Monday, December 31, 2007

December 25-31

This year for Christmas Eve we went down to Elche and spent the evening with my in-laws. We got together with Lorenzo and Ana Maria on Christmas day and had a wonderful time together. They asked me to dress up like Santa Clause for their 3 year-old daughter. She was supposed to recite a poem to get her gift. But when I asked her for her poem, she started balling. We went straight to the gifts!

We were able to visit all of our neighbors this last week to leave them a Christmas card and a small calendar with daily Scripture readings. Several of them opened up the topic of the gospel. The lady who lives directly next door to us commented that many times she hears us singing on Sundays and enjoys it. She told us that one Sunday she would stop by. Another neighbor told us that she had visited the Jehovah's Witnesses before and that she has some questions. We are thankful for these doors that the Lord is opening up for us to witness.

Much of my time this week has been spent preparing the classes on Jeremiah that I will be giving in Madrid in two weeks. It has been a blessing to work with this book and understand it a little better. Yesterday I preached from Jeremiah 45. The book has a number of passages where Jeremiah complains to God, and God answers the prophet's complaints. In this chapter, God talks to the prophet's helper and helps him see the big picture. Instead of seeking great things for himself, he must understand that God is doing His work and that He will protect his servants, but not necessarily make them "great" in other's eyes. I thought this was an appropriate message for the end of the year. As we think about plans for the new year, we must be careful that our own ideas of "great things" do not subtilely replace God's will! Maria Eugenia and Sergio were out of town this week, but a family came up from Alicante to visit us. After the service we all went down to Alicante to enjoy a Christmas/New Year's meal with the Alicante church. In the evening we met with Lorenzo, Ana Maria and Maria and spent some time singing, sharing blessing from the past year, and reading the Scriptures together.

Monday, December 24, 2007

December 17-24

This last week we were able to finish all the classes before Christmas. The kids finished their school work, and I finished up all of my classes. On Friday we had a very special time at the house with Chris Bixby and his wife. We invited some of the people he knew when he lived here with his parents 15 years ago and had a nice time together remembering times. The big activity of the weekend involved the cantata again. We presented it in Alicante in the morning and then again in Elche in the evening. We were especially glad in the morning to see our former neighbor at the cantata with her two daughters. She postponed her trip to visit her parents to be able to come to the cantata. There were many visitors both in the morning and evening. All of us from Petrer sang except Maria Eugenia. Her daughter had to be in the hospital for an operation, so she stayed with her. This is the same daughter who came to the cantata last week in Petrer. We are praying with her that throughout this time she will be able to witness clearly to her again.

Another important activity for us is distributing our Christmas cards. As in other years, I have made up a Christmas card with our family portrait and a verse. We have been giving them out to church people, but they also go to many unsaved neighbors, friends and family members. I also sent it electronically to all my students at the university with a short message about Christmas. We pray that the Lord would use this testimony to open further doors of witness.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

December 11-16

This was our big week. It was our final push into our big evangelistic push for Christmas. It started with the distribution of 4000 invitations. I spent about six hours (with the help of several others) walking all over the city putting invitations on cars for the Christmas concert on Saturday night. It was nice to see later on in the week as we spoke to people about the concert, many of them already knew about it because they had seen the invitation. Many people responded positively to the concert, although others told us that they already had plans since this is such a busy time of year. Our final push for the concert was a brass quartet playing Christmas carols at the local mall. From 7:30 to 8:30 we played a repertoire of about 15 Christmas hymns. We had a large poster announcing the concert up, and many stopped to listen to the music and received an invitation.
The concert itself that night went well. The combined choirs from Elche and Alicante, as well as the five of us from here presented the cantata in public auditorium in Petrer. We were thrilled to see Maria Eugenia's adult children come. There were also a few people who received invitations. The program for the concert had a short presentation of the gospel and the cantata itself presented the gospel. We trust that the Lord is working in hearts, even though we do not always see the direct result of our efforts.
On Sunday we had a special day to celebrate Christmas as a congregation. We met for our normal service in the morning. I preached on John 1:14b: we beheld his glory. I spoke of the glory of Christ that John mentions here: his grace and truth. After the service we had a Christmas dinner together and then we spent some time in the afternoon singing carols and sharing different Christmas traditions. Next week we will all be involved in presenting the same cantata we did here in Alicante and in Elche.

Monday, December 10, 2007

December 4-10

This week we had two holidays, so it seemed a little bit longer. I was able to take advantage of the holidays and do some painting in the house. Preparations are going full steam for the Christmas cantata this weekend. On Wednesday I got the confirmation call from the Shopping Center for our brass quartet to be able to play Christmas hymns and pas out invitations. So on Saturday evening before the concert, we will play there for an hour. Then we will head over to the cultural center and prepare for the concert. We will be distributing invitations throughout the town on Tuesday, as well as mailing them to our contacts. Please pray with us about this effort. We desire for the Lord to bless and work through us.

Yesterday I started a two part Christmas message from John. Obviously, John does not tell the Christmas story, but in 1:14 he makes a significant statement which forms a beautiful backdrop for Christmas. Yesterday I dealt with the phrase, "the Word ... dwelt among us." I talked about the importance throughout the Bible of God dwelling with His people. Yet Christ dwelling among us is far superior to God's presence in the Tabernacle or the Temple. I ended with three implications of the incarnation: 1. because of the incarnation we have salvation; 2. because of the incarnation we have representation (a High Priest); and 3. because of the incarnation we have an example.

Monday, December 03, 2007

November 28-December 3

It seems hard to believe that December is already here. Today is Daniel's birthday! We had a very full weekend. On Saturday morning, I had a brass quartet rehursal. Several years ago I asked the Lord for some others to play my trombone with. And this is the answer to that prayer. We are practicing a selection of Christmas hymns that we would like to play the night of the cantata here as we pass out invitations. The group is off to a good start! In the afternoon we got together with Lorenzo and Ana Maria and Maria Eugenia for a picnic. It was a nice informal afternoon spent together. The kids had a lot of fun together as we hiked up to the castle in Petrer.

On Sunday morning we met together early to celebrate the Lord's supper. It was a special time as we prayed and read the scriptures together and then joined in partaking of the elements. Then in our service I preached from the final "I am" passage in the series: I am the resurrection. I looked at Martha's expression of her faith in John 11, and how Jesus gently encouraged her to deepen that faith by seeing that the resurrection is not something that just will happen: it is intimately related to the person of Christ. If in the other images we see Christ as Savior and Sanctifier, here we see Him involved in the process of glorification. After the service we all traveled down to Alicante for lunch and an all afternoon rehearsal for the cantata. And then we stayed there for the evening service.