July 23

Today's Bible Readings
     Judges 6
     Acts 10
     Jeremiah 19
     Mark 5
''Then the Lord said to him, Peace be with you; do not fear, you shall not die. So Gideon built an altar there to the Lord, and called it The Lord is peace..." (Judges 6:23-24a)
            The period of the Judges is one of the most interesting eras of the history of Israel. It was a time when ''every man did what was right in his own eyes." (Judges 21:25) Among the judges of Israel during that time was a mighty man of valor named Gideon. This was a time when the Midianitesheld Israel in bondage, made raids against their farming communities. God, through the Angel of the Lord, called upon Gideon, a seemingly fearful man, to lead the fight against Israel's oppressors. Gideon was a man of great humility, and did not feel he was worthy of such a call to be a judge. He asked for a sign - the first of three he would request to confirm his call. The angel touched the altar with his staff. Fire at once sprang from the altar, consuming the sacrifice, and the Angel of the Lord suddenly vanished.
            This encounter with the angel caused great fear to come upon Gideon, and he realized that he had seen the holy face of the Angel of the Lord, and it might cause his death. God spoke to Gideon, ''Peace be to you. Do not fear, you shall not die." So it was here that Gideon built an altar to God, and named it Jehovah Shalom, ''the Lord is peace."
God wants to teach us some things from this great event in Gideon's life. To encounter the holy, almighty presence of God can bring fear. The truth is, God's people need fear nothing else if they fear God. In this case, it was the Angel of the Lord, or Christ Himself.   This was an Old Testament appearance of Jesus.
            But when God Himself says to us, ''Peace be with you.  Do not fear, you shall not die'', then we are safe and secure, and all fear may be dismissed. As I have struggled with cancer, God has given me that promise, and the peace is incredible. We, as believers, must remember that Jesus, just before His death, said to His Disciples, ''Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you." (John 14:27) Jesus was vitally concerned that His followers have peace with God, among themselves, and within their own individual souls and minds.
            It has been an incredible lesson to learn that His ''peace passes all human understanding." (Philippians 4:7)
Peace seems to be very important to God, and for all of His children. Christ's coming Kingdom will be a ''Kingdom of Peace." (Romans 14:17)
            It is important that all of us remember that, though there will never be complete peace on earth, we can have the peace of God and peace with God within our hearts no matter what the circumstances might be around us. But that peace requires unconditional surrender on the part of the Child of God. We will learn, as did Gideon, that this true peace comes only from Jehovah Shalom, ''The Lord is Peace."
            More than 5 million people live in the African nation of Togo. About 50% of the population is Christian, and the church is growing in Togo. There is some slowing of the growth at this time, and the greatest prayer need today is that there would be leaders for the young churches. It must happen to offset idolatry, strong secret societies, and the growing strength of Islam. These churches must have trained leadership.
''The preacher who best commends the truth of the Gospel to his hearers is he who has translated that truth into his own life, until his life is full of it and redolent of it."