July 2023

Relax, Refresh, Renew

Some men from our church home regularly meet for breakfast every Friday. Recently, one of the guys was diagnosed with bone cancer. As you can imagine, this news was a fierce blow to him and his family. Many people have joined in asking the Father for his healing. If you feel led, please remember him in your prayers.

I usually share a very brief devotional while we wait for our food. Today, I used this passage:

Isaiah 25:4 ESV

Then I asked what happens to us when we find shade from the heat. The first response was, “Relax!” This picture helped all of us around the table to see shade as a metaphor for hope for our dear brother and all of us.

Lately, the weather where we live has been staggeringly hot. Just a few minutes outside saps our strength. The heat compels us to go back inside. It disrupts our summer plans. Likewise, the heat from disease can easily crush us, but God has given us a promise with a history.

Notice what the prophet Isaiah says about God: “You have been.” That’s history. It is not “You will be;” something that will happen somewhere in the future. I like that history. The promises in verse four have stood the test of time, and they are still for us.

God has been a stronghold (fortress, castle) for the poor and the needy in distress. God has been a shelter from the storms of life. And God has been the shade from the heat. These promises are from God for us, and history has proved them.

Now here is an important point. When we enter a fortress or a shelter, we quickly become relaxed; anxiety leaves. The stronghold of Jesus exchanges our fear and frustration with a peace that transcends human comprehension.

When we come into (abide) in Jesus, we become refreshed and re-hydrated by His living water. Lastly, the shade of Jesus renews us. When we are relaxed and refreshed, we can escape the heat that withers life; under Christ’s shade, we become renewed.

Isaiah 25:4 reminds me of another of God’s promises:

The name of the Lord is a strong tower;
    the righteous man runs into it and is safe.

Proverbs 18:10 ESV

It is not necessary for the redeemed of the LORD to be fearful, anxious, or depressed by the troubles that come to us from the world. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.(John 16:33 NIV) Claim the promises of God so that regardless of the trouble you can be relaxed, refreshed, and renewed.

Image by Sally Wynn from Pixabay

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three crosses


I’ve just returned from a trip to Germany to visit my son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughters. It was a wonderful visit, and the travel went well, all but the last ten seconds!

Every connection was stress-free. My seats were in perfect locations; well, I didn’t get business of 1st-class seats. I flew for free, using the last of my frequent-flyer miles. I could not have hoped for a better trip, except for those last ten seconds.

I was sitting on a bench at “Arrivals” when I spotted my wife; actually, I spotted her car and then her. As she searched for a place to stop and let me get in, I hurried to the car. That’s when it happened. I fell. Yet again, I fell hard on the pavement, but I have good news! Three men ran to where I was, working together to get me back on my feet. What an incredible blessing! Instead of me laying there like a turtle on its back, I was swept up to my feet and helped into my car. Wow! I love stories with surprising endings, so now I have one! It was nothing less than extraordinary.

In the car, as we pulled away, this verse ran through my mind:

And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

Ecclesiastes 4:12

1, 2, 3

In the Hebrew language, the meanings of one, two, and three are:

One: Oneness, Unity, Primacy, First, Beginning. Single and not plural, not subject to multiplicity or division. (1×1=1) One remains one, it does not change. God is One. (Dt. 6:4) There is one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God, one Father. (Eph. 4:4–6)

Two: Divide, difference, oppose, judge, discern, witness, conflict, blessing, abundance, building, couple, dying to self. It is also related to the Hebrew word shanah, meaning change or repeat. Context determines meaning (as with all numbers). Ideally, two should mirror one, as in the “two shall become one (echad) flesh.” Thus, making a true “pair” that works together like one’s ears, eyes, nostrils, hands, and feet.

There are two great commandments (love God/love neighbor), two houses of Israel, two sticks, two sisters, two olive branches, two silver trumpets, two leavened loaves on Shavuot, two cherubim guard Ark of the Covenant and the entrance to Eden, two good spies (Joshua and Caleb), and two witnesses mentioned in the Bible.

Three: Seeds, trees, fruit. Revelation, resurrection, gathering balance, equilibrium, pattern, counsel, witness, and strength. New life, sprouting, resurrection, fruitfulness, words of life (counsel), unity, and the foundation of the Temple/House are all signified by the number three. Three brings harmony and unity to opposites like one and two. Three creates a solid or a foundation and makes the first geometric shape (triangle). The sequence of three makes a chain of continuity: three patriarchs, three pilgrimage festivals, third day, three primary manifestations of the Godhead, three-ply cord, three witnesses, three kings of united Israel, three primary missionary journeys of Shaul (Paul), three woes of judgment (Book of Revelation). In tradition, Moses ascended and descended Mount Sinai three times.



As we just read, three or triplets in God’s Word are often used to communicate intensity, completeness, or something good. Jesus told Peter that the rooster would crow after he had denied Jesus three times (Luke 22:34) and Jesus later restored Peter by asking him three questions (John 21:15–25) When looked at as a whole experience, we see that Jesus knows we will fail and when we will do it. Afterward, He doesn’t abandon us but offers to restore us completely.

More Threes

Jesus declared in the book of John, chapter two, that if the temple were destroyed, He would raise it again in three days (John 2:18–20). He was referring to His death, burial, and resurrection, though the Jews thought He was speaking of the temple in Jerusalem.

A few more threes are when “Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish.” (Matthew 12:40). The three patriarchs of the Jewish people are Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Matthew 22:32). At the birth of Jesus, the Magi presented to Jesus three gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh (Matthew 2). And the ultimate three is the triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19–20)

Good News

Since three stands for completeness, then 27, or 33 (3 cubed), is even more complete. So, it should not surprise us that there are twenty-seven books in the New Testament. Let’s all take a moment and marvel at God and His Word. Do God’s will and enjoy Him!

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Misplaced Expectations

The Bare Facts

Isaiah was a prophet of God. One day, God gave him an almost unimaginable message. In the twentieth chapter of Isaiah, we learn that the LORD told Isaiah to “Take off the sackcloth from your body and the sandals from your feet.” And he did so, going around stripped and barefoot.1” He did this for three years!

Then the LORD told him that this was a sign – “a symbol of the terrible troubles” – that would come on Egypt and Ethiopia. I wonder if the thought went through Isaiah’s mind, “Now you tell me!”

The Main Point

The Philistines, Israel’s continual nemesis, felt safe because they believed that if Assyria ever attempted to attack them, then Egypt and/or Ethiopia would give them protection. WRONG!

The LORD told Isaiah that the king of Assyria would conquer Egypt and Ethiopia. And then the Philistines would become terrified! “They will say, ‘If this can happen to Egypt, what chance do we have? We were counting on Egypt to protect us from the king of Assyria.2’”

Misplaced Expectations

Just like people, throughout history, nations have made dangerous decisions based on bad assumptions. A stark example happened in 1957.

The Soviet Union Invaded Hungary

The November 1957 invasion by the Soviet Union into Hungary is a painful reminder of the danger of trusting other nations for your own nation’s safety. In 1956, a national movement swept the people of Hungary to throw off the outdated Soviet repression of their nation. At the beginning of the movement, they did not seek an alliance with NATO, just as Ukraine did not seek a military alliance with the West. But, just as the Soviet Union increased its pressure on Hungary, Russia did the same to Ukraine. And, just as we have recently seen in the war between Russia and Ukraine, the Soviet Union invaded Hungary. Both Hungary and Ukraine looked to the West for help; only Ukraine received it.

The Hungarian anti-Soviet militia thought they would succeed in their effort because they believed rumors, published by the CIA, that NATO and the US would step in and stop the invasion3. No help came from the West, so the Soviet Union’s invasion was an overwhelming success.

I have placed my fingers in some of the hundreds of bullet holes in Hungary’s parliament building that was besieged during the 1957 invasion. It is a chilling reminder of how political decisions do affect people’s lives.

As a side note, few people remember that Elvis Presley made a personal effort to help the Hungarians.

On Sunday, January 6, 1957, as millions of Americans watched Ed Sullivan’s popular television variety show, with the nearly 22 year-old Elvis Presley headlining for the third time, Sullivan told viewers Presley felt “so keenly about Hungarian relief, he urges all of us through the country to remember that immediate aid is needed.” The host followed this with Elvis singing an unrecorded number, the gospel song “Peace in the Valley,” saying “he feels that this is sort of in the mood that he’d like to create. – Wikipedia

Good News

God has given good promises to those that trust Him, who look to Him for their help, their hope, their hero.

6 Now I know that the Lord saves his anointed;
he will answer him from his holy heaven
with the saving might of his right hand.
7 Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
8 They collapse and fall,
but we rise and stand upright.

Psalms 20:6–8 ESV

Both personally and as a nation, I pray that we change, that we stop trusting the untrustworthy and wholeheartedly trust our place in Jesus for our strength.

Photo by Házy Zsolt, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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[1]: Isaiah 20:2 NIV
[2]: Isaiah 20:6 NLT
[3]: After the USSR defeated the anti-communist Hungarian Revolution, the revolutionists criticised the CIA and its RFE network for having deceived the Hungarians into believing that the West—NATO and the US—would expel the USSR from the Hungarian People’s Republic. Although incitements to violence were officially against RFE policy, an internal analysis by RFE adviser William Griffith found, as summarized by the National Security Archive at George Washington University, that “RFE broadcasts in several cases had implied that foreign aid would be forthcoming if the Hungarians succeeded in establishing a ‘central military command’” and “appealed to the Hungarians to ‘continue to fight vigorously’”. – Hungarian Revolution of 1956

Picture of Jesus with crowd of people.

Yes, I’m a Believer

With the continuing pressure to change the English language to diminish any sense of guilt, I began to think about how believing is interpreted in today’s culture. What does “believe” mean in today’s culture? For centuries, believing was a profound message for Christians.

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,

John 1:12

No Simple Matter

This keystone verse ties us to the God of all creation. Those “who believed in his name.” That name is Jesus. The Greek for “believe” is pisteuousin which means: Credit; by implication, to entrust.

Believing is no simple matter. It is an overt action by us to entrust Jesus with our past, present, and future. Believing means faith, trust, confidence, commitment, and betrothal. For, as believers in Jesus Christ of Nazareth, our Belief is, through His Church, our betrothal to Him. What it is not is a feeling.

So, when we, as born-again believers, use the word “believe,” we mean it as Paul wrote it:

If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

Romans 10:9

The Greatest Love

Belief is our confident commitment to the one, true, unchanging God (the Father) and His eternal Son, Christ Jesus. To believe is not a transient, emotional response, fanned into flames by misled peers who want to cover their guilt, assuage their fears, and pull people down who are not anchored to the Rock of our Salvation.

As we are pummeled and punished for our use of “the king’s English,” let’s not become confused by what “believe” means. To believe in the Son of God is the greatest love we can show to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

We Know

Known what you believe and believe what you know. Your soul longs for Belief in Jesus, and your eternity counts on it.

Image by Meranda D from Pixabay

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