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A “Moving” Testimony

29 July 2022

Dear Friend,

Map of a move across the United States3000 miles for new life in Christ…1

One of the first things I ask a new Christian acquaintance is this: “How did you come to Jesus?”

My 54th spiritual birthday comes around on the last day of this month, so let me share how the Lord brought me to Himself.

Not “Bad Enough” (but No Apologies for That!)

A dangle of Sunday school attendance pinsDoes anyone remember these “Cross & Crown” Sunday School attendance pins? I can’t recall, but I might have had as many as seven “shingles.”2

I don’t have a “lost in depraved sin” kind of testimony, but I make no apology for that. Those of us who didn’t have to “hit bottom” before giving ourselves to Jesus can consider our testimonies to include a blessèd dollop of the prevenient grace of God, which kept us from such traps and ensnarements. But we may have had the opposite problem: thinking we were “too good” to need Jesus. After all, weren’t we Christians just because we’ve been good church-go-ers?

I was taken to church every Sunday of my childhood life, from the day I was infant-baptized. As soon as I was old enough for Sunday school, that got added to the never-miss weekly list, as were the dangle of perfect-attendance pins. Junior high brought along the additional weekly attendance at youth group. When I was old enough, I earned my God & Country medal in Boy Scouts even before I earned my Eagle medal.

There was just one small problem. I had no way to know that [continue reading…]

6: The Angel and the Speechless Priest Prophesy

This entry is part 6 of 12 in the series The John the Baptist Experience: Book 1

The John the Baptist Experience
Book 1: The Exceptional Messenger
Chapter 6: The Angel
and the Speechless Priest
Prophesy

Copyright © 20221

by
Jim Kerwin

Visiting Memories

Visitors were allowed to call on John in his cell at certain times. Through this “grapevine,” John had heard about how Jesus had associated him with the “Elijah prophecy” at the end of Malachi. John wondered how much of what Jesus declared about him had come through revelation, and how much of John’s own story Jesus had learned by other means.

John was just finishing his morning prayers when other visitors arrived. They were the ones to whom the guards and bars couldn’t deny admission, whenever they came. They were [continue reading…]

5: Squaring John with Elijah

This entry is part 5 of 12 in the series The John the Baptist Experience: Book 1

The John the Baptist Experience
Book 1: The Exceptional Messenger
Chapter 5: Squaring John with Elijah

Copyright © 20221

by
Jim Kerwin

A Question for You

Matthew 11 relates the story of the imprisoned John sending two of his disciples to Jesus with this question: “Are you the Expected One?” (Matthew 11:2-3) They see some of Jesus’ miracles, receive a prophecy-based word of encouragement for John, and they leave to report back (vv. 3-7a).

Jesus then turns to the crowds and launches into an unfolding of John’s ministry and its importance. Do you remember Jesus’ final statement regarding John in this passage?

  • 14“And if you are willing to accept it, John himself is Elijah who was to come. 15He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
  • Matthew 11:14-15

In that phrase “Elijah who was to come,” Jesus is referring to [continue reading…]

DD1-6: Verb Voices and Violent Versions

This entry is part 12 of 12 in the series The John the Baptist Experience: Book 1

The John the Baptist Experience
Book 1: The Exceptional Messenger
Deeper Dive 6:
Verb Voices and Violent Versions

Copyright © 20221

by
Jim Kerwin

Matthew 11:12 —
A Thorny Translation Challenge

As we have seen, Matthew 11:1-19 is that wonderful passage in which Jesus teaches about John the Baptist.2 First, He sends a message of encouragement to the imprisoned John. Then Jesus uses the opportunity to point the crowd to John’s fulfillment of the prophecies in Malachi 3:1 and 4:5-6 (the latter being the “Elijah prophecy”).

Matthew’s account of the events and teaching that day is very clear — except for one verse that has proven to be something of a thorny challenge to translate and interpret. That verse is Matthew 11:12—

“From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force.”

What makes it “thorny”? Because [continue reading…]

DD1-5: “Malachisaiah”?

This entry is part 11 of 12 in the series The John the Baptist Experience: Book 1

The John the Baptist Experience
Book 1: The Exceptional Messenger
Deeper Dive #5: “Malachisaiah”?

Copyright © 20221

by
Jim Kerwin

Two Prophecies, Two Readings

Please let me share Mark 1:1-3 from two translations, the King James Version and the New American Standard Bible:

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God; 2As it is written in the prophets,

“Behold, I send My messenger before Thy face,
which shall prepare Thy way before Thee.
3The voice of one crying in the wilderness… etc.
[kjv]

1The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 2As it is written in Isaiah the prophet:

“Behold, I send My messenger ahead of You,
Who will prepare Your way;
3The voice of one crying in the wilderness…’ ” etc.
[nasb]

As we can see, Mark introduces “the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ,” by immediately [continue reading…]

Honduran Encounters

5 April 2022

Answered Prayer for the Honduras Trip!

Dear Friend,

A Honduran worship band with guitar and an accordianThe La Joya church-plant worship band warming up on Sunday evening, 13 March1

Consider this communique a praise report! While you were praying for last month’s Honduras trip, God was answering and blessing. Maybe it’s just because I’ve been Covid-restricted in my travel for two years, but it really seems like this trip took the prize for the number of God-timed and God-ordained arrangements.

Plus, the Lord kept me in the best of health, and He preserved us on the road — we witnessed (but didn’t participate in!) two head-on collisions. All thanks to God and many thanks to you all for your prayers.

I fired off many pages of narrative to my wife Denise while I was gone — way too much to condense here.

Perhaps the story can best be [continue reading…]

DD1-4: Peter as “Mr. Euthus-iasm”

This entry is part 10 of 12 in the series The John the Baptist Experience: Book 1

The John the Baptist Experience
Book 1: The Exceptional Messenger
Deeper Dive #4:
Peter as Mr. “Euthus-iasm”
1

Copyright © 20222

by
Jim Kerwin

In a footnote in chapter 4 (Jesus Reveals John in Malachi), we mentioned that the unanimous testimony of the Early Church Fathers was that Mark’s Gospel is the faithful recounting of the preaching of the Apostle Peter.

Peter’s Favorite Adverb

Adding weight to this historical testimony is the energetic brevity of the accounts in Mark’s Gospel, and Mark’s frequent use of the adverb εὐθύς (eu-thús). The word appears in the New Testament 59 times; of those occurrences, it functions 51 times as an adverb, and is rendered (depending on your translation) as immediately or as soon as. Mark (or Peter, if you prefer) uses εὐθύς / euthús adverbially 41 of those 51 times, and it seems like we can almost listen through Mark’s ears to Peter’s animated and [continue reading…]

DD1-2: Jesus Message to John in Matthew 11

This entry is part 8 of 12 in the series The John the Baptist Experience: Book 1

The John the Baptist Experience
Book 1: The Exceptional Messenger
Deeper Dive #2:
Jesus’ Message to John
in Matthew 11
1

Copyright © 20222

by
Jim Kerwin

In the first Deeper Dive we introduced the “Mnemonic Trigger Principle.”3 We saw that for ancient peoples, educated through the discipline of rote memorization, the quotation of a line of text could elicit the entire context of the quote from memory. But our familiarity with Scripture, the Old Testament in particular, is not as great. Thus to grasp the full contextual message of an Old Testament quotation, we need to free ourselves of our verse-and-chapter shackles, return to the original passage, and ask, [continue reading…]

4: Jesus Reveals John in Malachi

This entry is part 4 of 12 in the series The John the Baptist Experience: Book 1

The John the Baptist Experience
Book 1: The Exceptional Messenger
Chapter 4: Jesus Reveals John in Malachi

Copyright © 20221

by
Jim Kerwin

Cellmates in Solitary

John the Baptist was finding that even a man in solitary confinement has cellmates. For months, he had been the “guest” of Herod Antipas, Tetrarch2 of Galilee and Perea, in the latter’s hot, dusty desert fortress of Machaerus. Perched atop a Perean mountain over 3,500 feet above sea level, the palace of Machaerus had a breathtaking view to the west of the expanse of the Sea of Tiberius (what you and I know as the Sea of Galilee). Not so John’s dark, windowless cell. No, at this point, all John could see were his four cellmates [continue reading…]

3: “The Voice of One”

This entry is part 3 of 12 in the series The John the Baptist Experience: Book 1

The John the Baptist Experience
Book 1: The Exceptional Messenger
Chapter 3: “The Voice of One”
John the Baptist in Isaiah’s Prophecy

Copyright © 2019, 20221

by
Jim Kerwin

John’s Self-Identification: John 1:19-23

They had to know. The Judean leadership of the Pharisees wanted to get to the bottom of the phenomenon going on in the Jordan River Valley. Thousands of people were flocking to this man called John, listening to his preaching and teaching, and confessing their sins — publicly! In front of the crowds! How unseemly. And thousands of these penitents were being baptized by this… this… well, they didn’t have a category in which to pigeonhole him.

So these Bible-believing, historical-miracle-affirming, resurrection-professing Pharisees (they did have some of their doctrines right, whatever their overall spiritual reputation) sent [continue reading…]

2: More Important Than You Think!

This entry is part 2 of 12 in the series The John the Baptist Experience: Book 1

The John the Baptist Experience
Book 1: The Exceptional Messenger
Chapter 2: More Important Than You Think!

Copyright © 20221

by
Jim Kerwin

Christian, have you paid attention to how important John the Baptist really is? And have you considered why the vital importance of his ministry and message should matter to you?

Why is it that the story of Jesus can’t be told without including the enigmatic, camel-skin-clad, long-haired Nazirite prophet called John the Baptist? Stop and consider just a minute. There aren’t a lot of events or messages from the life of Jesus which appear in all four Gospels. All the Gospels include the Last Supper, the trial, the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection. Only two include anything of the Birth account of Jesus. Only two have some version of the Sermon on the Mount. How many miracles (not counting the Resurrection) appear in all four accounts? Answer: not many. But all four inspired Gospel writers — Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John — are compelled by the Spirit to include events and teaching from the life and ministry of John the Baptist.

Why is that?

For that matter, John the Baptist and his influence keep popping up in [continue reading…]

1: Preparing the Way

This entry is part 1 of 12 in the series The John the Baptist Experience: Book 1

The John the Baptist Experience
Book 1: The Exceptional Messenger
Chapter 1: Preparing the Way

Copyright © 20221

by
Jim Kerwin

The more things change the more they stay the same, says the old proverb.”2 That adage applies to our topic at hand, namely, the John the Baptist experience. The guiding prophecy concerning John the Baptist and his ministry was that he was to “prepare the way of the Lord” in the hearts of God’s first-century people. And despite nearly two millennia of change, things “stay the same” regarding the foundational spiritual needs of God’s people. A powerful way for God’s twenty-first-cen­tury leaders to prepare the way of the Lord before His Second Coming is to reconsider John’s purpose and ministry. We need to seriously study, assimilate, and employ John’s message for the same end as John’s original purpose: to pre­pare the way of the Lord in the hearts of men and women. Back in “his day,” John’s task was to announce the arrival of the King and His Kingdom; now, in our day, our goal is to prepare God’s people before Jesus returns in glory and judgment.

Our mentality, mission, message, and methods need to be revolutionized by a “John the Baptist Experience.” But what is that experience, exactly?

I can answer that question far more easily if [continue reading…]

Christmas Resources 2021

Pine branches and a bright red Christmas ornament on a score of musicA joyous Christmas to all!1

Every year the number of our Finest of the Wheat Christmas-related posts grows. Here, all in one place, is a quick list of what is available on our site at the moment.

Our resources consist primarily of Bible studies focused on various aspects of the story of the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, as well as poems, hymns, and carols celebrating Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany.

Christmas Bible Studies

by Percy Gutteridge

by Jim Kerwin

from the manuscript of
The Curious [continue reading…]

Matthew’s Mixed-Up Math (A Christmas Bible Study)

This entry is part 1 of 4 in the series The Curious Corners of Christmas

Copyright © 2021

from the manuscript of
The Curious Corners of Christmas

by
Jim Kerwin

Popping the Wig

Title graphic for 'Matthew's Mixed-Up Math: A Christmas Bible StudyWould you have done as well as Matthew?1

Who in their right mind thought it was a good idea to introduce readers to the glorious Christmas Incarnation story (never mind starting the entire New Testament!) with a genealogy? A genealogy! Really? It’s like putting a pre-converted, bah-humbugging Ebenezer Scrooge in charge of Christmas party activities, like putting the Grinch, still pinched with “a heart two sizes too small,” in charge of gift distribution.

Who thought it was a good idea to start with a genealogy? Well, the Apostle Matthew did, for one. And he did so under the Divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit, so God thought [continue reading…]