Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Merry Christmas and Many Blessings for 2015!

We were invited to a very unique Christmas experience this year.  Our friends Jeff and Jeanette took us way up a mountain to a small apple farm, where in the rustic farmhouse, theater actors did a reenactment of a Christmas meal from the early American Colonies. It was a well-recreated scene with period costumes and the food of a 1774 Christmas-time meal, though it didn’t taste that old :) along with music of the era played on an Irish bouzouki, harpsichord, and fiddle. 

You were transported back to those early days of an emerging nation hoping to find its way in the world. The shaky legs of a nascent republic were strengthened by the Word of Christ, which would undergird and give guidance as independence was sought and attained not far down the road.

It was a fun and blessed time that night as we spent the early part of the evening in a Tomahawk-throwing contest. Then later we were challenged to give speeches/toasts. I gave one tying together how the colonies were formed out of refugees of the Reformation, such as Separatists, Independents, and Puritans, who, being pushed to the fringes of society in England under persecution, made their way across the sea to the New World. Those early believers saw a duty to the Great Commission and came specifically to plant the Gospel in the new land. These roots connected all the way back to Martin Luther who came back to the Gospel as he read the New Testament, and thus the early Pilgrims were committed to planting that Gospel here.  

We have already been working on a video on that very subject so it was a blessing to share some of that insight. We were also touched when the owner of the farm, who also is one of the chief actors playing Patrick Henry, came over and said how refreshing it was to hear a speech that was so informed of our history and the roots of the Reformation in the formation of our nation. That was quite the honor to have him come out of his way and say that. He in fact posted about my speech on his Facebook page that night as well.

A little later in the evening, Patrick our son was asked, out of the 50 or so people there, to read aloud in front of everyone,  the first 14 verses of Luke’s Gospel chapter two where it shares the Christmas narrative, as they would do back in the Colonies.  Patrick did a great job especially as a youngster reading in front of a mostly adult crowd, something which can be quite intimidating for anyone.  The fact that he was reading from a Bible that was actually an antique and was printed over two hundred years ago which has S’s that look like F’s added to the challenge which he met very well.

It was a blessed time and a reminder of how the early colonists, against all odds but with God’s help, were able to lead the way to the formation of a new nation, a nation that has had a specific role in spreading the Gospel throughout the world:  America would become the biggest missionary-sending country in the world in time, even surpassing England who held that honor for quite a while.  

It is also a reminder that Christmas is about the coming of Christ who Himself came on a mission to seek and save the lost and pay for our sins once for all on the cross. The Gospel is about Christ coming and taking on our sin that we might have eternal life.

Praise God, Christ came and was born of a virgin in a stable and went to that cruel Roman cross that you and I might have life.  Let us remember this central point as we celebrate Christmas this year, in the midst of all the shopping, toys, meals, and rushing around, let's keep it right there in the front of our mind, that He came that we might have eternal life!  

Merry Christmas! Bryan, Mercedes and Patrick Marleaux

We encourage you to watch our video "Why Christ Came," a very clear and necessary message articulating the Gospel. Direct link: http://youtu.be/kScrCWnBDH0

To hear how the early Pilgrims to America were tied to the Reformation, listen to this program: Reformation to America.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

A History Changing Event, Yet Often Overlooked

As Halloween approaches many believers find themselves in a dither about what to do with a kind of weird, bizarre, fake holiday that by and large seems to celebrate darkness and exalt paganism. 

So, while you can still have fun with some of the alternatives offered up these days, just watch that candy. I didn't, and ended up with eight!, yes, count them, 8 cavities, after one particular Halloween when I was a little varmint. However, it is cool that there is at least some alternatives offered up these days.

Nevertheless, the larger point I want to make is that in the midst of all the candy, and harvest festivals, and on and on, there is something of major importance to the Christian faith being missed here on this date:  It is called the birthday of the Reformation. The Reformation began in 1517 on October 31st, “All Hallow’s Eve,” when Martin Luther in protest to the selling of indulgences—selling forgiveness for money—posted his Ninety-Five Theses on the Castle Church door in Wittenberg, Germany, which unwittingly would be the spark that set off the firestorm called the Reformation.  

You know, that little thing where masses of people in Europe turned away from nonsense like the selling of forgiveness—quite literally priests were out there (all this initiated and supported by the church system) on the street, hawking forgiveness like some dude selling street tacos from a truck—and praying to dead saints’ bones—the claims the church made about their relics verged from insanity to absolute comedy: from a supposed twig from Moses’ burning bush to a hair from Jesus’ face. So was the twig still burning? And who had the nerve to run up and pull a hair from Jesus’ face?  The time was ripe with exasperation from all the church’s abuses, so when the spark was lit by Luther, a mass movement was launched that returned back to the teachings of the Bible, and a simple and saving faith in Jesus Christ. In fact, October 31st is a holiday known as Reformation Day in Germany and much of northern Europe. And yet, America, one of the most evangelical countries in the western world, instead ended up celebrating Halloween instead??? Huh???
Well, to help you get informed and edified on these topics, we have produced a number of video and audio programs on the Reformation and other essential historical and biblical topics.  

In fact, we made these programs for just this reason: so that people of both English and Spanish-speaking origin could get up to speed quickly and learn about the more salient aspects of Christian History, such as the Reformation and other revivals, in a quick and easy modern format that uses the prominent media of our time. 

When I was doing a concentration in History at Fuller Theological Seminary, I noticed  a strange phenomenon: Heavy eyelids trying to stay open while weary heads nodded back and forth as these history professors droned on and on. I was thinking, “Why does this professor cat get a parking spot, and more and more of my tuition money, if he can’t even manage to make this the least bit interesting?” It is not boring material, in fact it is often very exciting stuff.  Hum drum dudes who spend their days debating how many angels can dance on the head of a pin make it boring with their overloading of extraneous information and their focus on the excruciating minutiae of minor details--I did learn a few big words at seminary though. Thus, many run the other way when they hear the word “history.” But it doesn’t have to be boring.

So, after graduating from Fuller, I felt the Holy Spirit leading me with a mandate to put important aspects of Christian History into formats that people could easily consume and digest.  Not everyone has the time or opportunity to share in the joy of going to a cemetery—oops, I meant seminary—and enjoy the rigors of being bored to absolute tears while going broke from all the expenses. How much did you say that book costs that you just self published “mister doctor professor whatever your name is demands so much money” sir? Yes, that book that I am being forced to buy to complete this course?

So, from rural Mexico to Latvia and beyond, I noticed that no matter how humble the dwelling, they always had a TV and a DVD player as well as a radio and CD player, usually turned on continually in each dwelling I ever visited. Well, it has gotten even easier to get stuff to others  with all the advances in digital media.

Sometimes we all need a reason as to why we should spend time learning and understanding a topic like this at all in the first place, so let me help on that end too:

Why was the Reformation important? Well, here are a few quick reasons:

The massive turn in Europe away from aspects of dead religion, which had become polluted with magic-like superstitions and other nonsense. The church taught these unbiblical superstitious practices, which of course were not saving people but keeping them and affirming them in their lost state. Dead religious works like indulgences (forgiveness for sale—yes, can anyone say blasphemy?!) praying to dead saints’ bones, and throwing holy water around doesn’t save one from sin. A massive turn back to the Bible and simple faith in Jesus Christ was initiated, that spread the message of Christ’s salvation throughout the world. It spawned Bible translations into vernacular languages, as well as mission movements that would take the Gospel to the nations.  

The birth of a little place called America. As the History Channel put it: "Without Martin Luther and the Reformation there would be no America!" Ok, maybe that should be significant. Yeah well, how did that work? When the Reformation hit England, it birthed movements like the Puritans, Separatists, and Independents.  Continually persecuted in Britain, many made their way to the New World even on boats like the Mayflower. Thus, colonies were formed, and  eventually they kicked out the heavy-handed dudes in their funky red uniforms and started a new country. Seems to have done ok so far. 

The Reformation became the foundation that was laid for earth-shaking and history-changing Revivals:  From the outpouring at Hernhutt in Germany, to John Wesley’s conversion in England, and on to the Great Awakening in early America, these revivals had their foundation laid in the Reformation: Wesley was converted as Martin Luther’s commentary on the Book of Romans was being read at a church called Aldersgate Street Temple, and his heart was strangely warmed by the Holy Spirit.  The Great Awakening itself was the apex where the teaching of salvation by faith through grace combined and met with the power of the Holy Spirit and exploded through the early American colonies.  These programs will help fill in the details:

  • Martin Luther and the Reformation
  • The Great Awakening
  • The Reformation and the Birth of America
  • The Herrnhut Revival
  • John Wesley and the Methodist Revival
  • Charles Finney's Conversion

  • You know, it really isn’t possible to go out and tackle and beat up the darkness; trying to do the "ground and pound" on it like some UFC fighter is useless. The only way to extinguish darkness is to turn on the light.   

    That brilliant light broke forth over Martin Luther as he read the pages of Scripture in Romans and Galatians, which spoke of the grace of God wrought in Christ, who paid for all our sin on the cross once for all. When Luther finally understood Paul’s words in his epistles, the Holy Spirit came upon him and Luther says, “I was born again through gates of paradise. The whole of Scripture took on a new meaning.”  This in turn led to him posting his Ninety-Five Theses on October 31st, which in time led to massive revivals and mission movements.  Focusing on that brilliant light shone forth by the Holy Spirit that broke forth back then is a good way to turn the light on, instead of trying to assault the darkness in a way which just becomes beating the air.

    So, if the secular publications like both Time and Life magazines recognized Martin Luther and the Reformation as one of the most important events in the past 1000 years, in fact they both ranked it number 3 out of the 100 most important events of the past millennium, right after Columbus’s discovery and Gutenberg’s printing press, well then, doesn't it behoove Bible-believing Christians to know a little of their own history too!  Study to show thyself approved, a workman that does not need to be ashamed…(1 Timothy 2:15)

    So Happy Reformation Day to you!  

    Thanks for your prayers and support, we can sure use your help as we continue to work to carry out this mandate.  New equipment is needed and we appreciate your support.

    Friday, April 18, 2014

    Resurrection Blessings!

    “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know…his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead.” (Eph. 1:18-20)

    It is such an awesome thing to understand that Jesus went to the cross and paid fully and completely for all our sins, once for all! When someone receives Christ then and there their sin is completely washed away. However, that understanding doesn’t always kick in right away when one is first born again.  I know it didn’t for me; it actually took many years of reading the Word to understand it, but when the revelation finally hit that Christ took all my sin there on that cross, it was something so liberating, so freeing, and life-giving.  Wow, to know that there was not one sin that the blood of Jesus did not cover, not one portion left unpaid, not one issue left for me to work off.  What a relief, what a glorious joy to receive that freeing good news! Hallelujah!!!

    The good news only gets better too, because not only did Jesus pay for our sins, but He rose victorious from that grave. No sir, that tomb could not hold the Son of God, for He is more than a mere man, He is God the Son! He rose victorious, demonstrating He is master over life and death.  We also have a hope and assurance of a resurrection ourselves who believe upon Him!

    And it keeps getting better, because the power of the Holy Spirit, that same Holy Spirit that brought life back into Jesus’ very dead body and lifted Him up from the grave, well, that same power is now also living and working in us.  That incomparably great power lives in the believer, and it’s very fullness is also available for all of us who believe.  The power of God is part of our glorious inheritance as saints according to Ephesians 1:18!

    Praise God we get to witness that glorious resurrection power that touches and changes lives: We were just in Canada—we’ll have a more extensive update later—and as the Lord opened the door to minister we saw Him touch, minister, heal, and transform lives.  In fact a woman named Krista N. just wrote, saying: “Thanks Dave for bringing Bryan, Mercedes and Patrick over. Their ministry was profound and so needed! It feels like seeds of hope and faith were planted that get bigger each day.”

    While on the way up we met with another friend of ours named Dave E., who a few years ago was filled for the first time with the power and love of God.  Even though he grew up in a contemporary evangelical church he never had experienced the love and power of God until we were ministering and praying over a group he was part of, and the Holy Spirit filled his life!  

    You can watch and read about that resurrection power touching his life here:

    Direct link to video below: http://youtu.be/cN9jNLKCbVA

    Monday, March 17, 2014

    Celtic Cry

    Jesus often withdrew to lonely places (Matt.14:13; Luke 5:16; Mark 1:45). Maintaining the all so important relationship with the Father, He did not let the demands of ministry overtake His intimacy and union with His heavenly Father which needed to be kept first.

    So, while out in Ucluelet, Canada—basically the ends of the earth—just like it sounds, out in the middle of nowhere at the end of Canada’s only paved road to the open Pacific Ocean, we are doing a little reflection on Patrick of Ireland:

    Patrick of Ireland’s call to his mission field has always been a fascinating thing.  I even wrote a song about it, which you can see below. 

    Reminiscent of Paul’s Macedonian call, Patrick’s call stands out in history as one of those Spirit-led moments that we only later understand the importance of. Important in that he began the process of evangelizing Ireland and establishing the Celtic Church there (it was not Catholic, mind you—those guys invaded the scene much later.)

    He describes how he heard the voice of the Irish calling him, “Come, oh holy youth and walk amongst us once more.”

    Stepping out in faith and obedience is often a challenge, no matter the stories of glory told later, as those initial steps can always feel a bit daunting. 

    For Patrick it was a step back into the land of his former servitude where he was once a pig-herding slave.  He would now, however, go as an evangelist.  It is central to the Gospel to reach out to the lost, and signs and wonders would be essential in that task.

    For Patrick it was a step of faith into the unknown, into a world filled with hostile evil forces.  The spiritual warfare was daunting!  The Druids were very opposed to the Christian faith and would often let him know while on the Emerald Isle in menacing word and deed.

    In spite of all the opposition he faced, Patrick obeyed the call of God and went.  He faced many trials and tribulations but stayed on.  That is a key thing: he persevered, and in the end, after many a battle of faith, he saw signs and wonders, conversions, healings, miracles and the like: those are things we get excited about, but we often forget about the trials and tribulations that always accompany them.

    As we are willing to take up the cross and follow the leading of Christ’s Spirit and accept the sufferings as part of the package, we will surely see more of the things that those of old experienced, from Paul to Patrick, and on and on.  Jesus said though, that we must be willing to take up the cross!

    Celtic Cry Lyrics

    Oh Stormy skies

    And Green valleys

    I hear an ancient cry

    Calling out to me.

    Lashing seas

    Skerries and bogs

    I hear a Celtic cry

    Calling out to me.

    Rugged paths

    Lined with clover and moss
    I see the ancient steps

    And a burning cross.

    It lights the sky up bright

    With fluorescent light

    I hear them crying out

    Come and bear the cross.

    Walk amongst us once more

    Come and bear the cross

    Walk amongst us once more

    Come and reach the lost

    ©Music and lyrics by Bryan Marleaux
    To watch the video of this song click here.

    Other important videos to check out: