27 June 2022
Caleb: “Giants? So Much the Better!”
- “As yet I am as strong this day as on the day that Moses sent me; just as my strength was then, so now is my strength for war, both for going out and for coming in. 12Now therefore, give me this mountain of which the Lord spoke in that day; for you heard in that day how the Anakim were there, and that the cities were great and fortified. It may be that the Lord will be with me, and I shall be able to drive them out as the Lord said.”
- Joshua 14:11-12 nkjv
It seemed like nearly every pastor wanted a photo with me.2
I awoke the last day of ESUM in “Reu” (Retalhuleu), Guatemala at 5 AM. The teaching had been exceedingly well received so far for two straight days. This day, May 28th, was the last day of the conference and the last day of my 70th year on earth. (That’s why a birthday in Spanish is called a cumpleaños. It comes from the Spanish verb cumplir – to achieve or fulfill. So cumple años means, roughly, completed or fulfilled years.) As I rolled out of bed, this petition rose in my spirit — ¡Dáme este monte! — Give me this mountain! — and my heart cried, “Amen!”
Regular Bible readers will recognize this as the petition of that 85-years-young never-say-die tough-old-bird leader of the tribe of Judah, Caleb ben-Jephunneh. Because he had been one of the two faithful spies (Numbers 13-14), he could have had any land-inheritance he desired.
Having traipsed the desert for 40 years and having fought in Canaan for another five, he could have asked for a place already cultivated and ready for his “retirement.” Nope, that wasn’t Caleb’s style — “Joshua, give me this mountain over here, the one still inhabited by the Anakim” (that is, a tribe of giants) “in fortified cities.” I love his mix of confidence, but utter dependence on God: “It may be that the LORD will be with me, and I shall be able to drive them out as the LORD said.”
Acting My Age?
This visit, she did the bulk of the translating
at the conference!3
There’s a new t-shirt that tempts me to buy it. (But I can resist the temptation, because it doesn’t come with a geek-mandated pocket.) Emblazoned across the front are the words:
I don’t know how to “act my age” —
I’ve never been “this age” before!
But I can look to Scripture, at the examples set by Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Caleb, Samuel, Anna, Simeon and many others. They all came by the designation “elder” the hard way — living day by day into their seniority. What is true of all of them is that they stayed Faithful to, Focused on, and Fruitful for God. They are examples of “how to act our age.” My prayer is that the Lord would grant those same three “F’s” to me and that He would do the same for you. We don’t want Caleb’s mountain — but we should want our own!
during a morning worship time
Meals were turned into wonderful times
of fellowship. The trick is to sit
at a different group’s table each time!
Divine encounter: I met Mayra and Henry Estrada in the home of Atilio and Gladys Chávez. The Estradas are Guatemalan-Americans pastoring a Guatemalan ex-pat congregation in Stuart, Florida. I may be joining them soon for a weekend of teaching, possibly as soon as August.
Breakfast with Atilio, Gladys, Henry, and Mayra at an open-air restaurant in Antigua
my last full day in Guatemala4
I wonder if those gray-haired heroes of the Bible ever had to make a confession like my current one. It’s this: Each and every time I have made a ministry trip over the last few years, I have felt less confident than the trip before — both in my teaching preparation and in my sense of heart readiness.
Is it unbelief? I wondered about that, but I don’t think it’s a problem of unbelief. Instead, I think it comes from a necessary and growing sense of utter helplessness and dependence on the Lord. It’s uncomfortable, but that unease is much to be preferred to “coasting,” falling back on a cache of old sermons and dusty, accumulated life experiences, instead of moving in the power of the Holy Spirit. Charles Wesley described the sense very well in a couplet from his poem Wrestling Jacob:
All helplessness, all weakness I,
On Thee alone for strength depend…
Starting from this point of “weakness,” that is, utter dependence, the Lord did “above all we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20) in Guatemala, especially at the three-day pastors’ retreat — ESUM (Estudios SUperiores Ministerial, or what they describe as “grad school”). The subject was Dividing Soul from Spirit (And Why It’s Important), keying off Hebrews 4:12-13 and a pivotal Greek word in 1 Corinthians 2:14. The very nature of the subject makes it hard to teach successfully. Spiritual discernment is a prerequisite for the hearers to begin to understand it, so that adds a layer of potential failure. And yet the Holy Spirit blessed the word to the pastors and their wives. I was surprised and pleased by the responses, the questions, and the expressions of thankfulness from these amazing, Bible-reading Guatemalans. And those committed leaders will impart what they have learned to others (2 Timothy 2:2).
We were praying for “divine encounters” on this trip, so it’s your “fault” that I may wind up teaching at a Guatemalan congregation in Stuart, Florida, perhaps as early as August this year. We are seeking God’s continued leading.
As a sidenote, you’ve all contributed to a very practical (and colorful!) project in Guatemala. I’ll share about that next month when all the photos are in!
for The Exceptional Messenger
Murry has been hard at work…
and very patient!5
The last chapter of the first book of The John the Baptist Experience went live on the website this past Monday. Titled The Angel and the Speechless Priest Prophesy, it completes the material for Book #1: The Exceptional Messenger.
I hoped to have the ebook version of The Exceptional Messenger done by the end of this month. Now it’s not clear if I’ll hit that target or if publication will slip just a bit into July. If this were a woodworking project, I’d say we’re in the fine-grit-sanding stage, removing some minor scratches and getting ready for the polishing. I’m working my way screen by screen through the proofreading process for the second time.
Speaking of polishing, there’s something that will really make the book shine (at least on the outside), and that’s the cover design Bro. Murry Whiteman has been developing. (A BIG THANKS, Murry!) His original painting of John the Baptist will appear on the cover. I can’t promise that either of the current iterations shown here will be the final one (there have been at least twelve ideas and variations so far!), but you get the idea. Having a cover (and the basis for the cover of Books 2 and 3) greatly encourages me about taking “this mountain.”
Praying Against Some Giants
Speaking of “give me that mountain,” remember I said that the mountain Caleb requested was inhabited by giants? Well, our mountain has some “sons of Anak,” too.
This picture was taken while Carolina de Cojtín was still hospitalized. She didn’t look much better when we visited her on May 25th. Giovanni wrote me two days ago to say she is making a little progress every day. 7
Giovanni Cojtín’s two children were on other motorcycles and not involved in the accident. Pastor G. was appreciative that we went to visit him, but I know he had to spend a lot of strength to sit up and interact with us.8
Here’s another of those “little girls” from 2008 now all grown up. Siria Fernanda Peréz (“Fer” to her family), daughter of Pastores Jorge and Emi Pérez, now works for a security contractor at the Guatemala City airport. She escorted me through much of the flight-home check-in rigmarole. I don’t know if onlookers thought I was an escorted VIP or just a decrepit old guy who needed hand-holding through the process! Her older sister Stefi is almost ready to graduate university with a degree in engineering, and her “little” brother Jorge is almost ready to start university.9
- The biggest “giant” on my “mountain” is a chapter which needs to be written for The Extraordinary Message – Book #2 of The John the Baptist Experience. Several chapters of that second book have already been written, and others are outlined and waiting to be written. But this “giant” chapter is the critical “hinge” of that whole book (perhaps the whole series). Without a Spirit-inspired presentation of this subject, the purpose and power of John’s message (the whole focus of Book 2) won’t make much difference. In fact, this whole series of books needs the empowering and divine dissemination and application of the Holy Spirit, or else it’s “just information.”
So what is the “Giant” Subject of Book 2? Sin! Like Caleb’s Anakim, Sin is a giant who dwells in a “fortified city”; but the walls of this subject’s fortress are built and reinforced with great blocks of indifference and deceit, strengthened (ironically) by weak teaching, and protected by the aura of cheap grace. I long to be used to write a chapter in which Sin is unveiled in a way that no Christian reader can ever respond to it apathetically again.
How big is this giant? Well, I’ve been wrestling with “him” for two of the three years I’ve been researching and writing “John the Baptist.” I have nearly 200 pages of notes (mainly Greek word studies) on the subject. The Lord has opened up some insights. But what I don’t have, and must receive, is the Holy Spirit’s sovereign, clear leading and inspiration, in order to produce a chapter in which “sin… might become exceeding sinful” (to use the old KJV phrasing of Romans 7:13). I need to find the right “stone” for my “sling”! And I need that stone sooner rather than later if Book 2 is to be completed and published by the end of 2023!
- We just found out this week that two other bothersome “giants” are stomping around in our vicinity. They sneaked up from behind in a surprise attack. One is a “mouth repair” bill that will exceed $2K (even with our dental insurance). Not to be outdone, our car mechanic introduced us to that giant’s “bigger brother”: he just gave economic “last rites” to Denise’s car (our “newer” vehicle, with nearly 200,000 miles, but “only” twenty years old!).
- Pastora Carolina de Cojtín is recovering very slowly from her near-fatal motorcycle accident. Her husband, Pastor Giovanni Cojtín, seriously injured in the same accident, is doing better than his wife, but still needs healing from the Lord as well.
- We need wisdom to know the if and the when of proposed teaching trips, to Florida (Iglesia Príncipe de Paz [Prince of Peace Church] in Stuart, FL), tentatively in August; and a return trip to Honduras, tentatively in September.
Feel free to send your prayer requests to us, as well. Thank you for your faithful prayer coverage and support. They make trips like Guatemala and books like The John the Baptist Experience a blessing to others.
Much love in Jesus,
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- The photo used as the background of the title image is courtesy of Siggy Nowak from Pixabay. ↩
- So many photos came in from so many pastors that I don’t know who took the two in this section. ↩
- Photo by Fermin and Lilian Chávez ↩
- All the photos in this section taken by Jim Kerwin or with his smartphone (as in the last image) ↩
- Cover art by Murry Whiteman, mwart.net. ↩
- Etching of David getting “ahead” of his opponent is by 19th Century artist Gustav Doré, courtesy of wikimedia.org. (Sorry for the pun, but I figure that nobody ever reads the credits, right?) ↩
- Photo taken by one of the leaders who jumped in to help the family in their time of need. ↩
- Photo by Jim Kerwin ↩
- Selfie by Siria Pérez ↩