Gideon and “The Lord is Peace”

“And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him, and said unto him, the Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valor.” Judges 6:12

After seven years of persistent attacks, there was an outcry to take a stand
by Israel against the Midianites and others who were plundering their land.
Inside a winepress of those days where grapes were usually pressed,
a young man, Gideon, was threshing some wheat that he’d managed to possess,
when the angel of the Lord came to Him there, calling him mighty and brave–
and that it would be through him, that the people of Israel would be saved.

Gideon hoped for a “sign” that this was from God, then went to prepare some food–
meat, unleavened bread, and broth were the generous items he pursued.
He returned with the gifts for his visitor, presenting the things he’d brought;
he set them out upon a rock, contemplating the sign that he’d sought.
The angel of God touched the offering with his staff, and flames consumed it all–
Then Gideon knew he’d gotten his sign and that it was the angel of the Lord who’d come to call.

At that, the angel disappeared–the encounter wasn’t of long duration;
yet Gideon wondered if he could be the one to lead the fighting for the nation.
Realizing that he had actually seen the angel of the Lord face to face,
he built an altar there to God–“The Lord is Peace” he named the place.
The first thing God required of Gideon was to build another altar to take the place,
of Baal’s–worshiped there among the Israelites, much to their disgrace.

At a time when no one would hinder them, Gideon led ten men into the night,
and they tore down the altar of Baal, and a so-called sacred grove and idol on the site.
Then a firm, strong altar was built by the men to the true God on that ground,
and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord there before anyone had come around.
In the morning, the townsmen saw the change and found out that Gideon was to blame, so they went to Gideon’s house where his father, Joash, met them in his name.

Baal’s altar had been on Joash’s land–he’d strayed from the true God and His ways;
but he’d had a change of heart and responded with questions he wanted to raise.
“Are you taking Baal’s side?” he asked, “If he’s really a god, can’t he contend?
Let him punish my son, if he’s able…” and he thereby brought their anger to an end.
So Gideon had accomplished, by this action, what was of first priority to the Lord–
turning the people back to God, before he could lead them with any battle sword.

Then the Midianites and Amalekites began to assemble, camping in the valley;
the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon, and he blew the trumpet rally.
But he still sought further clarification that God had called him to lead the way–
that victory for Israel was assured–they wouldn’t just be keeping the enemy at bay.
So he put out a fleece of wool on the threshing floor used there for the wheat–
“Let it be wet with dew in the morning,” was a sign he asked God to meet.

“And let the ground be dry beside it” was Gideon’s further stipulation,
which God met for him because He understood his need for confirmation.
Gideon wasn’t yet totally convinced, so he asked God still again–
“This time let the fleece be dry–and let the ground about it be wet then.”
So, once again, God caused the situation to be as he had asked,
He knew Gideon needed certainty before undertaking the leadership task.

Some things we can say that are lessons, in this Bible account, that we can heed–
anything that’s an “idol” to us needs to be torn down before we can hope to succeed. Then, we need to keep faith in Jesus–in all of our ways, acknowledging Him–trusting for the peace that He gives, or not–finding our way by His Spirit within. And since there are very many scriptures where God says we’re people of valor to this day, we’ll know that we can do all things through Christ, going forth with confidence after we pray.

P. A. Oltrogge

If you’re not familiar with the rest of the story, Gideon went on to lead the Israelites to victory over enemies that the Bible says were “as numerous as locusts, and their camels were without number, as numerous as the sand on the seashore.” This he did with only 300 men, to the glory of God, who was with him!

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6

Chief of Sinners

Photo by Larry Johnson

Photo by Larry Johnson

You may remember an old hymn line which goes, “Chief of sinners, though I be, Christ was crucified for me…” So that is the theme of this poem and comes from that which was written by Paul in 1 Timothy 1:15. When we’ve done things contrary to God’s ways, we may feel this way; but we have a Savior in Jesus, who became sin and became a curse for us on the cross. It seems to me that though Jesus lived a sinless life, one could say that, at that point, on the cross, Jesus was the chief of sinners, as He took upon Himself the sins of all, for He died for all. Through His act of obedience to His Father, we now have peace with God and He, who humbled Himself to death on the cross, is King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
Psalm 139:23-24 NIV

Search me, and see if there is any offensive way–

I know that it’s there, for it’s surfaced in a fray.

Anger, resentment, judging others and more–

things such as these, my conscience can’t ignore.

I know I need God’s Word to a greater degree;

but from any condemnation, Jesus has set me free.

He became my substitute, for God knew that I’d fail,

and the blood of Jesus has more than paid bail.

My righteousness is established by that blood;

He’s made me a new creation–a forgiven, fresh bud.

The fruit of the Spirit will flourish–and I’ll bloom,

as I seek first the One who was raised from the tomb.

I’ve immediate peace when I confess any sin,

for the Spirit of the Eternal Judge resides within.

P. A. Oltrogge

1 Timothy 1:12-16 (PHILLIPS)
My debt to Jesus Christ

“I am deeply grateful to our Lord Jesus Christ (to whom I owe all that I have accomplished) for trusting me enough to appoint me his minister, despite the fact that I had previously blasphemed his name, persecuted his Church and damaged his cause. I believe he was merciful to me because what I did was done in the ignorance of a man without faith, and then he poured out his grace upon me, giving me tremendous faith in, and love for, himself. This statement is completely reliable and should be universally accepted:—’Christ Jesus entered the world to rescue sinners.’ I realize that I was the worst of them all, and that because of this very fact God was particularly merciful to me. It was a kind of demonstration of the extent of Christ’s patience towards the worst of men, to serve as an example to all who in the future should trust him for eternal life.”

“This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” 1 Timothy 1:15 KJV

“For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” 2 Corinthians 5:21 NKJV

“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” Romans 8:1 KJV

“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us–for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’–in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” Galatians 3:13

“But if we walk in the light, as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
1 John 1:7-9

“My little children, I am writing these things to you that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.” 1 John 2:1-2

“For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son, in order that all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son, does not honor the Father who sent Him.” John 5:22-23

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23

“Love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails….” (from 1 Corinthians 13)

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23 NRSV

II Corinthians 5:17
Romans 6:10-14

Have you “seen” Jesus?

In Jerusalem, there was a devout man named Simeon, back in New Testament days,
Who’d been waiting for the promised Messiah, in order to give Him praise.

The Holy Spirit was upon Simeon and had revealed that he wouldn’t die
Until he would get to see that One, who was the object of his heart’s cry.

One day the Spirit led him to the Temple and there he saw a child,
Whom He knew, by the Spirit’s prompting, to be the One born undefiled.

Mary and Joseph were amazed to hear what Simeon then said about their boy–
Jesus would cause many in Israel to fall, but to many others He would bring joy.

Simeon warned that many would oppose Him–the deepest thoughts of hearts would be revealed; A sword would pierce Mary’s very soul–a reference to the cross,
to which He’d yield.

Simeon said Jesus was sent as a sign from God, to reveal Himself and be a light
To every nation upon the earth — “the glory of God’s people Israel” was His birthright.

Just as Simeon was speaking with Mary and Joseph, another given to prophecy
came by–Anna, who never left the temple, but stayed day and night, raised her
praises high….

How about you? Have you “seen” the Savior, as these people did who were old?
Assurance and peace was theirs, having seen Jesus, whose life became the greatest story ever told!

P. A. Oltrogge

“Now Lord, Thou dost let Thy bond-servant depart in peace, according to Thy word; For my eyes have seen Thy salvation, Which Thou has prepared in the presence of all peoples. A light of revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel.”
Luke 2:28-32

(Luke 2:21-38 for the entire account of Simeon and Anna)

Our Christian Walk is Really a Marathon

Stepping away from the poetic for a moment, I’d like to share an encouraging article, written by a friend….
P. A. Oltrogge

Our Christian Walk is Really a Marathon
by J. Vetter

Perhaps that’s where I first went wrong–believing walking with the Lord was just that–only a walk. Lately, it seems like the speed has increased, and I have to run to keep up! There have been a few times I’ve “hit the wall” too. So I searched out what it means to run a marathon.

First, you need to train–not just any way you want to, but by listening to experts and following a schedule. Then, you need to eat the correct foods, drink appropriately, and learn to pace yourself.

But the most important thing is realizing you will “hit the wall” sometime during your race; and that doesn’t mean it’s over. It means if you keep on going, you will make it! Others go through this and still finish the race.

Legend has it that marathons got their beginning when a Greek messenger was sent from the town of Marathon to Athens, announcing that the Persians had been defeated in the Battle of Marathon. He ran the entire distance without stopping, and then burst into the assembly exclaiming, “We have won!” before collapsing and dying.

We, too, have a message–that we have won–and to proclaim it fully, we have to die to only focusing on ourselves or the problem or, better put, the magnitude of our race.

One of the walls we hit in our Christian race is discouragement. There are times when we feel nothing is changing and our prayers are not being answered. Perhaps an affliction increases its grip with a fury that cries “unfair.”

Another wall is believing the lie that we really can’t make it. I listened carefully to the interview with Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger as he described what he felt when he realized his plane was about to crash land in the Hudson River (January, 2009). His initial reaction was that he couldn’t believe this was happening to him. However, on the heels of that thought, he also proclaimed, “I was sure I could do it.” He was a man confident of his training and his experience. Because he was at the helm, 155 people survived that day. Incidentally, he also gave credit to the crew, passengers, and the first responders by sharing his belief that the miraculous outcome was a team effort.

We may think our race is just our own, but the Christian race is also a team effort. We’ve got to take a drink from that brother or sister on the sidelines. We’ve got to cheer and encourage others in their race and be able to accept words of encouragement from others along the road. One of the interesting aspects of participating in a marathon is that few people enter expecting to win. Their goal is to finish.

Another stumbling stone is fear. Perhaps the fear of making a mistake. A friend shared a quote with me. “A person who never makes any mistakes seldom makes anything else (new).” I believe a person who is afraid of making another mistake won’t make any significant steps further in his race. That’s why we are told in scripture to forget the past.

Sometimes during our struggles, we forget the message of Hebrews 12:2-4, “Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how He did it. Because he never lost sight of where He was headed–that exhilarating finish in and with God–He could put up with anything along the way: cross, shame, whatever. And now He’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourself flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility He plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!” (Message Bible)

Race on!

Come, you blessed of My Father

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” John 13:34

Did you learn to love (as I’ve loved you) in your daily walk;
Or was it not really genuine, but, instead, merely talk?

That’s an outline of a question Jesus will ask one day
In separating His sheep and removing the goats away.

If you took care of others, even “one of the least of these,”
He’ll say you did it to Him, and will have found that to please.

Kindnesses done for others in His Name, with sincerity of heart,
Are implied to be noted by Jesus, as if on a heavenly chart.

The righteous will ask, “When did we do these things for You?”
While the unrighteous will insist that they did them, too.

Faith in Jesus saves us through His service, highest of all;
But we serve Him, out of love…it’s our heavenly call.

“Works” left undone or devoid of Him won’t carry any weight;
Make Jesus your Savior and Shepherd before finding it’s too late.

P. A. Oltrogge

“All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’

“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You? And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’

“Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you game Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’

“Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You? Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Matthew 25:32-46

Photo by Karen Roe

Good Samaritans, through prayer

Supporting financially or serving in various Christian outreaches in our world are important ways of acting as good Samaritans of today. Some things are occurring in hard to reach areas or situations, and we may not all be able to physically go to areas where aid is needed, so may this serve to remind that earnest prayer is a powerful and vital way of being a good Samaritan, too.

Jesus told the story of a man left half dead,
Having fallen among thieves, who stripped and beat him, Jesus said.
There was no one to help the man until a priest came by;
But he saw him and continued on, not caring if the man would die.
After that, another, called a Levite, came upon the site,
But he, too, hurried on, with no regard to this man’s plight.
Then came a certain Samaritan, who, despite his journey’s goal,
Forgot his own plans and took steps to see that this man would be made whole.
He bandaged up the man’s wounds, applying oil and wine–
“Every life is important,” he must have thought, “What if it were mine?”
He took the man to an inn and cared for him the rest of the day;
The next morning he paid the innkeeper to do so, in order to be on his way.
“If more than that is needed,” he said, “I’ll repay you when I come back;”
His compassion was deep, and he needed to see that he’d recovered from the attack.
Jesus finished the story and asked who’d been the man’s neighbor of the three.
A lawyer answered, “The one who showed mercy to him”–and, likewise, so should we…
Not pass up opportunities to help any who need our care;
But instead, on a daily basis, of such times, may we be quickly aware.

(postscript to the above…)

Before Jesus told of this story, the same lawyer had put Him to a test–
“What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He thought that he knew this best.
Jesus pointed him to the Law—to love God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind;
And then to love your neighbor as yourself—these two, really, are intertwined.
If someone says they love God, whom they’ve not actually seen with their eyes,
Yet is merciless or hates his brother whom he’s seen, the Bible says that he lies.
Jesus emphasized that loving God was the great and foremost command;
But, again, He said that these two laws always go hand in hand.
By this, Jesus taught of God’s perfect plan–
Love God and love your fellow man.
But there’s only been one who has ever fulfilled God’s laws in a perfect way–
Jesus Christ, Himself, who has been our example, Teacher, Savior and Lord,
From then until this present day.

P. A. Oltrogge

1 John 4:20, 21 “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.”

Matthew 22:37-40 “And He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.’”

Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill.”

From Luke 10:29-37 and Luke 10:25-28
From John 13:13-15

As we forgive our debtors…

“After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.” Matthew 6:9-13 KJV

Jesus taught His disciples, and us, not to look at the “speck” in the eye of another,
when we have a “log” in our own eye–greater than that in the eye of our brother.

To have truly forgiven others is important, He said, when we stand praying…
to a God who’s forgiven all of our sins–we should also forgive, without delaying.

Just as Jesus, on the cross, said, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do,” His heart and forgiveness even for those who opposed Him, we must demonstrate, too.

Regarding this, Peter asked if he should forgive his brother of offenses, at most, seven times. Jesus replied “seventy times seven” should be our attitude, even if the number climbs.

Jesus then told of a king, who settled accounts with a servant who’d owed him much–
He had compassion on him and forgave it all, indicating we also should do such.

This servant then went out and found a fellow servant who owed him a debt, as well.
Yet he didn’t, likewise, show mercy–only anger, and cast the man into a prison cell.

But, as in the story, if we don’t forgive with the same mercy God’s given us by grace,
He won’t be pleased; and it will hold us back in the course that He’s given us to race.

So pray for the power of His love if you’ve experienced things hard to forgive and forget. Then, you’ll enjoy His peace within as you race on…to make your best run yet!

P. A. Oltrogge

“Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” Matthew 7:3

“And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your transgressions. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions.” Mark 11:25-26

“And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left. Then said Jesus, ‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.’ And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.” Luke 23:33-34 KJV

“Then came Peter to Him, and said, ‘Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Till seven times?’ Jesus saith unto him, ‘I say not unto thee, until seven times: but, until seventy times seven.’” Matthew 18:21-23 KJV and 24-35

“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.” 1 Corinthians 9:24

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-3

Why it all came down to David against Goliath…

“And the Philistines stood on the mountain on one side while Israel stood on the mountain on the other side, with the valley between them. Then a champion came out from the armies of the Philistines named Goliath, from Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. And he had a bronze helmet on his head, and he was clothed with scale-armor which weighed five thousand shekels of bronze. He also had bronze greaves on his legs and a bronze javelin slung between his shoulders. And the shaft of his spear was like a weaver’s beam, and the head of his spear weighed six hundred shekels of iron; his shield-carrier also walked before him. And he stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel….” (from 1 Samuel 17:1-58)

Was it the giant’s stature–his great height that was key
In keeping the army of Israel from their hope of victory?

Was it his bronze javelin, his shield, and his spear?
Was it simply because they were battling fear?

Was it his demeanor, his scoffing, and loud voice;
Or was it something else that made David the choice?

No, it wasn’t those things that caused that battle plight–
It was the fact that David was the only one willing to fight!

P. A. Oltrogge

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” 1 Peter 5:8-10 NIV

“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

“Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Ephesians 6:10-17 NKJV

This poem could apply to any “battle” of life… Be bold, be willing – then remember:
“…for the battle is the Lord’s…” 1 Samuel 17:47

In light of the conflicts in today’s world, we persevere in prayer for the souls of all for whom Christ died: “And that He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them, and rose again.”
2 Corinthians 5:15 KJV