which interestingly enough, has itself roots that tie back to the Pentecostals—both Lonnie Frisbee and Chuck Smith were originally in the Pentecostal movement. Chuck Smith was originally a Foursquare Pentecostal Preacher and Frisbee originally came to Christ as a youth at a Pentecostal camp. John Wimber’s own spiritual roots are from the Quakers, itself an early radical revival movement that sprung up in England and the American Colonies but which later became mainstream, seemingly being led back to his true roots unaware.
Furthermore, one of the most interesting things I’ve noticed is how much the Third Wave/ Vineyard Revival as well as the Pentecostal Revival so closely resemble powerful historical revivals of the past: The Great Awakening as well as the Camp Meetings along with the English Revivals all experienced similar outpourings and manifestations which were duly noted by some of their leaders and participants, something I’ll expand on more at another time.
My Own Experience in Context

Bryan Marleaux in the tube.  (Photo © Surfshot)

Quiksilver Ad: Bryan Marleaux (2nd from right) and Mark "Smerk" Mangan (far right).

The unexpected outpouring of the Spirit way back on Mother’s Day in the high school gym where Calvary Chapel Yorba Linda (later to become Vineyard Anaheim) held its services, turned life upside down in a good way for many people, myself included.
I was dragged to one of its services by others, hoping to receive healing for an injured knee that was putting the brakes on my surfing/life-guarding/modeling career. I had been surfing the amateur circuits for years where contemporaries like Tom Curren and eventually Kelly Slater were making their mark, it was a wild time to be involved in such a sport (find out more about this time and experience by clicking here) definitely a season of great change in many aspects of society. I had been influenced to turn pro by my sponsor Quiksilver and shortly after I did, I had a massive knee injury while surfing, which brought my new venture to a complete halt. Having appeared recently in an advertisement in Surfing Magazine for Quiksilver, the pressure was on to get healed up and get back on track with things. And so it was that I went to this odd church up in Yorba Linda with the goal of getting my knee healed and moving on with my life, having no idea of the whitewater rapids I was about to be thrown into.
Like being thrown into a raging river, I entered into this weird gym with people holding their hands up in the air and singing what seemed like songs that never ended, all just connecting together for what seemed like forever.
Due to the lack of windows and air conditioning in the gym the place was about as hot as a Swedish sauna. I looked around as some were singing with hands raised, others were crying or laughing, and some had even fallen over or off their seats, while still others seemed to be muttering strange languages. All I could equate it with was a Shriners Circus I’d been to as a kid where my friend and I were the only ones without a disability and where I spent more time looking at everyone around me than at the performance itself.
Here I was in this church that met in a school gym sweating every ounce of fluid out of my body, listening to all this singing and mesmerized by people crying and laughing for no reason whatsoever.
Finally after all this endless singing the speaker John Wimber, did his best to ramble on in the unbearable heat for a while and finally wiped his sweaty face and said, “ You know, it’s really hot in here, let’s move on to some ministry.” And then got down to the reason I came and sent all those who wanted prayer for healing to a back room.
I was expecting some kind of mini miracle service in that back room but instead found a completely disorganized mess with what seemed like just regular people praying for one another. I was expecting someone in a three-piece suit to be throwing crutches in the air and proclaiming people healed but nothing really significant seemed to be happening here.

Bryan being prayed over by Lonnie Frisbee and Jill Austin.

Then a crazy hippie guy seemed to take charge of things—I remembered having seen him before at the Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa church as well as at a small group one time where I also happened to be dragged to by some other people.
This small group I had gone to before had been another endless singing escapade, singing and singing all night long. I got bored at one point and started singing too rather than just looking around the room, just to make the time pass faster. All of a sudden something happened when I started singing, that same crazy hippie guy, who I later found out was Lonnie Frisbee from Calvary Chapel, came up behind me and placed his hands on me. Immediately something happened where I felt the warmth and love of God come over me just momentarily. I’d never experienced that before.
When the small group meeting ended I told some people outside what had happened, and their response to me was: “Don’t you know anything about the Holy Spirit? That was the Holy Spirit starting to come on you.”
I told them that the guy over there had prayed over me without even asking me or anything. Someone said, “Hey, that’s Lonnie Frisbee. Everywhere he goes radical things happen!”
Now, here a little later on, as I was in that back room of the gym at Calvary Yorba Linda just kind of looking around and thinking, “This is a big disappointment. This thing isn’t even organized.” And suddenly out of nowhere something began to happen to me, this heavy feeling of God’s presence just began to come over me. I suddenly began to feel an incredible sense of God’s presence multiplied exponentially a thousand times over, God and His glory were right there with and upon me. All at once I began to be overwhelmed by God’s manifest glory, and like those people I had watched mesmerized whom I thought were disabled and/or strange 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, while standing on some 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 was 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 as 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 that had been full was now almost empty. Without a doubt I had been in the presence of God in a major way. It was an encounter with God that would change my life forever.
Much like the people Paul encountered on the way to Ephesus (Acts 19:1-7) who believed in Jesus but knew nothing of the Holy Spirit or His power, I had been 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.) In my limited knowledge, I had the same experience as those Ephesians Paul prayed for, getting filled unaware and even speaking in tongues later while praying at home after this.
This was a life-changing event, my life was completely transformed at this point as I began to pray and read the Bible regularly, something I never had done much of 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 a complete paradigm shift in my thinking 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 even starting a Bible Study with those I’d led to Christ where we had our own Holy Ghost times. And so it was that I was led into ministry and became a witness of God’s grace, love, and power by God’s Spirit soon after being filled with the Holy Spirit just like Jesus says will happen. (Acts 1:8.)
God brought healing to my knee, though I still had to suffer through that cast and doing some weights to get rid of the atrophy for a while. It was a break in time that took me away from just going after my own pursuits. 

I was brought into the reality of God’s presence and love and grace in a way that I had never heard nor knew could happen and then was directed into God’s call and ministry all through the work and power of His Spirit.
Mine is just one of countless testimonies of so many whose lives were changed and impacted for good in this revival.

We were blessed to connect with Lonnie Frisbee later and as good friends learned many important lessons in that discipleship time.
The Third Wave/Vineyard Revival went on to spread out to many different parts of the country and different nations, bringing renewal and reviving many.
This is just one of many of God’s great outpourings throughout the centuries that traces itself all the way back to the Day of Pentecost recorded in the Book of Acts where Jesus’ words were fulfilled: “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and be my witnesses…to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

Video of Jesus People
Video of Bryan's Testimony

(1) When the Spirit Comes With Power by John White; Power Evangelism by John Wimber; The Quest for the Radical Middle by Bill Jackson.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Good Friday and Easter Reflections

One of history's most dramatic trials played out as the the son of a carpenter stood before a son of the glorious Roman Empire. Pilate, stunned by what he was presented with when the very King of Glory stood before him on trial, still failed to see what true glory was really all about, and gave way for the Son of God to be crucified as a common criminal even though he himself declared three times that he was innocent of any charge:

  • Pilate went out to the Jews and said "I find no basis for a charge against him." (John 18:38.)
  • Pilate came out and said to the Jews, "Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him." (John 19:4.)
  • But Pilate answered "You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him."(John 19:6.)

How a Roman Governor whose word is as good as law could still allow someone, much less Jesus Christ famed for healing and helping the sick and downtrodden, to be crucified when he himself just declared three times unequivocally to be innocent of any charge, is one of history's great enigmas.

The answer to such perplexing enigmatic circumstances is found in Jesus' own words: "I lay down my life--only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and to take it up again." (John 10:17-18)

Christ laid his life down that we might have forgiveness, redemption, and life. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21). True redemption, mercy, and grace are found only in Him!

(For Further Reading: In this dramatic trial of Jesus before Pilate we see the perplexity of man's condition: Created in God's image but so bound to sin we must be redeemed from this fallen state, thus the cross was absolutely necessary for our salvation due to our utter depravity, but praise God Jesus has come and paid the price that we might be freed and have life --read more by clicking here.)

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