Friday, December 22, 2017

Christmas Blessings






And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Luke 2:7




Christmas and the Manger


We were just at the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation before returning home for the holidays. It was a momentous occasion, so coming back straight from that celebration, we have a few reflections on Christmas through that perspective:

While in Wittenberg, Germany, we were taking in how Martin Luther was awed with Christ’s birth and the poignancy of the manger. He points out that, right from His birth, Jesus was reaching out, communicating that even the lowest and most humble in society may find redemption in Him.

Even though Jesus’s inception was supernatural and of heaven via the Holy Spirit, Jesus didn’t float in on a cloud when He came into the world, but rather, God sent forth his Son to be born of a woman like the rest of humanity.

Moreover, God chose to bring Him forth in the most humble of fashions, being born in a lowly manger next to common barnyard animals, with their hay and dung, the kind of stuff that fills a place like that.

From His very birth, Jesus reaches out to us in our humble, broken, sin-stained state, as fallen human beings in need of redemption. He meets us right down in the dung of our sin and brokenness, and when we take hold of Him, He cleanses us and brings us into forgiveness, healing, and eternal life.

Luther said that when he preached, wrote, or translated the Scriptures, he wasn’t seeking to impress doctors and lawyers with big words, even though he actually had a number of doctors and lawyers in his congregation, but rather sought to communicate simply and clearly so that even the simple ploughboy and milkmaid might understand and receive from Christ.

We were just ministering in downtown San Diego at CDO Church recently and were speaking at their five different services about Martin Luther and the Reformation, using it as a platform to communicate the Gospel. Many responded to the message that weekend and opened their hearts to Christ, as well as many who were also filled with the Holy Spirit.


Christ Reaches Out to All


As we ministered that weekend, I found myself praying for a woman who had come forward wearing a uniform from a fast food chain restaurant. She looked like she’d come over straight from her shift as the uniform was dirty and messy, covered with hamburger stains. She had responded to the Gospel message earlier, and now came forward for prayer. As I prayed for her, she slowly opened up and the Lord began to pour His love and grace over her by the Holy Spirit in a powerful way to where tears filled her eyes as she lifted her hands.

The Lord doesn’t get impressed with outward appearances, coming forward in a messy, hamburger stained, fast food uniform is exactly what the manger is meant to represent. The Lord will meet anyone who just opens their heart, right where they’re at, right where we are at, and fill us with His grace, and love, when we just say yes to Christ.

Interestingly enough, even though Luther sought to communicate so that the ploughboy might understand, there were many also in the higher echelons of society touched by the Gospel as it was communicated by Luther.

One was Johann Sebastian Bach. The town of Eisenach had been a home, at times, for both Luther and Bach. Bach, one of the greatest classical composers ever, was hugely influenced by Martin Luther even though he lived in a later period than Luther. Luther’s writing on his own conversion as well as his theology had a great impact on Bach’s life. Luther said: “I learned theology through trial, temptations, and difficulties.” Bach was touched by God through Luther’s words and subsequently used over one hundred of Luther’s texts in his music.

Christ’s message of grace goes out to all, from the lowest to the highest: whosoever will may come. Bach’s life was touched by the Gospel through Luther, and Bach’s music continues to minister, even to this day. You’ll scarcely go to a wedding (even our own :) )without hearing Jesus, Joy of Man’s Desire.


Music Unchained


Luther himself had unchained music from years of tradition. Previous to Luther, only choirs of monks sung Gregorian chants in church in Latin, and the congregation was not permitted to participate.

This was another thing Luther changed by introducing what were called originally Psalms in the vernacular, later called hymns. Luther made songs in the language of the people that were meant to be sung by the entire congregation, very much a revolutionary step at the time, and one that stuck and is practiced today in churches, fellowship meetings, Bible Studies, etc., all over the world.

One of the more famous hymns Luther wrote was A Mighty Fortress Is Our God about God our Protector amidst trial, tribulations, and spiritual battle.

Another hymn often attributed to Luther, is Away in a Manger. Luther wrote about the Incarnation extensively, and wrote a lot of music on this topic.

Our Lord is a mighty fortress who reigns in heaven and helps us amid trial and spiritual battle. He is also the gentle baby in the manger, willing to meet us right where we are in the midst of our brokenness and difficulty.

I remember one time when I was on my way to preach at a small church in Sweden, when I tripped, fell, and slid down a steep, muddy, grassy hill, as I was about to go into the service. Oh, what an unexpected wild ride that was. I was wet and covered in mud. There was no time to change, so I just went ahead and preached and ministered that way. A young lady later gave a prophetic word in the service, saying how the Lord isn’t looking at the outward appearance: being wet and muddy didn’t hinder the Holy Spirit working through our brother. The Lord isn’t like our pretentious culture that focuses so much on outward appearances. Rather, He sees the heart and meets us right where we are at and is there to comfort and minister to us whatever trial or difficulty we may find ourselves facing or “tripping” into.

Christ is always there to pick us up, minister to us, comfort us. Whosoever will can receive grace and mercy by just opening their heart.

We pray the Lord blesses you this Christmas and into the New Year, and that He fills you in a fresh way with the reality of His grace, mercy, and love!

Much love and many blessings!

Bryan, Mercedes
and Patrick Marleaux

P.S. You can check other renditions of Christmas music we've also done by clicking here.

Friday, December 1, 2017

The Praise Report: Winter 2017

Euro Mission 2017


We recently returned from a 3-month extended mission trip to Europe where we ministered in England, France, Spain, Sweden and Norway! We experienced the Holy Spirit meeting us at every turn and were stoked to see people opening their hearts to receive Christ in the different places where we preached.

London 


We ministered at a weekend outreach in London, England, where people responded and made decisions and re-dedications for Christ, and where there was also a very powerful visitation of the presence of God. 



In fact, there were many who were filled with the Holy Spirit in a significant way, including some young kids who had also responded to the Gospel message we had shared. When they opened their hearts they were overcome with the Holy Spirit as the Lord poured out His power on them and some fell to the ground as the Lord flooded them with His presence. Some even laid on the floor inundated by God’s power, and were there receiving after being overcome by the Spirit for quite a long time. Young kids’ attention spans are always rather short, thus clearly God’s power took over as He filled them!

Saving and equipping the younger generation was a theme the Holy Spirit divinely brought up unexpectedly right from the beginning of this trip, and carried through in many other places. In fact, a taxicab that was supposed to come and get us did not show up. We called the company to find out they had somehow set up in their computer. So we contacted an Uber driver at the last minute. We were able to talk and connect with the Uber driver on the way, and as we shared with him, he began to point out how the younger generation in Europe especially needed the message of Christ. I felt what he was saying was prophetic for the service we were about to do. Then the pastor unexpectedly opened the meeting by talking about the importance of reaching the youth, as did Mercedes when she shared as we began to preach!

Like in many places today, secular humanism dominates in European public institutions that claim to be teaching but are instead indoctrinating. Also, there are clearly not enough vital, alive, gospel-communicating fellowships throughout Europe; this leaves a void in many young people’s lives. That void gets filled instead often by drugs, promiscuity, wanton living, cults, and on and on. A friend over there who goes to an upper-class, private, rather posh, private school, described the insanity of the rampant drug use, and wanton living, that goes on even there. Thus, it is imperative that the Gospel of the Kingdom be preached, shared, and communicated in all ways possible. The future generations must be reached if we want to have a future. 


Both of us preaching and sharing at an evangelistic outreach at Ark of God Church
in London, Patrick also got to share some too!

It is the Gospel of the Kingdom that is necessary in this day, the Gospel that has power to save, heal, and deliver from darkness! Those reached must also be filled with the Spirit! The power of God is a necessity with all the evil around these days. The pastor closed by stating what a blessed moment we had witnessed, as it isn’t so common to see young kids like this get so powerfully filled with the Holy Spirit. Praise God! The Lord poured out His power in a remarkable way and we had about 10 people open their hearts to Christ and many including kids get powerfully filled with the Holy Spirit as we ministered in London!


Praying for young kids in London who got
powerfully filled with the Holy Spirit.

We also had a historic moment in London, one of several on this trip. When Princess Diana died 20 years ago, we happened to walk, somehow, right into her memorial in Paris with all the activities going on. Just randomly, having taken a wrong turn, we came upon all the flowers and cards grieving her untimely passing. We just happened to be in London on this trip exactly 20 years after she died. There were many events carried out in her memory in the UK while we were there. It reminded us of how fast time goes by and how fragile and quickly life passes, whether one is a princess or a pauper, thus “we must do the work of the Kingdom while it is yet day.” (John 9:4)

France 


We then ministered in the Loire Valley of France. We spoke in Neuillé-Pont-Pierre and in Tours, at different meetings and services as well as a prayer meeting. We were speaking and teaching on the Reformation in preparation for an event the churches we worked with there were having celebrating the 500-year anniversary of the Reformation. Yes, a Reformation event in France of all places! The Reformation did touch France back in the day but serious persecution limited its impact.


With friends in France and the posters for the Reformation Event.

We shared about Martin Luther’s powerful conversion to Christ and awakening to the grace and mercy of God. Luther had run into desperation and exasperation with rituals and penance as a Catholic priest; however, revelation of Christ’s full payment for sin on the cross came to him as he read Paul’s letter to the Romans. 

The timing was strategic, especially with their upcoming event, as most there were not familiar with the story of Luther’s conversion. We communicated further how the subject can be used as a way to share the Gospel with others as a tool for evangelism, especially with those who may have a bit of religious background but don’t know Christ as their personal savior, as is common in France. The event itself was an outreach, so it was important to equip those involved with how to share the Gospel in conjunction with the event.

Speaking of evangelism, we had about 8 people altogether come to Christ in the various meetings we did while there, which also included ministering at an African church. A young guy from Kosovo, as well as a young French guy, were amongst those who opened their hearts to Christ, having been impacted by the Holy Spirit as there was a powerful outpouring of the Holy Spirit at some of the meetings.

In fact, there were a couple of believers from South Africa who were of French Reformed (Huguenot) background, who were there specifically to pray for the meetings. They came up all the way from South Africa to intercede in prayer. They communicated to us personally after one of the main meetings we did on Sunday morning: the way the Lord moved, bringing some to salvation, as well as pouring out His Spirit, filling and empowering and refreshing many there, was exactly what they were interceding for! One of the sisters helping lead one of the churches told us how encouraged and strengthened she was by all the Lord did!

We were glad to see the Lord move in this way in a place that needs the Gospel so much. We were talking and praying with some friends on the way out of town whose kids told us how hard it is there in France as one often feels very isolated as a believer. Praise God for the comfort and encouragement the Holy Spirit brings!

Spain 


We ministered in the region of Catalonia, Spain. It was nice to minister in Spain again since we haven’t been there for some time. We actually connected through some friends who pastor a church in Colorado where we ministered at earlier this year. The new co-pastor and his wife were previously doing mission work in Catalonia and were so blessed by our ministry—the wife got powerfully ministered to when we prayed and prophesied over her— that they invited us to come to minister in Catalonia next time we traveled to Europe.


Praying as the Holy Spirit fills people at a workshop in Barcelona, Spain.

We were blessed to experience the Holy Spirit moving in a powerful way as we first ministered in the cities of Tarragona and Reus, and then after a short break, in the famous city of Barcelona. We were teaching at several workshops on the empowering of the Holy Spirit and how to operate in the gifts of the Spirit.


There was a receptive attitude amongst those who came to all the meetings we did to what we were teaching as well as to the work of the Holy Spirit. We experienced many getting filled with the Holy Spirit and equipped as the Spirit of God was poured out as we ministered and taught with many powerful manifestations of His presence, along with about 7 people altogether in the different meetings who opened their hearts to Christ.



Preaching as Mercedes interprets in Barcelona, Spain.

We also had some who received healing, amongst them a gentleman who regained lost sensation in his hand after praying for him. The pastors and their wives also expressed how encouraged and blessed they were. One of the pastors said publicly that these meetings we did were a line of demarcation and that he saw there would be a difference in his congregation and fellowship after these meetings where the Lord had so poured out His presence!

Holy Ghost Surfing Divine Appointments


We had a nice little break by the warm Mediterranean, in between ministering in Barcelona and Tarragona and Reus, where we enjoyed a few days on the beach. It was a necessary break in the middle of this long trip packed with lots of ministry. 

There were actually a few small waves that looked like they could be fun for a longboard or SUP if we could rent one or something. I checked out three different beach places that normally would rent equipment like that, but they all said it was past the season and had already stored that type of equipment away elsewhere. 

I was praying on what to do when Patrick and I were taking a little stroll on the boardwalk and a woman was walking a dog in front of us. I just felt led by the Holy Spirit to talk to her, completely out of the blue. I came up and started talking to her and it turned out after a few moments speaking Spanish that she spoke good English. I asked if she knew a place that might still rent surfboards or SUP’s anywhere in the area. She said everything was past the season for renting stuff, but, she knew the one guy in the area that could possibly rig us up with something to use.

She actually called him right then, and after some conversation we arranged to pick up an SUP the next day. Even though we had only met him on the phone he just let us take the board and didn’t even ask for an ID or a credit card deposit. We were stoked to have an SUP for a couple days, which turned out to be the right thing for the small waves there.

After a couple days of refreshing in the sun and surf—it was actually the only warm weather we had the whole trip—we returned the SUP to the guy. I felt led to share with him how I had prayed and then met his friend and that him providing the board was an answer to prayer. I witnessed to him and we were stoked to be able to share Christ's love with him and plant the seeds of the Gospel to a very receptive heart, and also nice to get a little refreshing on the SUP via divine appointment!

Turbulent Times in Spain 


We were in Barcelona during the Independence Referendum, which has been much in the news this year. The Spanish government had declared the Referendum illegal, and sent in the Guardia Civil (Federal Police), as well as local police being out everywhere. We were actually preaching in the center of the city the day it was all happening, right next to all the referendum activities. In fact, the pastor happened to turn on the news that Sunday morning before we ministered. The broadcaster warned to stay away from areas where voting and protests were going on. Some violence had already broken out in different places along with many protesters out and about, chanting and picketing and stuff.

It definitely brought some concern to our hearts, but as I took a moment to pray, I felt the Holy Spirit speaking peace and saying not to worry. Lo and behold, we ministered and people got saved, healed, and filled, and we had a blessed time in spite of all the craziness going on right around us everywhere outdoors. God gave us peace and blessings in the midst of the storm at every turn all around us. In fact, we actually went out and walked 8 miles around town checking out all the sights and activity after ministering and being treated to an awesome lunch by the pastor! 

God blessed us with peace, protection, and grace by the Holy Spirit. It was a unique and historic moment to be there and we are praying whatever the outcome of all this that more openness to the Gospel will result as part of everything being so shaken up. It was actually after a significant shake up that revival broke out in Argentina years back. 

This ended up being another unique and historic moment on the trip!

Sweden


As we ministered in Sweden we experienced the Lord moving powerfully in the different places we preached. We were ministering in the region of Skåne, which is by the North Sea in the South, as well as in the region of Småland on the Baltic coast. While in Skåne in the south of Sweden, we ministered in the cities of Hässleholm, Örkeljunga, and Trelleborg.


Mercedes speaking at New Life Church in Hassleholm, Sweden.

The presence of the Lord was manifest in the meetings we did and we got a lot of response as many shared how filled and renewed they were by what the Lord did in them as we ministered. One sister shared how encouraged and renewed she was by the way the Lord touched and filled her as we ministered. We were stoked to see the daughter (who is just 15 years old) of the family hosting us in Skåne get powerfully filled with the Holy Spirit and then join us in every meeting praying for others! 

We also got a very positive response from some of the leaders. In fact there were some who got powerfully filled themselves and others who had been part of the Jesus People Revival and were very encouraged as well as touched and renewed as we shared about that topic. They were very insistent that the ministry we are doing is so needed there, and we must keep coming back. We saw many people, young and old, get filled with the Holy Spirit and there were also some who opened their hearts to Christ. 


We also ministered as well in the region of Småland, on the East coast of Sweden along the Baltic Sea, in the town of Gamleby. A young lady came and told us before we even began ministering, how impacting and life changing our ministry was to her the last time we were there when she was at one of our meetings. We also had a couple people open their hearts to Christ there as well, some who had Muslim backgrounds.


Posters for our speaking engagement at Citykyrkan in Örkeljunga,
Sweden. We didn't know they'd be all over town. We even went
for Chinese food and one was there. Lol!

We spoke at a youth meeting where we shared some Holy Ghost stories in hopes of getting some of the youth filled with the Spirit. It started a little slow as they just kind of stood there staring off when we first started praying for them, but then after some time, out of nowhere, the Holy Spirit just swept in and started powerfully filling a group of them. They began to lift their hands and tears streamed down some of their faces as they prayed over one another and gave words of encouragement over each other. Some new believers with Muslim backgrounds who just recently came to Christ, joined in for the first time and began to pray for one another too, including the guy who had just accepted Christ earlier on in the meeting. 

The Holy Spirit continued to pour out for at least another hour, long after many had gone home. An old friend named Jan who had been radically saved in the Jesus People days, noting the powerful change in the atmosphere in the room that had taken place when the Holy Spirit swept in, looked up in the middle of it all and said, “This is a miracle!” We knew it was a special moment as the Lord poured His Spirit over many who had never experienced His power like this before!

A young guy who had been filled and touched in those meetings shared: How, as a result of the Lord empowering him, he had begun to share the Gospel with others. In fact, he began sharing with a rather tough guy in town who was way more open than he suspected he would be, and would continue to reach out to him. He also was evangelizing on a bus and prayed for a lady who got healed which opened a door to tell her about Jesus.  This is huge deal for someone in Sweden to step out like that as it is a very shy culture, but the Holy Spirit can transcend, and this is why we ourselves come to minister in God’s power that others may be equipped to be witnesses!


Denmark is just across the border from Sweden and we had a few free days before heading on. So we hopped over the border and saw a few sights in Denmark and even got a few cold water waves. Wow, surfing in Denmark was pretty unique; in fact some Scandinavian surfer friends had just gone to the exact same spot right before us and it was completely flat without a wave to be seen. So the Lord gave us another little miracle to provide a little refreshing before moving on to even more ministry in Scandinavia!

Norway


We ministered in Norway, in the south of the country, in the town of Mandal, as well as doing a youth meeting in the city of Kristiansand. Norway has beautiful scenery at every turn and we also had great fellowship with old friends. We had some very blessed meetings with the presence of the Lord moving powerfully amongst us.


Preaching to the youth in Familiekirken Mandal in Norway,
showing them the old Jesus People "One way" sign.

In fact, right from the very first meeting, which was a special midweek meeting they set up, the Lord poured out His Spirit in a very powerful and remarkable way. That first night went quite long as the Lord poured out His power long into night with powerful manifestations of His presence!

In one of the youth meetings in Mandal, the Holy Spirit then swept in with surprising power, late in the meeting. We had shared and prayed for people and even had a couple people open their hearts to Christ. But then late in the meeting when everything was seemingly wrapping up, the Holy Spirit just descended all of a sudden in power on a group of young teen girls, who began just praying and hugging each other and giving prophetic words to one another. 

The Lord touched them so deeply for such a long time that a puddle of tears gathered around their feet, the Youth Group leader pointed out that it looked like pearls that had fallen down from heaven! You know how significant it is what God was doing when young people ignore a tasty pizza waiting for them that had been prepared, and instead keep basking under the waterfall of the Holy Spirit for a good hour instead, all while the pizza gets eaten by others and gets cold! Hallelujah!!!


Holy Ghost afterglow in Norway. The Spirit of God came upon these girls
at the end of the meeting and extended things another glorious hour!

e were blessed to do a service with an Eritrean immigrant church in Mandal, where we saw a powerful move of the Spirit, which led to some getting radically filled with the Holy Spirit and also some getting deliverance as well!

We were stoked to be able to preach on Martin Luther and the Reformation on their Sunday services, two days before the 500-year anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, while there are in Mandal, Norway. Many of the older generation were very thankful to hear the story and were touched by it and refreshed, and many young people had never heard the story at all and were blessed by it as well. We closed by sharing about how Martin Luther emphasized the importance of being filled the Holy Spirit, and prayed for many that were filled with the Holy Spirit that day. It was an awesome time in Norway!

Germany and the Anniversary of the Reformation


We flew to Germany just in time for the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.
October 31st, Reformation Day, was a pretty extraordinary day to be right there where it all began, in Wittenberg, Germany! 

The little town ended up being packed with people from all over the world for the celebration of this very momentous event. We ended up having to stay in another town because everything had been booked up far in advance with all the people visiting for the big event.


Scenes from the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation in Wittenberg, Germany,
including the leader of Germany who showed up to pay homage to the country's
indebtedness to Martin Luther and the Protest Reformation.

We were stoked to find out the place we were staying had bikes to rent at a very reasonable price. We figured the 35 mi (56 km) round trip adventure would be good exercise after so many planes, trains, and automobiles on this trip. 

So we got up early on the 31st and started biking towards Wittenberg. We passed through some quaint little German towns and farms and enjoyed taking in the sights; however, it seemed like every last store and place of business we passed was closed. We found out later that October 31st had been declared a national holiday for all of Germany for the first time in its history.

Then, as we were getting closer to Wittenberg, a huge group of black cars and police with a helicopter hovering overhead, passed by us. We hadn’t known that the Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, would be heading into the Reformation City for a special service. Because we were on bikes we got a unique view of all this as we rode in.

It was a blessed time to be there and we had lots of divine appointments with many different people whom we shared with and prayed for as we were equipped to share quotes from Luther and the Bible about the importance of being filled with the Holy Spirit! 

There were many special events going on, including many special museum exhibitions, as well as a sound and light show, and a huge panorama exhibition on Luther and the town of Wittenberg by a well-known artist. There was also a big musical play about Luther in Berlin which was broadcast nationwide and actually quoted many Bible verses throughout!  

It was quite a unique moment for sure and we believe the Lord was using this occasion to plant many seeds in people’s lives about the Gospel as well as draw many to Himself!

Luther is often called the "accidental revolutionary" because of the amazing chain of events that were set in motion by this then unknown monk in a little insignificant town who was touched by the Holy Spirit as he read the truth of the Gospel in the Scriptures. That truth reverberated throughout the land and even crossed the sea with those early Pilgrims coming to the New World, a place that would later be called the United States of America!

Being in Wittenberg was a blessing capstone to an already very blessed trip. We praise God for everything he did on this journey!!!  Read more on Grace Notes.

Thanksgiving 


We hope you had a blessed Thanksgiving! We have a blog that we just put out on Thanksgiving, the early colonies, and the Reformation. If you would like to read it you can find it at http://gwmgracenotes.blogspot.com/2017/11/thanksgiving-blessings.html.

Thank You


We praise God for your prayers and support! It helps us to be out there on the road, preaching the Gospel and bringing the Kingdom into emerging mission fields like Europe!

Many blessings!
Bryan, Mercedes 
and Patrick Marleaux