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A New Thing

21 January 2023

18“Do not remember the former things,
Nor consider the things of old.
19Behold, I will do a new thing,
Now it shall spring forth;
Shall you not know it?
I will even make a road in the wilderness
And rivers in the desert.”
– Isaiah 43:18-19 nkjv

Dear Friend,

A potted cactus serves as a backdrop for the title image, 'Behold, I will do a new thing.'Things can get uncomfortable, but exciting, when God starts to do a “new thing”!1

Once is a happenstance. Twice is probably a coincidence. But three times? Hmm. Receiving a word three times may mean that the Lord is trying to get our attention. In less than two weeks, from three different people (none of whom knows the other two, but all three have track records of hearing God) we have received this word — “I will do a new thing.”

I’m well aware that “I will do a new thing” is a stock phrase in well-meant, but uninspired, man-conceived prophecies. I also know it’s a favorite text for New Year’s messages, from both pulpit and page. This is different; this resonates. “By the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established” (2 Corinthians 13:1b).

What does it mean for Denise and me here and now? I have [continue reading…]

The Most High Ruleth

29 November 2022

What a Bible Study in Daniel Taught Me

Dear Friend,

Image of a round 'I voted' stickerWe research, we vote; perhaps we even campaign. But the results are in the hands of a sovereign God!

One of the most important things I’ve accepted about God’s sovereignty, I learned from teaching an extended Bible study on the book of Daniel forty-seven years ago. Nebuchadnezzar, a pagan, kingdom-swallowing dictator, a cruel, self-centered sovereign with terrible anger-management issues was at the pinnacle of success.

Then his lifestyle and world were overthrown. Three times in Daniel 4 he hears a heavenly refrain that shakes his soul. Initially, in a dream he hears heavenly beings speak an inescapable maxim to him (Daniel 4:17); next, in his throne room, he hears Daniel repeat it as he interprets the king’s dream (v. 25); and finally, in his heart, he hears those same heavenly beings carry out God’s divine judgment against him as they invoke this truth: [continue reading…]

Messiah’s Missing Months and the Magi

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series The Curious Corners of Christmas

Copyright © 2022

Jim Kerwin

Not Enough Christmas Time!

IMAGE-DESCRIPTIONAvailable soon as a Kindle e-booklet…

Time is what keeps everything from happening at once.”1 Most of us love the Christmas season, but few of us are happy about its relationship to time. Children feel like there’s too much time to wait until Christmas morning arrives. Time-starved adults, especially parents, feel there’s not enough time, like everything is “happening at once” — special church activities, seasonal school events, work-related parties to attend, family reunions to plan, decorating, shopping, wrapping, baking, and cooking. Stress, and finally, exhaustion, seem like unavoidable parts of our annual Christmas experience, mostly because too much activity gets crammed into too little time. There’s just too much “happening at once,” but it’s our tradition. It’s how we celebrate Christmas, and that may never change this side of Jesus’ return.

But coming from that frenetic mindset, without meaning to spoil things (most especially God’s truth!), it seems like we’ve also allowed our out-of-breath, out-of-time approach to Christmas to cloud and confuse our understanding of the Bible’s true “Christmas story.” We’ve tried to cram too many events into too little time, making it so the Bible narratives “happen at once.”

Because the integrity of the Scriptures and God’s truth is paramount [continue reading…]

Highs & Lows Before the Most High

18 October 2022

Years Spent with John, Months Spent with Elijah

Dear Friend,

Title graphicWe experience lows and highs.
Nevertheless, we’re sustained by the Most High!1

Spending the last three full years of my life in the intimate company of John the Baptist while researching and writing The Exceptional Messenger has meant that I’ve also spent months in reflective fellowship with Elijah the Tishbite. (Some of you have commented on how much the book’s Squaring John with Elijah chapter has helped you.) One of the many things I’ve come to appreciate about Elijah is what James 5:17 says about him:

Elijah was a homoiopathēs man…

Homoio-who now? The King James probably comes the closest to the Greek here when it renders the word as a man subject to like passions. The homoi- prefix means like, similar, resembling. But once you know that the pathēs part of the adjective comes from the verb-cluster páthō / páschō / pénthō family which means suffer, feel, or vex, you pick up on James’ idea: Famous, powerful Elijah, the “super [continue reading…]

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

Copyright © 20221

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

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

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

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.

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.

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”

Copyright © 20222

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

Copyright © 20222

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

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

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…]